[Small Biz Spotlight]

Small Biz Spotlight Winter 2022

Left to Right: Kate Shaw, the County Emporium; Hardik Patel, Belleville International; Elizabeth Betancourt, Casa Alma

Passion. Can-do-attitude. Relationship management. These local entrepreneurs launched businesses that come from the heart – with a love for people, creativity and community.


What happens when you leave the familiarity of your homeland for college in a place that seems like a world away? After arriving from India in 2018 to study computer engineering at Loyalist College, Hardik Patel struggled to adjust. He had to overcome language barriers, isolation and the feeling of disconnection from others. With the influx of international students and immigrants to the area, Patel says he realized that if he was having these issues, there were many others facing the same challenges.

Patel started Belleville International to connect newcomers with the community through his social media outreach (and great photos) about local events and businesses, popular destinations and community programs. He also helped bring the festival of Diwali to town!

The County Emporium

Capable, driven, free-spirited – Kate Shaw is as refreshing as the re-imagined old Carrying Place Church that houses her shop and community hangout, The County Emporium. She’s a former air force pilot who flew the Hawk and Dash-8 high-performance aircraft until she was grounded by injury to her neck and spine from the exposure to high G-forces. “I just always wanted to be a pilot,” she says, adding that leaving the military was a tough transition. She spent time in Toronto and then decided to move to an idyllic County farmhouse in 2018 to raise her three kids and start something new. Her marketplace is for fashion, yoga, rock jam sessions and wing nights!

“I wanted a kind and loving space where you can have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.”

Elizabeth Betancourt,
Casa Alma

With her baby in tow, Elizabeth Betancourt’s thrifting hobby eventually became a thriving e-commerce site.

She left Toronto looking for a quieter lifestyle in Cobourg for her growing family, and then started styling her vintage purchases to upsell on her social media. “The whole thing led to sourcing products in different ways, so I’d go to estate auctions and make connections with wholesalers,” she says. Her business, Casa Alma, comes from the Spanish alma which means soul, and includes décor pieces inspired by her travels. (She’s waiting for handmade tiles from Mexico.)

Now Betancourt has added a studio for photography and events in a historic King Street building as well as at a rental cottage on Rice Lake that offers “magical light” and Instagrammable moments.

Story by:
Karen Hawthorne

[Winter 2022/2023 departments]