Interview by Derrick Scott and Mathieu Manning
Images © Vesta’s Photography
Within the world of new businesses that shape our daily lives, there are passionate entrepreneurs determined to build their own success stories. Today, we invite you to delve into the story of Sissi Mundala, the founder of Check-in Market, a rapidly growing enterprise poised to make its mark.
Stepping into Check-in Market reveals a true treasure trove of global flavors. Located in Rockland, this store goes far beyond the traditional grocery store. It is a small Afro-Caribbean market where you can find exotic products from Africa and the Caribbean. However, it also serves as a convenience store, offering a comprehensive selection of Canadian products to meet all needs.
Sissi Mundala, the owner, passionately explains, “When we acquired the building, which had housed a convenience store for over 40 years, I wanted to preserve this Canadian aspect while introducing African and Caribbean flavors. That’s how Check-in Market was born, a place where Africa, the Caribbean, and the rest of the world come together.”
The Path to Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship runs in Sissi’s veins. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she grew up in an entrepreneurial environment, with her mother owning a hair salon. For Sissi, the call to entrepreneurship came when she arrived in Canada in 1996. After studying computer science and working for the Canadian government in the Department of National Defense, she increasingly felt the desire to start her own business.
“I always told myself that I would someday own my own business,” says Sissi. The opportunity presented itself during the COVID-19 pandemic when she took early retirement. The difficulty of accessing quality African and Caribbean products in the Clarence-Rockland area motivated her to open Check-in Market.
A Sense of Belonging
Check-in Market goes beyond being just a grocery store. For many recent immigrants or residents of the area, it’s a cultural landmark. “It’s so rewarding,” says Sissi. She describes how customers enter the store with a gleam of excitement in their eyes, rediscovering familiar products from their home countries. The store not only sells products but offers a sense of belonging and community.
Sissi shares a touching anecdote: “Yesterday, a lady came to Check-in Market with her elderly mother. The mother had only been in Canada for two months. As soon as she entered, she greeted me in Lingala, our native language, and asked me about the products. This interaction perfectly illustrates the sense of belonging our store offers to newcomers.”
The Challenge of Acculturation
One of the major challenges Sissi has faced since opening Check-in Market in 2020 is attracting local customers. She has succeeded in striking a balance by incorporating Canadian products while preserving African and Caribbean flavors. Local customers are becoming increasingly curious and open to exploring new culinary cultures.
Sissi explains, “The curiosity of Canadian-born customers about new flavors is incredible. They love trying new dishes and products; I’m here to guide them and explain how to prepare them.”
The Future Expansion of Check-in Market
Sissi Mundala sees a promising future for Check-in Market. She plans to expand its presence in the Clarence-Rockland region and beyond. “I want Check-in Market to serve the entire community, from Clarence Rockland to Hawkesbury, Bourget, and Alfred,” she says.
The project of integrating an African cuisine restaurant adjacent to the store is also underway to satisfy the growing curiosity of customers about African cuisine.
A Role in the Growth of Clarence-Rockland
Check-in Market stands as a true catalyst for the growth of Clarence-Rockland. When Sissi and her family arrived in the region in 2010, they paved the way for other African families, contributing to the growth of this dynamic community.
Sissi Mundala’s entrepreneurial journey, woven with a passion for African cuisine and culture, is a beautiful celebration of cultural diversity and entrepreneurship. Check-in Market is more than just a grocery store; it embodies a true place of convergence, sharing, and discovery, shaping the social and cultural fabric of Clarence-Rockland. There is no doubt that this establishment will continue to grow and thrive in the years to come, making an invaluable contribution to this flourishing community.