Founder of Sumac, Tarek and mentor, Patrick

This week Futurpreneur Canada is celebrating National Volunteer Week with the rest of Canada by showing our appreciation for our almost 3,000 volunteer business mentors who work with our young entrepreneurs to help them succeed. To celebrate, we’re sharing some of the stories of our mentor and mentee matches to showcase just how valuable mentors can be to new entrepreneurs.

Tarek Jaml grew up in Syria and left at 19 years old to move to Abu Dhabi where he lived for 17 years. It was there where he met his wife and later moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland. Tarek had always been an entrepreneur, even long before moving to Canada and starting Sumac Middle Eastern Market and Eatery. In Abu Dhabi he managed a construction company and when he moved to St. John’s, he wanted to find something else that he could run and grow on his own. Sumac is a pantry where customers can get halal foods, authentic Middle Eastern foods, and other products. It also serves traditional Middle Eastern food such as falafel, shawarma and lentil soup.

When Tarek became a part of the Futurpreneur program which helped him turn his dream of creating his restaurant into reality, he was paired with an experienced business mentor, Patrick Martin. Patrick has years of experience working in a number of technical and education positions at Memorial University, and serving on two dozen local and national boards. He currently is part of the Rotary Club of St. John’s, on the board of the Autism Society and an executive on the local Canadian Mental Health Association board. In 1998 Patrick started his own business called Plum Creative Works which provides creative design, technical support, strategy development and marketing.

As soon as Patrick leaped into entrepreneurship he decided to become a mentor. He was one of Futurpreneur’s first mentors to get involved in the program. “While I did not have a lot of experience at the time, there were many things that I would have done differently if I had someone to help me,” he explained. Since becoming a mentor Patrick has not only helped several young entrepreneurs but also reaped the rewards himself. “As a mentor I am constantly meeting new people and some have become great friends. The relationships you are building and developing can be some of the strongest business relationships you’ll have,” he shared.

Patrick’s most recent mentee, Tarek has given Patrick even more opportunities to grow. One of the biggest learning curves for him was learning about the Middle Eastern culture and aesthetics. He spent a lot of time reading, watching and listening to get a better understanding of this part of the world to be able to really help Tarek start and grow his business. Tarek explains how valuable it has been to have Patrick to ask questions to and ask for advice. “He had great ideas and plenty of solutions to potential issues I could have,” Tarek shared. Patrick helps Tarek with his branding and marketing—from designing his brand, materials, signage, menus and overall image.

Having an experienced professional in your court can be such a valuable asset to any new business. You don’t feel like you’re doing it all alone and have someone to turn to for support. Tarek believes that the right mentor can be the difference between the success and failure of your business. “A good mentor will be a sounding board for your ideas, no matter how crazy. They will listen when you have problems or questions. They will provide answers to your questions or often provide you with the way to find an answer. They will give you encouragement when you are having difficulties. They provide advice when it is needed and they are honest with you,” Tarek explains.

The pair will continue to work together for up to two years and likely their relationship will go well beyond the Futurpreneur program. Both Patrick and Tarek have greatly benefited from one another and Futurpreneur can’t wait to continue to see how the pair works together to grow Sumac Middle Eastern Market and Eatery.

If you’re interested in becoming a mentor with Futurpreneur or interested in interested in our financing and mentorship program for entrepreneurs aged 18-39, click here.

Written by: Lauren Marinigh, Social Media & Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada