The journey of an entrepreneur with Vikram Vij
Social impact entrepreneur
Country of Origin: Mexico
In a world where many people do their banking quickly and conveniently online, Canada’s temporary farmworkers have been left behind. When Rene Blanco looked at the problem, he saw an opportunity to build a business by helping them to save time and money. The result was LABORA, a social impact FinTech that provides digital payroll remittances.
Blanco, LABORA’s founder and CEO, landed in Vancouver, BC, in 2017 to study an executive MBA program at the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University. Previously, Blanco worked in Mexican agencies to provide infrastructure and services to rural communities.
In 2018, as an international EMBA student, he addressed a social problem within the underserved temporary foreign workers. They have to pay high fees and receive low exchange rates to remit their money back home. As a landed immigrant in Canada, he did in-depth due diligence regarding the payment process for the 50-year-old Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), and LABORA was born.
LABORA’s mission is to enhance the Canadian agriculture sector by helping farm owners securely and efficiently pay their farmworkers and benefit from the streamlined money transfer process from Canada back home. Further simplifying the administrative process, the LABORA platform assists farmworkers by filling their tax returns and provides online services to keep their information secured (pay stubs, TD1, T4, Certifications, NOA and ROE) up to date.
This year, the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC selected LABORA’s project for funding. Also, the company is accelerated by Venture Connection, SFU’s flagship entrepreneurship program. LABORA positively impacts the worker’s financial conditions based on the UN SDG’s metrics.
LABORA has won numerous recognitions, including the 2019 Idea Prize at the SFU-Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize competition, the 2019 Vancouver Winner at the Startup World Championships in Montreal. In 2020, Blanco received the SFU Alumni Founder Award, and Future of Good recognized LABORA as one of Canada’s Top 100 Recovery Projects. The company has also made the Ready to Rocket program’s Emerging Rocket Agri-Food List in 2020 and 2021. This year, LABORA won the 2021 Top Venture Prize at the SFU-Coast Capital Savings Venture Prize Competition.