How these GBC alumni became partners in life, and in business

Main Content

As part of Toronto's bustling Vietnamese student community, amidst meetings and volunteer events for fellow international students, Tony Nguyen and Gia Han Chau's paths crossed.

It was 2016, and Gia Han was completing her Accounting diploma program at George Brown College (GBC). Upon their meeting, Tony, who was studying hospitality at a neighbouring college, found himself captivated by Gia Han’s positive spirit, and he eagerly looked forward to their impromptu hangouts after their group meetups.

Their relationship quickly blossomed, rooted in their shared cultural experiences and values. Gia Han encouraged Tony to switch gears and pursue Hotel Operations at GBC, a decision that proved pivotal in the years to come.

“I switched schools and changed my career path, and it was Han who motivated me to make that decision," Tony says. "I was never successful in any of the schools I’d attended previously. But when I came to George Brown, everything changed.”

After graduating, Gia Han would still visit Tony on campus to keep him company while he studied in the library.

“I couldn’t believe I was back there again!” she smiles.

Although much of their relationship was smooth sailing, thanks to their mutual respect and concern for each other, they did face some challenges — like navigating the pandemic together.

Taking a leap of faith together to open a small business

Tony graduated into an industry battered by shutdowns and restrictions while Gia Han was also trying to get her career off the ground. They eventually emerged stronger and more determined — both as a couple and as budding entrepreneurs. With the restaurant sector recovering, they decided to take a daring leap of faith and opened Gong Cha, a bubble tea shop, on the busy Danforth Avenue in east Toronto.

Now in their second year of running a business together, the venture has become a symbol of their collaborative mindset.

"We grow with the business," Tony says. "We learn so much from working together and being in a relationship. It's been great."

Seizing new business opportunities 

With Gia Han returning to school and Tony working a day job at a hotel, along with running their business, their lives and schedules are packed to the brim. But they’re grateful for every opportunity that comes their way. In fact, Tony is even working on a second business.

“When times were so tough during the pandemic, we wished for opportunities like these," he reflects. "Now when we have the chance to do something exciting, we take it.”

Gia Han says it’s this optimism and positive outlook from Tony that provides her with a sense of assurance.

"There's nothing you can't overcome when you're with Tony," she beams.

When asked for advice for current GBC students who might be looking for a meaningful connection like theirs, Tony highlights the importance of getting out of your comfort zone and exploring the rich possibilities of student life.

“The more people you meet at school, the better your chances of finding the right person,” he says. “At George Brown, there are many clubs, groups, and programs outside of classes. Join them, and you’ll meet so many interesting people."

Learn more about George Brown College alumni success stories and stay connected to your alma mater!