Entrepreneur. Singer. Multilingual student. Just try to keep up with Elsy Makhlouf.
To say that Elsy Makhlouf is a go-getter would be a bit of an understatement.
Let’s review: At 18, she followed her brother from Lebanon to Halifax to attend Mount Saint Vincent University where she’s finishing up a degree in public relations with a double minor in marketing and management.
She has done co-op work stints with ACOA, the National Research Council of Canada and the Halifax Partnership.
She has volunteered at the Atlantic International Film Festival, the Mosaic Festival Halifax and many other events.
She is fluent in English, French and Arabic and regularly performs as a singer in those languages, as well as Persian and Spanish (oh, and Nigerian and Italian and Portuguese).
A year ago she started her own public relations company called Lively Public Relations and Branding, and has an office in a spiffy new building in Hammonds Plains.
Her most recent accomplishment is to be part of a team that competed for and won a $7,500 prize to launch community projects to help homeless folks. She will do a TEDxHalifax talk on the ROOF program on April 9.
The list could be longer, but you get the idea.
She is just 22 years old.
So, it’s not surprising that it took a few days to line up a time to chat with Makhlouf as she’s a bit busy these days. But the young entrepreneur/student/entertainer says she has been hard at work since she first landed in Halifax.
“I had to work from Day 1, basically since I moved here, to be able to survive and pay rent and school,” she says while chatting in a boardroom next to her office.
Her first job when she got to Halifax to attend university was to do communications for Our Lady of Lebanon Church, writing newsletters and bulletins in English, French and Arabic. By pure coincidence, she had met the priest of the church, who happened to be visiting Lebanon, just a month before moving here.
That job, along with her brother already being here to study engineering at Dalhousie, helped ease her adjustment to living and studying abroad for the first time.
“When I came here, they were really there for me – but everybody, not only just the Lebanese community.”
Makhlouf says she likely inherited her wanderlust from her father Joseph, who lived in Paris as a young man. When it came time to choose a post-secondary education, she only looked at universities outside of Lebanon.
Her brother suggested she come to Halifax and if she didn’t like it, she could move elsewhere.
It turns out she loves the country and city that she and her family have decided to call home (Makhlouf and her parents recently received permanent residency status).
“I feel like Canada is the place for potential, it’s the place for achievement and building your dreams,” she says. “I feel like if you have any dream and you work hard for it, there’s no reason you can’t achieve it. There’s nothing that can stop you.
“Look at me. I’m an international student. My first barrier was being able to adapt to a different culture. I wasn’t born here, but I was able to put myself out there. My grades are good, I was on the Dean’s List, I’m getting support through scholarships, people helped me find a good place to live, a good office and introduced me to someone who is helping me with clients.”
As if school and a burgeoning career in business aren’t enough, Makhlouf is also carving out a path in music, something she started when she was a young girl in Lebanon.
When she landed in Halifax, she volunteered to sing at events, but was soon being hired to share her multilingual talents, including singing the national anthem at last year’s national Liberal Party convention in Halifax as well as the opening of the new Halifax Convention Centre.
Makhlouf had seven singing gigs in February and five more lined up for March.
She says it’s been a lot of fun to add new languages to her singing repertoire on top of her base English, French and Arabic.
“I started learning these languages as there was a demand for it. I like it. I feel mixing the languages with music is part of my PR skills – it’s learning different cultures and communicating. I feel like it’s really working.”
Makhlouf is clearly bursting with ideas and energy and excited to grow her business, as well as give back to her adopted home through endeavours like the ROOF program, which will address housing insecurity issues in the community.
“You learn and you grow. I didn’t know anything about business when I first moved here. I look at myself three years ago—which is not really a long time ago—and I see how far I’ve gone. I didn’t know anything about this, but now I have a different perspective and I’m looking forward to more; To learn more and grow more.”
Photo by Lumi Studios Media and Yunlinghao He