After immigrating to Canada in 2019, Mario Scotto Damas built a successful company and has since been named Executive Director of the Northwest Ontario Innovation Centre.
Mario Scotto Damas came to Canada to expand his family’s business. Now the Honduran-born entrepreneur is helping other newcomers grow their businesses while putting Thunder Bay on the map as a growing innovation hub.
“I grew up in an entrepreneurial family,” Scotto Damas said. My parents, who worked in the fields, moved to San Pedro Sula in search of opportunity. There were no jobs, so they started their own company.
In 2019, Scotto Damas landed in Toronto to attend an immersion bootcamp offered by LatAm Startups, an accelerator that helps international companies expand into the Canadian market. LatAm startups have opened the door to immigrate under the Startup Visa program, a federal program aimed at attracting entrepreneurial talent to build companies, create jobs and generate wealth in Canada.
According to official statistics from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, 1,860 people were admitted as permanent residents through the Startup Visa between 2015 and March 31, 2022. According to Sobirovs Law Firm, the program has a success rate of over 75 percent.
In three years, Scotto Damas has built a successful company here and was recently appointed executive director of the Northwest Ontario Innovation Centre.
“That was the way my journey was complete,” he said. I mean, I had already spent a significant amount of time mentoring and coaching entrepreneurs. “However, my main job was running the company and overseeing the operations of our family business, both in Honduras and for our Canadian expansion.”
For Scotto Damas, the visa approval process was fraught with obstacles. First, the system was clogged in 2020 due to the pandemic. Then he had to overcome his doubts about moving to a new country.
I did not intend to immigrate to Canada at first. I saw it as a business opportunity, as a way to expand our activities and access a thriving market. The only one of his family to move to the Great White North.
Even then, I planned to commute between Canada and Honduras.
Scotto Damas took advantage of the digital transition that occurred in 2020 to launch BeltecHub, a technology-driven manufacturing hub for conveyor belts, timing belts and other equipment. The technology component has been critical to the company’s growth in Canada and has become a success story of the Startup Visa program.
He said: We have currently hired five people directly and four people indirectly, all of whom are citizens or residents of Canada, so we have achieved one of the goals of the startup visa program, which is to create jobs.
In addition to running his company, one of Scotto Damas’ interests has always been mentoring new entrepreneurs. That’s what he’s been doing since he started working in the family business in Honduras. He is particularly interested in helping newcomers because he knows from experience how overwhelming the adjustment process can be.
However, he never expected that his passion for coaching would be the key that opened the doors to a new phase in his career.
I feel grateful that we can be an example of how we can help, and as for myself, I’m really lucky because now I’m using that experience to help others who are in the same shoes I was.
“And I look forward to helping more newcomers settle in with their businesses.”
Scotto Damas gets excited when talking about Thunder Bay’s potential. The Northwest Innovation Center already has success stories like Meaglow, a high-tech manufacturer in the semiconductor industry that counts NASA among its customers and has received an RBC Innovation Award. and BioNorth Solutions, an environmental company developing innovative ways to capture pollution spills.
Thunder Bay offers significant opportunities, for example, in fiber optics, in mining, and many other sectors. And our goal is to match those with the talent that’s coming in.” Scotto Damas said.
Many international students come to Thunder Bay, either to Lakehead or Confederation College. Now, most of them leave, but our goal is to get them to stay, show them the opportunities available and say: “This is a place for you to build your future and contribute to society.”
Canadian New Media / Local Journalism Initiative