Tag Archives: entrepreneurs

Small Business, Big Dreams

Her first flight took her 13,400 kilometres away from her home in Chennai ten months after her wedding day. Selvi Thambimuthu landed at Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Toronto on December 4, 2004.

Three Generations

“I felt really happy to see my new husband and new country but also a little bit sad leaving my family back in Chennai. I was also very curious about snow,” she recalls.

Now thirteen+ years later, Selvi and Siva, her husband, and their three handsome sons Pragadheesh (12), Harshan (10), and Vadhanan (8), are busy getting ready to open their second restaurant franchise next week in Toronto – “Starving Artist”!

Stars Align – A Love Story

A match made by both our parents and confirmed by 4 different astrologists, Selvi and Siva were married within eighteen days of meeting one another in person for the first time in 2004. They came to know one another long distance by phone and her first thought was “he looks just like his photograph”. Strong faith in family and even stronger faith in dreams bridged the distance then and now.

Living the Dream

“Work for your dreams. It will happen whatever you dream. It will come true. You need to believe.” she repeats to her sons. “I want my sons to have their own dreams and I will support them as my parents always supported me. Education is important, first and foremost!”

She remembers how her parents set her up for success, always reading, exploring, and fuelling her curiosity about the world. At age 12, her father gave her a black radio and brought the world inside their home each night at dinnertime.

Her earliest memory of Toronto was “Everyone on the subway was reading!” She used to buy “packages of books” for her sons and read Dr. Seuss’ favourites including “Cat in the Hat” twenty to thirty times a day.

Entrepreneurship & Education in Progress

It’s not clear if “Green Eggs and Ham” set the tone as Selvi and Siva bought their first waffle restaurant franchise in 2016 and opened “Starving Artist” in Midtown Toronto. It was also the year Selvi started (and now graduated!) George Brown College’s Office Administration – Health Services two-year diploma program. And 2016 was the year Selvi’s Mom came from Chennai to help them realize their dreams.

The entrepreneurial spirit thrives in their family. Her father once owned a machine shop in Chennai. And as all entrepreneurs know, you do what it takes to make things work so they live above their restaurant which makes a whole lot of logistical sense.

Soccer Dreams

Listening to Pragadheesh talk about his passion, soccer, with his eyes shining brightly, he is like most young first generation Canadians. They are strivers, strong-willed with extraordinary grit and determination.

When his father suggested they should book their tickets for the World Cup 2026 (Canada, U.S. and Mexico will be hosting), Pragadheesh reassured his father, “Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll be playing so I’ll have tickets for everyone.”

The Next Big Dream

And what’s next you might wonder from the lady who once pushed a stroller dubbed “The Rocket” by her co-workers to get her son to school on time?

Selvi now dreams about how she will furnish their next house, a much bigger house as their home as she remembers fondly her childhood home in Chennai, 10’ x 50’, where her dreams began. And now 13,400 kms away, I have no doubt this dream will also come true. Small business, big dreams!

HashTagTalks for Small Biz

Kicking off with February #s:

TheFWords:  #failure #fortune  #fun #fear #FailureFollowedByFortune 

TheGwords: #grit #gratitude

#superpowerskill

Baby_Jean

From A Micro Entrepreneur THEN   &

Jean Chow - MsBizWizA Small Entrepreneur NOW

After 10 years #grit in audit #superpowerskill and armed with an accounting diploma #grit and an incomplete final CPA #failure , I left my hometown, Moose Jaw, then Regina and Saskatoon for Zambia #fortune #fun!

Lessons learned from those Audit Years:                      a) how to count cattle #fun ; b) how to count  drums of yellow cake #fear #fun;  c) how to count my lucky stars to be paid handsomely #fortune for an African adventure #fun.

I was a Project Accountant, an aid worker, for 2 years on a wheat research project (how to count seeds, just kidding) and competed as a member of the Zambian Women’s Squash Team #grit #superpowerskills #fun. “Where are you from?” came up often in Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and on the Zambian Copperbelt: Kitwe, Ndola, and Lusaka.  I learned it was much easier to say “Konichiwa” which made everyone was happy.

I left Zambia and saw more of this wide world #fortune #fun : Down Under, Thailand, France, England, France, then landed in Ottawa.  It was time to replenish my “inventory”.  After 18 months of financial analyzing, I could see a new business language emerging.  So I quit #fortune , loaded up my Honda Civic, and drove across Canada #grit #fun to study Mandarin #superpowerskill in Vancouver, a winter with a lot of rain. #grit

Another irresistible offer came along to work overseas, this time across the Pacific in Ujung Pandang, Sulawesi, Indonesia.  Not such a tough choice – starving, not-so-mature student versus handsomely paid adventurer #FailureFollowedByFortune #fun

More lessons learned:  Losing is winning  #FailureFollowedByFortune like losing my toughest squash match in Harare #grit but leaving it my all on the court; losing is winning after marrying someone you’ve outgrown and divorcing quickly, painfully, wisely #FailureFollowedByFortune; losing is winning after left holding the bag as a whistle blower, knowing right from wrong #superpowerskill having to walk away from my home in Indonesia and personal belongings #grit and then being saved one year later by good friends, friends for life #FailureFollowedByFortune

Enter my sweet spot decade – happy days back in Canada and after a short stint as a Director of Finance , I quit to be a – wait for it – Food Entrepreneur  #fun #superpowerskill #grit Talk about making something from scratch.  No cakes, no boeuf bourguignon for me.  I wanted the REAL DEAL.  I wanted to do what I love! #fun I loved to eat great food #fun so why not make a business from scratch? Did it matter that I was not a chef, never sold a thing in my life, no contacts in the food industry?  No! “Know no #fear” became my mantra.

I designed #superpowerskill, developed #superpowerskill, and physically delivered (for a little while) #superpowerskill “Asian Kraft Dinner” as Asian DIY dinner kits (Thai, Indonesian, Japanese, South Asian) which sold across Canada, U.S. and Bermuda for 12 (10 wonderful) years! #FUN #GRIT  All caps, definitely ALL CAPS!

Loads of lessons learned:  I lived in my factory for 4 out of 12 years #grit ; wrestled with uncertainty 24/7 for the entire 12 years #superpowerskill ;  received recognition by the big ones: Bon Appetit and CBS FoodNetwork NYC #superpowerskill #fortune; blind passion can and will kill you… well, almost; unexpectedly we lost 2 major clients so cash flow stopped flowing. At the same time we had to automate production , “go big or go home” so I lost it all and went “home”  #FailureFollowedByFear  I lived with my friends and family in 5 homes for 6 months in 2 different cities, 3,415 km apart; I lived with #humility and #gratitude ; I lived with zero assets+zero liabilities = ZERO for what seemed like a very long time #FailureWithNoFortune #JustPlainFailure

So “now is the time” to adapt, to pivot, to change, to endure, to survive #grit  For the next 10 years,  I worked in big corporate led by small people who MUST hit their “numbers”, I worked in small business led by big people (read “big egos”) who went mad not knowing their “numbers”; I worked in NFPs (aka not-for-profits aka “not for me”) with dedicated people who waste time wrestling with bureaucracy and not having any “numbers”.

Lessons Learned From Lowlights to Highlights:  Nothing can defeat you when you have nowhere to go but up #GRIT; nothing can defeat you when you set aside your pride, learn to lean, and ask (sometimes yell) for help #humility ; nothing can defeat you when you can still give a lot with very little because #gratitude is still gratitude #superpowerskill; nothing can defeat you when you can make a life a “something” out of “nothing” #superpowerskill ,  when you “treat every day like pay day”  with curiosity and wonder #fun #fortune, and when you strive to be kinder each and every day. “My heart has spoken.” #superpowerskill

What’s next?  March #Talk. Stay tuned!

A Superhero for the Underdog Entrepreneur!

Pat McNamara @patapex is a PR dynamo who has found a way to give back! She’s the poster girl of  huge heart, self-effacing and ever so humble.  She is the super-hero for the underdog entrepreneur!

#Entrepreneurs sometimes fall and fall hard for different reasons and need a second chance. Doesn’t everyone? Pat mentions ever so briefly that she had a second chance and her gratitude  jumps out when you see her smile.  Pat McNamara 19NOV2015

As volunteer business judges, we spent the day listening and assessing  the top 9 pitches in 3 categories – youth, women, and immigrant – and are at varying stages of start-up.  By the end of the day, @IgniteCapital will have awarded $20k to each of the three category winners!  Where does this money come from?  From Pat’s 3 pockets for 3 entrepreneurs, $60K,  to help move an entrepreneur’s dream forward.

This is no Dragon’s Den!  Pat and her team have designed a process for cash-strapped, low credit score entrepreneurs (yep, you have to have a credit score LESS THAN 650) to be eligible.  2015 is Year 3 of Pat’s generosity and now is the time for other successful entrepreneurs to step up.  Join Pat in helping those who deserve a second chance!

A Second Chance
A Second Chance