Khan taps fund for new enterprise

Byline: Geoff Kirbyson

It’s hard to imagine Obby Khan as the poster child for anything.

Yet, as incredulous as it might seem, the former Winnipeg Blue Bomber was trotted out at an event hosted by the Canadian Youth Business Foundation Tuesday morning.

The 33-year-old former offensive lineman and proprietor of Shawarma Khan restaurant has just received a second round of funding from the CYBF to open up another eatery.

A yet-to-be named juice bar is currently under construction in Osborne Village.

Khan said without the kick-start from CYBF, which provides business resources, financing and mentoring for entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 39, it would have been much more difficult and taken longer for him to open up his Exchange District eatery.

“It’s a lot easier when somebody like CYBF is opening doors for you,” he said.

Joelle Foster, CYBF director for Manitoba, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, wants to encourage soon-to-be graduates to consider entrepreneurship as a career and to base their operations out of Manitoba.

Since hanging up the CYBF shingle three years ago, Foster has funded 94 entrepreneurs, including 11 restaurants, with a success rate of 95 per cent.

Would-be business owners can get $15,000 without any collateral, $30,000 through a combination of CYBF and the Business Development Bank of Canada and another $30,000 through a business startup program at the Royal Bank. “I can get somebody $75,000 no problem,” she said.

Scott MacAulay, entrepreneurship practicum course leader at Red River College, said textbook entrepreneurialism doesn’t work. But if you show would-be business owners the right things to do, you can “activate” them.

For years, he would work with young people in building a sophisticated business plan, but when it came time to go and get the financing, which was sometimes into six figures, they’d balk.

Now he uses the “small cliffs theory,” which espouses taking many smaller steps to get something off the ground.

“Make one sale, get your business registered or go sell your product at a card table at a farmers market,” he said.

“If you do something too big or too sophisticated, it’s overload. You need to have lots of little steps.”

In a little more than a year, Khan will have created 25 jobs, including 10 at the new juice bar. He has no intention of slowing down, either.

“The Khan empire is growing. There’s something else in the works, but I can’t mention it yet. Hopefully, CYBF gives me another $75,000 and we’ll open another venture in a year,” he said.

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