Surreal Design Studio is a graphic design studio in Moncton. This blog post will discuss the business and the experiences of the business’ owner, Zina Aljaratli, as informed by an interview we conducted with Zina.
Zina was born in Syria and growing up she always knew that she would have a business of her own through which she could express herself and support her community. She lived in Aleppo from birth until she graduated from the University of Aleppo. At the university, she was a part of the Faculty of fine arts, where she was exposed to photography, fashion, interior design, painting, sculpting, and graphic design. All this exposure was presumably welcomed considering that she told us that she has always been fascinated with creativity in general. However, of all the different subjects she was exposed to, she gravitated to graphic design, which at this time was new for her. She said she gravitated to graphic design because it spoke to her, and because she likes to do things with purpose; by selling her graphic design services to businesses she is helping businesses with her art. She eventually graduated from the first ever graphic design class from the University of Aleppo. Following her graduation, she got married and moved to the gulf region. During her travels before arriving in Canada, Zina was exposed to a lot of art from different cultures and worked with many stakeholders in these different cultures. Through these experiences she learned how to combine a culture’s vision, art, and her clients’ business goals. Overall, she said that she has acquired many skills from overcoming the challenges posed by operating in different cultures.
When she first arrived in Moncton in 2018, she started with a few projects for clients she met through networking. She then took part in 3+’s Business Immigrant Essential course which showed her step by step how to start a business in New Brunswick. In 2019, Zina started Surreal Design Studio. Surreal Design Studio works on logos, branding, marketing campaigns, web design, packaging, etc.
Zina told us that her greatest challenge in starting her business was taking the initial risk of starting a business. This was a particularly difficult challenge for Zina considering that she has a family, and thus her financial risks are their financial risks. And although she has experience working with many stakeholders around the world, she did not take that for granted coming to Moncton and understood that there would still be risk involved in opening a business in Moncton, since every market has its own tastes, demands, and business culture.
However, she is glad she took the risk. As she told us, she sees her business like a baby; the fear and sleepless nights of running a business are offset by the joys of running a business. For her some of these joys include seeing clients happy with her work, seeing clients having success using her work, being independent, and being a role model to her children. Regarding being a role model to her children, she said” I am showing that it is okay to make mistakes or fail, but that there will always be a way to succeed if they keep trying”.
In terms of her thoughts on the Greater Moncton business community, she loves its growth. She said that even since she arrived in Moncton in 2018, she has observed a significant growth in the region. But at the same time, Zina said that “residents of Greater Moncton still have a humanitarian touch in their daily interactions, and that is so rare to find in the very large cities I have seen in my lifetime, and it is truly an irreplaceable value”. She also loves Moncton’s diversity. She expressed that it is this diversity that gave her the opportunity to express all the experiences she has received from travelling to different cultures, and to translate them into something tangible.
Some advice that she said she would give to someone starting a business would be to have faith and be flexible. The faith refers to a new entrepreneur’s need to believe in themselves and their ability. The flexibility refers to a new entrepreneur’s need to be able to adjust one’s plans or business model in the face of setbacks and problems. She also stressed the importance of having a sound business plan when starting a business. Finally, she said that for immigrant entrepreneurs, 3+’s Business Immigrant Essentials Course would be very helpful for starting a business.
Nicholas Caissie and Parker Barriault, 3+ Corporation