CSSEA Hero award goes to DIVERSEcity’s Florence Kao

One of DIVERSEcity’s own is getting recognized at the 2021 CSSEA’s BC Community Social Services Awards of Excellence.

Everyone needs a cheerleader in their corner. Sign up for a self-employment program at DIVERSEcity, and that’s exactly what you’ll get from program coordinator Florence Kao.

Leading DIVERSEcity’s Immigrant Entrepreneur Program and CWB Business Incubator for Women Makers and Creators, Florence is the heart and soul of the programs, constantly innovating to give her clients the best start in their entrepreneurial journeys. From organizing workshops and events, to providing one-on-one business advice to supporting her clients’ business growth long after they complete her programs, she is a cheerleader, mentor and hero in their eyes.

One client, Jessica, says: “Florence has been a huge force to be reckoned with. Her dedication, passion and commitment to the success of each participant is incomparable. She has been so instrumental to the group and my growth. I have taken courses in entrepreneurship both paid and free and hands down so far there has been no facilitator/coordinator who can compete with the drive, care and knowledge Florence has provided. I feel extremely privileged to have her not just as a teacher, but as a resource that I am easily able to connect with and bounce ideas off of. Her willingness to patiently explain and provide me with tools to be successful in my entrepreneurship journey have definitely contributed immensely to all of my achievements so far.”

It’s no surprise that in 2020, the Immigrant Entrepreneur Program was recognized with a national entrepreneur CANIE Award (for service programs) as a result. Now, Florence herself has been recognized in CSSEA’s BC Community Social Services Awards of Excellence in the “Hero” category.

The prestigious awards, now in their sixth year, honour the work of individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the social services sector.

When asked what propels her to constantly do more for her clients, Florence says she always looks for solutions, instead of problems, spotting gaps in service and recognizing them as opportunities instead of obstacles.

She faced her own share of barriers as a newcomer to Canada, but didn’t let them stop her. Born in Taiwan, Florence came to Canada in 2007 with experience as a senior human resources manager at Unilever Taiwan, but like many internationally trained professionals, she essentially started her career over after immigrating.

Her first job in Canada was at the reception desk of Vancouver-based non-profit immigrant settlement agency, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., using her fluency in both Chinese and English to get her foot in the door. Although her experience in Taiwan was more corporate, Florence was immediately drawn to the passion and good works she found in the social services sector. It would become her true calling.

After becoming a certified career development practitioner, Florence was hired at DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, starting off as a settlement counsellor then moving into employment programs.

Florence, who will be accepting the CSSEA award in October at their virtual AGM, is now busy planning the annual DIVERSEcity Entrepreneur and Small Business Fair, to be held virtually on October 20, 2021.

“I am humbled by this award, but am happy to accept on behalf of DIVERSEcity and all my clients. To me, they are the winners in their  in their own entrepreneurial journeys,” says Florence.

Photo above: Florence Kao, self-employment program coordinator, DIVERSEcity (right) with client Jaycika, being filmed for the CSSEA Awards video to be shown at the CSSEA AGM on October 20, 2021.