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Meet Charcuterie Vancouver, Best Immigrant Entrepreneur, 2021

Finalist Profiles

2021 has been a year of celebration for Sadaf Rahimi and her business, Charcuterie Vancouver. After scooping our Best Immigrant Entrepreneur Award at the Small Business BC Awards, Sadaf proceeded to open her own retail storefront in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood.

It marks the latest success for this dynamic entrepreneur, who turned her side hustle into a thriving charcuterie business. Ahead of the 2022 SBBC Awards, we caught up with Sadaf to learn how she became an entrepreneur, navigated a pandemic that continues to provide so many challenges in her industry, and earned success in our annual awards.

Can you share the story of how you arrived in Canada?

My family left Afghanistan in 1995 to escape the war. This was around the time that I was born so I was just a little baby. First, we flew to Pakistan where we received our new passports before we got on a train and went to Russia. We were only supposed to be in Russia for three months, and our final destination was supposed to be Germany.

Things didn’t go as planned. We ended up being stuck in Russia for almost a decade. Those years were hard years for our family. My dad was bouncing from job to job, trying to make ends meet. My mom lent a hand by making food for my dad to sell in different stores and around our neighbourhood. We were hustling to try and make a living.

We knew this wasn’t going to work for us long term. We first tried to move to the USA and that didn’t work out. Then, in 2003, we were accepted to emigrate to Canada. I was almost nine years old and the relief in my parents’ faces when they told me was a moment I will never forget as long as I live.

When did you become interested in starting your own business?

It’s fair to say that entrepreneurship runs in my family! My dad’s family in Afghanistan has a business where they sold Afghan rugs. My mom’s brother and father also had a business while she was growing up. Both of my parents had that entrepreneurial mindset and it rubbed off on me.

My mom always hated working for other people. Her mindset was that you’ll never truly be a success working for someone else. She was thrilled when I started my own business, and now she even works for me!

As soon we moved to Canada, my dad started his own painting business. He barely spoke the language and I can’t even imagine what he went through to get licensing, permits, submit his taxes – all in a language he didn’t fully understand. I still carry his first work permit in my wallet. Whenever I’m struggling with aspects like incorporating the business, sorting my taxes, setting up a business account, all those tasks you have to do – I think of him and his struggles and it helps inspire me.

How did Charcuterie Vancouver start?

A few years ago, I was working at Microsoft in event and community management. One of my regular tasks was to host business networking events and I was in charge of putting the food orders together. It was so hard in Vancouver to find vendors who could put together charcuterie boards for ordering. In fact, I’d end up going to Costco or Save On Foods and put together my own boards – nobody was offering the service.

I realized there was a big gap in the market for this. One day I sat down with my mom and shared with her that I was thinking of starting a charcuterie business. The next thing you know, I googled the term “Charcuterie Vancouver.” I was shocked to see nobody had jumped on that search term. I bought the domain, bought the email, and went to Costco with my brother. I spent around $500 on meat and cheeses, put some boards together and took so many photos. I made an Instagram page, shared the photos on there and orders started rolling in from co-workers, friends and family. It all just took off from there!

What was it like to participate in the SBBC Awards?

When I was nominated, I didn’t realize what a big deal these Awards would be for me and my business. The person who nominated me was someone I hadn’t spoke to in three years. When I found out it was her, I burst into tears. To think that someone like that would take the time out of their day to nominate me was incredible.

The Awards have changed my life. Whenever my business is mentioned now it’s always spoken about as an “Award-winning business.” We have clients come in now who found out about the business from all the coverage we received – and that all comes back to Small Business BC and the awards. Our sales have gone through the roof as a result. If you want more sales, more brand awareness for your business, taking part in the SBBC Awards is the way to get it. You never know what’s going to happen. I had no clue I could even get to the Top 5, let alone win. It’s been life changing for sure.

What benefits have you enjoyed from taking part?

I can’t believe how much I’ve been in the media as a result of winning. Once the award was announced, Global News came to our storefront to do an interview. I did a full seven-minute segment with CBC News, I was on the Daily Hive, The Province, Vancouver Sun and Vancouver is Awesome. I’ve always dreamed on being in the Daily Hive. For me to wake up one morning and see all the coverage – it was absolutely unreal.

It’s also made me much more confident in speaking about my business and pitching my business. As part of my nomination, I delivered a 10-minute pitch to the judges. My biggest takeaway from that process was how important it is to know your business inside-out. Don’t try and memorize a ten-minute pitch. Instead, you need to build a knowledge of every aspect of your business so you can casually speak about it and answer any questions that come up. Don’t rehearse too much. Be authentic and be yourself.

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