“Creating my company is my way to give Black women and my community their power back.”
In 2016, at only 18 years old, Michelle Chan took a leap-of-faith and moved halfway across the world to pursue her goal of making the most of what life had to offer. Her journey led her to the Bachelor of Business Administration: Sustainable Business Practices (BBA) program at College of the Rockies.
Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Michelle was interested in the sustainability aspect of the BBA program, and the support offered at the College.
“I chose the College because I am extremely passionate about sustainability. Also, the small class sizes provided me with a personalized learning experience and great support,” she said. “Attending school in Canada was a huge privilege for someone with humble beginnings as my own.”
Michelle’s willingness to bet on herself has paid off. In addition to winning first place in a nation-wide business computer simulation while in her fourth year, her experience in the program helped her in unexpected ways.
“My time in Canada has been a period of growth and self-discovery. It has taught me to trust in myself and seize opportunity. As an international student, certain opportunities may not come easy and often when they do the candidate pool is huge and it can feel discouraging. I learned to trust myself and know that I have family and community always rooting for me.”
Michelle graduated from the BBA program in 2020 with a sense of purpose.
“The BBA program exposed me to great opportunities that nourished my education, moulded me as an individual and set me on the right trajectory career-wise,” she said. “I recently started a small online business – Ihsani Co. – selling hair products and crafts. I wanted to create something for Black women by Black women. Living in small town BC, most of the goods and services available cater to a mass market, with a niche like this often neglected.”
It was personal experience that led Michelle to pursue her business venture.
“In my time residing in the East Kootenay, I struggled with caring for my hair like never before. I had to improvise with products and materials in order to protect it and have it looking presentable,” she said. “My hair is a medium of expression. It says that I am not a singular expression of myself, that there are different sides of me that make up who I am. That is the power of our hair and our community.”
Leaving her country, her family and friends at such a young age to pursue her dreams halfway around the word was a scary and risky decision for Michelle to make. But it is one she stands by.
“In Africa we have a saying: it takes a village to raise a child. My time at the College has been a testimony of that. Certain individuals and faculty members were always there to remind me that I could do anything,” she said. “I would encourage people to attend the College as it certainly contributed to my individual growth and exposed me to great opportunities that I will cherish for the rest of my life. The people I met there and the experiences I had continue to build my character and shape me as I navigate the business world today.”