HALIFAX, Oct. 20 /CNW Telbec/ - When three young siblings, who came to Canada from Vietnam as children, opened Talay Thai Restaurant in 2005, they never expected to see crowds lining up daily less than a year later. Feeding the craving for more, they opened an equally popular establishment in 2007. For their remarkable accomplishments, Kim Hong Dao, 27, and her brothers Bang Gia Dao, 31, and Niem Gia Dao, 26, have won BDC's Young Entrepreneur Award for Nova Scotia and will be honoured tonight at a ceremony in Ottawa.
Growing up in Halifax, the three always dreamed of owning their own restaurant. "We come from a restaurant background and our ancestry is filled with entrepreneurs. My aunt owned a Chinese restaurant and we helped out there," explains Niem. After his sister Kim graduated from community college, she did some market research. "There were a lot of Chinese restaurants in the area," Niem says. "We wanted to do something new and different in Asian cuisine." Working together to launch the restaurant, they were joined by Kim's husband Wen, a Thai chef.
With an ideal downtown location amid businesses, universities and hotels, they quickly attracted a local clientele, offering an authentic taste of Bangkok. Talay Thai's flavourful, healthy cuisine and enchanting atmosphere also wowed a food critic and, soon after opening, it was named one of Canada's top 10 new restaurants. "From there, business took off very quickly. Just 10 months after we opened, we had line-ups every day."
Undeterred by the challenges they faced in getting start-up financing, they persevered and lined up funding through government programs and from family. With no previous management experience, they took a variety of courses to learn things such as bookkeeping and ways to train staff. In less than a year, the siblings had paid off all their loans and begun building up their savings. As demand continued to grow, they decided to invest in their second restaurant, Cha Baa Thai, a bigger venture that they opened in 2007. "This time, the bank saw our success in our financial statements; they were really impressed."
In addition to sharing the same vision, the three attribute their success to a first-rate staff, a uniquely Thai ambiance, high-quality local ingredients and affordable pricing. "We're very proud of what we've accomplished, but we also recognize our loyal, knowledgeable staff-we could never do any of this without them." In 2007, they earned the Nova Scotia Seed Capital Award for Business of the Year; last year, they won the 2008 Atlantic Canada Best Business Award from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF).
Passing on the entrepreneurial spirit
Committed to passing on the spirit of entrepreneurship to youth in Atlantic Canada, the three are involved in various community initiatives, including the reading support program at a local library. "The program coordinator, Lana Pinsky, was our mentor and teacher; we want to give back and help other students." Niem is also a board member for a program at Dalhousie University's Norman Newman Centre for Entrepreneurship, where he is part of a judging panel that provides feedback to students pitching business ideas.
"With passion and determination, these three young entrepreneurs have succeeded in making their dream a reality. In one of the toughest industries for start-ups, they have defied the odds with remarkable business savvy and a winning concept," says BDC President and CEO Jean-René Halde.
Now in the process of franchising, Niem says they want youth in Atlantic Canada to know that there are plenty of opportunities at home. "The most important thing is to believe in yourself and have a passion for what you do. Once you believe in yourself, you can overcome anything."
Recognition for young leaders
A major feature of Small Business Week, BDC's Young Entrepreneur Awards recognize the entrepreneurial spirit and the business and leadership accomplishments of Canadians between the ages of 19 and 35. Winners are selected by panels of business people from across the country, who consider the originality of the business concept, success, growth potential and social involvement. They also take into account the entrepreneur's age when the business was started and any special challenges that were overcome.
2009 YEA and Small Business Week partners
Platinum partners of the 2009 Young Entrepreneur Awards and Small Business Week are Deloitte and Export Development Canada. Gold partners are Borden Ladner Gervais and Maclean's.
BDC is Canada's business development bank. From more than 100 offices across the country, BDC promotes entrepreneurship by providing highly tailored financing, venture capital and consulting services to entrepreneurs. Visit www.bdc.ca for more information.
Small Business Week is a registered trademark of BDC.
SOURCE Business Development Bank of Canada
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