Iman Bukhari is the CEO and founder of the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation, a non-profit that works to improve race relations, mitigate racism and promote multiculturalism in Canada.

I did my journalism diploma at SAIT in print media. I did a two and two program, so after two years at SAIT for a diploma, I finished my Bachelor in Communications Studies at the University of Calgary, but eventually I realized I wanted to do more in terms of creative development rather than just journalism writing. I was also really passionate about race relations — there was always a need to have that justice outlook.

When I first graduated from university with a bachelor’s, it took me about a year to get my first job. I couldn’t get a job, even at McDonalds. It was really bad. Of course, if you’re applying for McDonalds or anything, you don’t want to put that you have a bachelor’s because they won’t take you seriously, so I never used to do that either. I tried everything but I could not get a job anywhere.

I just started volunteering. I would volunteer for anything. That’s 100 per cent my recommendation to anyone: volunteer for absolutely anything. I started doing graphic design on the side and putting up Kijiji ads — any way to make some kind of money to pay my phone bill. After a year, I finally was given a chance by a non-profit at the time and I had so much experience being unpaid that they knew that I was committed.

Afterwards, I was looking for a master’s program and it was very hard. In Canada, they don’t have a lot in regards to media relations — creative development in particular. So I finally found a program in multimedia communications that was online through the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I completed my masters while working.

I founded Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation in 2009 when I was still at SAIT still doing my diploma. It didn’t necessarily have a mandate and it wasn’t registered. In 2015, when I was close to finishing my master’s, I thought, you know what, we’ve been doing this stuff for so long — let’s just have an outlook.

I had worked in a non-profit for quite a while at that time so I kind of knew how things worked. I was a communications advisor for various non-profits and I got to learn how it works so I thought, why not just create my own? There weren’t a lot of organizations that worked specifically in regards to race relations or ethnicity and culture. This has been an issue that Canada has needed to work on for a very long time, being a multicultural country. There is definitely a need for improvement. I just thought, there’s a need for it, so why not?

Initially, when it started, even when I registered in 2015, it was more about just creating an organization. I wasn’t necessarily looking at my career. To register an organization, I had to put myself as the CEO. It was never to make money. It was never to make a career out of it, but rather to just be an advocate.

When you’re passionate about something, you don’t really feel the pressure. We have had a lot of opportunities to actually be funded, but I’m just not ready yet. Maybe in the future I will be or maybe I never will be. I just believe when you’re really passionate about something and you want to give back, you don’t necessarily need to be paid for it in a sense.

If you’re looking to start an organization, don’t care about what anyone says and just do it, as long as you can prove that you can do it and that you’re actually committed doing the work. Apply. Talk to somebody who has an organization about how to get started and how to do the paperwork, because that’s what I did. Register small. Start out as a small, maybe as a private organization and get bigger. And also consider partnerships. It’s all about partnerships.

At the end of the day, we’re just trying to make a difference here and it’s not about, “I’m this person and I get this credit,” but rather about making the difference.

As told to Karina Zapata. The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

This article is part of a series of profiles on industry professionals through the Calgary Journal. To see more like this, visit the On the Job page.

Editor: Robyn Welsh | rwelsh@cjournal.ca