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Saint John home delivery business takes off during pandemic

·3 min read
Saint John home delivery business takes off during pandemic

Seun Richards Agunbiade's new delivery business for immigrants who arrive in New Brunswick with no driver's licence and no vehicle, is attracting lots of interest from Saint John shoppers who don't want to leave their homes during COVID-19.

Door2Door deliveries started operating in February and has already grown to a fleet of five delivery vans and more than a dozen drivers, who hail from places such as Nigeria, India, Nepal, Sudan, Morocco and the Middle East.

"Four weeks after we started operations, the pandemic struck," said Agunbiade from his home office in a north end townhouse complex known as the Rifle Range.

"All of a sudden, everybody switched over to the delivery business for the essential services they needed."

Graham Thompson/CBC
Graham Thompson/CBC

The business plan was designed for international students and the elderly as well as immunocompromised customers who didn't want to venture into busy places such as Walmart, Sobeys, Canadian Tire and other retail outlets.

However, the original idea came out of Agunbiade's own experience. When he and his wife Ese arrived in Saint John in 2018, they found it difficult to get the things that they needed with three young children in tow.

"Trying to get stuff, with the kids, moving around was tough," said Ese. "You had to go on the bus or call a taxi. It was expensive and the weather. It's a big change for us, coming from Dubai, it's a very big difference. So it was tough moving around."

In less than a year, business has grown so quickly — the company recently landed a contract with Amazon — Agunbiade has had to hire an operations manager.

"Generally, we deliver about 500 packages a day," said Jason Cosman, who expects even faster growth once the company launches its new app within the next few weeks.

Agubiandes' journey to New Brunswick began around 2016, when Seun said he met with New Brunswick immigration recruiters in Dubai. He liked their description of the province's work-life balance and it sounded like a good place to raise a family.

Graham Thompson/CBC
Graham Thompson/CBC

He has found Saint John to be welcoming and the children love their school.

He is also grateful for the support he received from Economic Development Greater Saint John, through its Business Immigrant Essentials program and the 13-week Venture Validation Program.

Agunbiade is also a PhD student at UNBSJ under the supervision of Rob Moir, associate dean in the faculty of business.

"If a newcomer starts up a business and that business achieves a certain level of success, that newcomer will stay in the city because he needs to … nurture that baby," said Agunbiade.

"Which is a key focus of what I'm studying about, my research at UNB, how entrepreneurship can support economic development and population growth."

Graham Thompson/CBC
Graham Thompson/CBC

Fahad Ali, an international student from Pakistan, says he likes the convenience of having his groceries brought to his door.

"I don't own a car at the moment and being a student, my time is limited," said Ali. "The alternatives for me would be paying triple in a cab or taking a bus, 40-50 minutes on the road. So given that, this is perfect."

"I have a couple of friends on campus using this service. If you want to stay home and stay safe, you can get your things without leaving the comfort of your home."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.