I always find stories like this fascinating. How does someone leave the risk averse finance world and make the leap into the insecure world of entrepreneurship? Meet Mahmood Malik, CGA/MBA who decided that the life he was leading, while providing material satisfaction, lacked something, and that ‘something’ was the risk and reward of owning his own business. Read below about Mahmood’s journey into the world of entrepreneurship with the opening of his halal grocery store Al-Jannat.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I always dreamt about having my own business but the trigger for me to do something was an entrepreneurial finance class. At the time I was in a senior finance job in a technology company and thinking about my next career move. The instructor was very inspiring and he kept describing all of these success stories and I realized that I wanted to take the plunge.
What was the next step?
I saw an opportunity to invest my own time and participate in the upside after I met the team that was running another store. They were doing a great job running a successful small business and they had been making a living from their grocery store for 2 years. I approached them and asked them if they wanted to do something a little bigger and after we explored it, they were willing to partner together as we each had complimentary skills. I invested in the business and poured my heart, soul and savings into it. I knew that they were knowledgeable about the business and I could provide a different kind of leadership along with the knowledge that would let them scale their ideas. The result was Al-Jannat.
I knew that they were knowledgeable about the business and I could provide a different kind of leadership along with the knowledge that would let them scale their ideas.
I feel like we missed a step here. Did you do a lot of research first about owning the business?
I did do a lot of research,particularly with the main target market and what they wanted. To be successful in any business you need differentiators. When we spoke to our target market, they told us that they wanted halal meat from a certified source, that they wanted the shop to be clean (this was a big one) and they wanted a better customer service experience. We listened and implemented all of their recommendations.
Furthermore, we invested in a start of the art POS system to enhance the customer experience which was far different than our compeitors.
Finally, our customers indicated that they wanted a ‘one stop shop’ experience and so we have tried to create that as well. From start to finish we were focused on the customer and we are now one of the biggest Muslim stores in the GTA. This, in and of itself, is a differentiator.
I did do a lot of research, particularly with the main target market and what they wanted. To be successful in any business you need differentiators.
You have partners in this business. What makes a good partner? – You have to have honest people who pull their weight. You need others to work hard if you are working hard, otherwise you may develop some resentment. On both accounts, I feel very lucky to have found my partners.
You have to have honest people who pull their weight. You need others to work hard if you are working hard, otherwise you may develop some resentment.
Accountants are often seen as risk averse personalities. Does that apply to you?
The MBA helped me get past my perspective that I needed to be risk averse. I tried my hardest to create a winning recipe and as I got involved in the planning process I started to believe more and more that this could be a success. It also helped that I was restructured during the last recession and I had a family(laughs) – that makes you motivated to do things you wouldn’t typically do. Working as my own boss feels empowering and I have no problem putting in so much effort.
How did your life experiences help the transition from CGA to entrepreneur?
I spent the first 18 years of my life in Pakistan. I think being an immigrant makes you resourceful and flexible. It also gives you an appreciation for Canadian culture and the opportunities it offers. When I came to Canada, I attended Centennial College in Toronto and then I completed my CGA designation while working. After that I did my MBA because I wanted to make sure I had the knowledge to accelerate my career. It did accelerate it, but in a different direction.
I think being an immigrant makes you resourceful and flexible. It also gives you an appreciation for Canadian culture and the opportunities it offers.
What do you credit for your success?
I wouldn’t say it is a huge success – yet! There are a number of things I credit. If I were to pick one that would help define why I am successful, it would be that I always work to deliver for clients. A new business doesn’t have many opportunities to make mistakes. You have to be successful the first time and I am doing my best and I think we are making progress towards the ultimate goal.
Mahmood Malik loves being an entrepreneur and he invites you to come and sample his store’s wares anytime. Visit Al-Jannat online.