Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

The Power of The Library

As the “Illustrator – ,  Writer – , Innovator – ,  Entrepreneur – , or Comic Artist – in – Residence” at the Toronto Public Library, we are privileged  to have and to hold a platform to help empower all library patrons from all walks of life and countries who come through our doors .


It’s been five years since I was the second Entrepreneur-in-Residence in the Small Business Program thanks to the good grace and kind generosity of the late Norman G. Hinton who left a large legacy for the Library in 2009. His remarkable story can be found here.

This week I was part of the audience and as I scanned the learning theatre and am reminded of the importance of our patrons’ perspective.  They are diverse and at times, our patrons come from (very) modest neighbourhoods and other times, not so modest. The entire world walks through those doors.

When did you last visit your local library? If it’s been awhile, you will be delightfully surprised to find that the Library has become a place for innovation, a place for story-telling, and a place for sharing knowledge. Branches may have a Fabrication Studio, Digital Innovation Hubs, a Writers’ Room not to mention free access to digital software, hardware, tablets, laptops, equipment such as light therapy lamps, Museum and Arts Pass, musical instruments, book printing service and so much more.

You might also notice that the Library is a safe and warm place, a sanctuary where the hinges literally have come off to facilitate open doors as reflected in the official Mission Statement and “provides free and equitable access to services which meet the changing needs of Torontonians. The Library preserves and promotes universal access to a broad range of human knowledge, experience, information and ideas in a welcoming and supportive environment.”

Having a residency or being a guest speaker at the Library is a humbling honour.

We are here to serve our patrons and be sensitive to their needs. It is their agenda we seek to help make successful and this requires a certain level of awareness, care, and compassion.

There is one thing that is not on loan from the Library and therefore, has no expiry date. When patrons leave the Library, they leave with a sense of dignity and dignity cannot be borrowed. At the Library, dignity is granted.

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!

The Power of Belief

I forgot my parachute when I finally made the leap into entrepreneurship   All I heard were Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous words “I believe … I believe… Now is the time …”

Entrepreneurs believe.  We believe as we power through the doubt and the many naysayers so we can follow our passion in our hearts and heads.  “I believe … this is the best idea. ever.  I believe I can build a company.  I can sell.  I can create jobs.  I can because I believe and I will.”  Sound familiar?

I believed as I dove head first into the food industry where I had no business being in.  Armed with little knowledge and no experience, somehow not knowing what I didn’t know became the catalyst for courage in my beliefs.  I knew no fear.

Year 1 quickly became 2, then 3.  We grew and grew until we were looking at Year 12 and when the unthinkable happened.  Our bread-and-butter client of ten years wiped us out with no notice. We were one of many small business vendors de-listed by the big grocery giant when they decided to streamline their distribution and forgot to tell us they didn’t need us any longer.

The cash suddenly stopped flowing.

Without a parachute, we landed hard. SO hard.  I wrestled  with the “why’s, how’s, and what next’s”.  Exhausted, I turned to a good friend who said, “ There is a way out albeit a painful way out.  Everybody deserves a second chance.”  He was right.  Now ten long years later, I have the clarity and trust to believe once again.