1. Can you tell us a bit about who you are and your story?
I was born and raised in Victoria, BC, with my older brother and older sister. My mom was a single mom, and this experience played a large role in shaping me into the person I am today. My mom immigrated from India a few years before my brother was born and spoke very little English. Having separated from my biological father months before I was born, we grew up really learning how to work together and counting on each other.
The work hard mentality was ingrained in me early on. My grandmother helped raise us while my mother worked hard and took on odd jobs to support us. She faced a lot of battles early on and I think that grounded me and my siblings a lot. My mom is an amazing woman that overcame a lot and we grew up watching her improve her ability to communicate in English and with that came better jobs that allowed us to have a better life. Many years later, with her persistence, we were able to move from a one-bedroom house to a nice home in a small suburb outside of Vancouver. Watching her work hard throughout my childhood really has put a lot into perspective for me. It taught me that whatever you do, do your best, and that hard work pays off. With that mindset, my siblings and I stayed on the right path and have all become quite successful.
2. What inspired you to create your business?
Originally, because of my upbringing and growing up on social assistance, I always wanted to control my own destiny, as much as I could. I didn’t want to rely on anyone or anything more than I had to. I happened to fall into the natural products world about 17 to 18 years ago, while I was working on a side project for a small company. I went from this company to a natural products firm and I learned quite a bit during my time there. From that point on, I knew I could see myself running a business in the natural products industry because I really enjoyed what I did, and I loved the industry.
3. How has your background influenced your business?
More than anything, my upbringing, and the work ethic I was surrounded by has influenced my business. Knowing that if you work hard and you put your mind to something, you can accomplish great things. When you put in the time and work, it will pay off in the end.
4. How has your experience been as a minority in the natural health and organic products industry?
I would say because the industry was quite young when I started, there’s been a lot of acceptance because of that. I personally haven’t faced many instances of being looked at as “not one of us”. I wouldn’t say that judgement based on my race has never happened, I have felt that way on occasion, but because you unfortunately do grow up with it, it’s just the way it is, and you move on. But by and large, because the industry is so full of innovation, there’s a lot of acceptance. Overall, in my experience, it doesn’t matter what your race, religion, or your sexual orientation is, generally most people are very accepting of you as a person and want to work together to grow the industry.
5. What advice would you have for those who are just beginning to or want to start a career or business in our industry?
Firstly, talk to people. That's the only way you can really start to understand the business. Everybody is typically pretty open and willing to share and discuss their experience. When I started, I spent countless hours on phone calls and meetings, listening and learning from people. You need to reach out to as many people as you can, ask for referrals, as people in the industry can give you great advice.
Secondly, it’s important to take all your learnings but also follow what you want to do. Sometimes people take someone else’s advice as gospel, and I do not think you should because at the end of the day everybody is different. You are going to have your own style; you are going to want to do things your way and that’s okay. You are going to fail, we all do, and you take those failings as learning (as cliché as that may sound), and you move past them. If you try to fit yourself into the mold of what somebody else has done, it is not going to work. And at the end of the day, if you jump into it and go all in, you are going to find a way.
There will always be nay-sayers. When I was starting out, a lot of people told me “Don’t do things this way or that way,” and “That’s not right, I wouldn’t do it that way.” And sure, maybe there are better ways of doing something, but that was the way I wanted to do it. Did everything work out exactly the way I pictured? No. But is it working out exactly the way it needs to be? Definitely.
6. Is there an inspirational figure you look up to?
I tend to look up to entrepreneurs rather than a single figure, particularly individuals that have started from humble beginnings are more relatable to me because of my own upbringing and having started off with very little. For example, I look at Jeff Bezos – he started his business in a garage, with many people doubting him at first, and now he is the richest man in the world. That is not to say that his business model and what he is doing now are fully acceptable, but to be able to take an idea and make it grow into something that large, that’s phenomenal. So that entire subset of people are inspirational to me.