The inside stories of young local entrepreneurs and their advice on how to build a business
Entrepreneurship means developing an idea from scratch and creating a business opportunity for yourself. It means taking everything you know and applying those skills in the real world. For students and recent graduates, it might seem like a daunting challenge, but with the right plan and guidance, anything is possible. Whether this translates into opening a restaurant or managing an online store, it takes a lot of time and determination to develop a business plan that grows into a long-term venture.
Here are the stories of three young Montrealers who took the initiative to follow their dreams and build a business.
Stephanie Le, owner of Ca Lem
6926 Sherbrooke St. W.
Stephanie Le opened an ice cream shop called Ca Lem with the idea of creating a space for students and families who live in and around the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (NDG) area. Her goal is for people to experience different flavours of ice cream by blending Vietnamese and traditional Canadian flavours.
“Initially, the goal was to open a small ice cream shop and see if it was something I could manage,” Le said. The more she worked on Ca Lem, the more Le loved being an entrepreneur. ”I wanted people to experience all these different flavours of ice cream, because it’s a great way of bringing people together.”
Currently a marketing student at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB), Le said she learned how to think as an entrepreneur in university. “It sculpted my brain to consider different aspects of business, such as marketing, budgets, event planning and, most importantly, a foundation to build on.”
Le previously worked at a restaurant, and that experience allowed her to understand why customer service is key to managing a business. According to Le, Ca Lem is an extension of her personality, which revolves around being sweet, kind and full of positive energy.
Le’s advice for future entrepreneurs: “Think outside the box. Be a leader in your own journey.”
Yusuf Habib, owner of Boulangerie Habib
6655 Victoria Ave.
“Don’t buy into the idea of being an entrepreneur,” said Yusuf Habib, an independent student at Mcgill University and owner of Boulangerie Habib. “You need to accept the reality of the job and be prepared to work 12-hour shifts if necessary.”
On March 1, 2014, Yusuf and his father decided to open a bakery with the hope of building a successful family-owned business that would grow over time. Boulangerie Habib serves cakes, fresh bread, pizza and Mediterranean delicacies.
According to Habib, because of Montreal’s cultural diversity, it took him time to get to know his clients and adapt his work ethic to their needs. “I’ve always been someone that dives into situations,” said Habib, who has learned to be a problem solver during his time at the bakery.“You try your best to plan for either the best or the worst, but you must be able to adapt to any situation in business.” His father taught him that lesson at a young age, instilling in Habib the need to constantly learn.
Habib’s advice for future entrepreneurs: “If you advertise fresh bread daily, you need to stick to your word. Honesty should resonate throughout your business, because that’s how you are able to build trust into your brand.”
Sina Amiraslani, owner of Ashley’s
5942 Sherbrooke St. W.
“There is a risk to being an entrepreneur,” said Sina Amiraslani, who opened his own vegan-vegetarian restaurant in 2017. “Nothing is guaranteed.” After graduating from JMSB with a degree in finance, Amiraslani knew he wanted to be his own boss, and with that came the idea of opening his own restaurant. His goal was to combine his creativity and entrepreneurial skills, and Amiraslani felt owning a restaurant combined both perfectly.
Located in NDG, Ashley’s offers a wide variety of options for vegans and vegetarians. According to Amiraslani, the concept of Ashley’s is to provide tasty meals for people who are curious about vegan and vegetarian cuisine. The restaurant allows him to develop dishes any demographic would enjoy.
Amiraslani described his restaurant as a child still needing care and attention, as he draws close to opening up a terrace for the summer season.
Amiraslani’s advice to future entrepreneurs: “Be prepared to sacrifice. If you want to grow as a person and entrepreneur, be prepared to suffer through many hardships.”