Success stories

Success Stories

Community Futures is pleased to showcase some of the many good news stories in rural Alberta. Everyday we help people like you start and grow successful small businesses.

Lethbridge Tactical Supply

Sarah and Shaun Jorgensen
Lethbridge, AB


They were a young couple, with a young family who had a good idea for a business. However, their education and work histories were not in business management and they wanted some assurance to move forward.  “A good idea is great but without a plan, it is just a good idea,” states Sarah Jorgensen owner of Lethbridge Tactical Supply.      So she and her husband Shaun took their idea and went to Community Futures Lethbridge, where they attended the training workshops, worked with the professionals, completed the research and developed their business plan.  At the end of the process, they entered the Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge for Southern Alberta and placed in the top three finalists, confirming their idea was indeed a good one. 

“I would recommend the process for anyone who wants to start a business,” states Sarah, “I learned the inner workings of a business, from target marketing, to researching the statistics.  It was a confidence builder and confirmed we were doing things right.”

Lethbridge Tactical Supply opened their doors in January 2012, and supply high quality gear and safety equipment to a variety of industries from police and emergency services, security corporations, construction, and oil field companies.  Their small business provides products to customers in the Southern Alberta region and has been developing a loyal following as far away as Red Deer.

“We supply tactical equipment which I describe as something small used for a higher purpose.  The gear has to be efficient, reliable and dependable for the safety of our clientele.We focus on the quality of goods, services and warranties,” explains Sarah.  She searches for the best product and develops her supplier lists to match her customer’s needs.  “ You have to listen to your customers; they will tell you what they want and what they don’t want.”

LethbridgeTactical Supply is a husband-wife operation with Sarah doing the majority of the storefront operation.  Recently they were able to hire an employee to help with store.  The business plan has changed somewhat to accommodate the surprising number of different types of customers coming in the door and having to adjust their supplies and inventory to the market.  Sarah describes her store as “the type of store you don’t know you need anything from until you come in the door.” 

The storefront is starting to attract an out door activity clientele.  Hunters, hikers and campers are coming to the store to buy the high quality boots to keep their feet warm, the tough, durable pants that don’t wear out and to  browse the variety of flashlights available. “We have a flashlight that you can see for three blocks with,” laughs Sarah.    

Sarah talks about her business with commitment and confidence. She knows her business and credits her husband for the variety of products carried by the store.  Shaun works in the emergency services and is privy to the wants and needs of his co-workers for their safety.  Lethbridge Tactical Supply is dedicated to keeping their clientele safe by providing top quality gear and equipment and the success of the business confirms the need.   

LA Chefs Catering & Events

Marcie Stickel
Lethbridge, AB


LA Chefs is the largest catering service in Southern Alberta, centering on larger events, between 150 and 5000 guests at a time.  "But that is not where we started," explains Marci Stickel.  "We began as a mom and pop operation serving beef on a bun out of our garage what seems like a long time ago." laughs Marci.

"I remember a day in May 2006; we had three weddings on the go and one minivan, which we had dubbed "White Lightning", to do the deliveries. It was a long day but we did it," she explains.  It was at that point and after too many 20 - hour days, that sparked the realization the business needed to expand. So Marci and then business partner Loren, started looking for a larger venue. As the business continued to flourish, even further expansion was necessary.  In November 2006, 'LA Chefs Catering & Events' was branded and implemented a strategic business move to partner with the Coast Lethbridge Hotel & Conference Centre in an exclusive catering arrangement.

"It was a hard decision," states Marci, "We wanted to stay loyal to our smaller clients, but knew the expansion was a smart business decision for the company." Now, LA Chefs handles multiple events on most days of the week, and during the summers up to ten weddings on any given weekend.

Community Futures Lethbridge Region was also a big part of the company growth.  "They were open-minded and willing to listen; they validated the ideas and understood the direction we wanted to go.  They saw our passion.  We were able to secure financing and re-invest in our business," explains Stickel." We grew so fast, once the decision was made."

Marci's background was in finance and accounting and she never had dreams of being in the catering business. However, with this new business direction and expansion, she realized she was a businesswoman. "I cared about business and I cared about people." It was the right combination for LA Chefs, who now employs seventy-five energetic people to help Marci the the various business functions in the day.

Her recommendations for business success are simple. "You must be passionate about your business and hire passionate people, then empower them. Do not be afrtaid of divesting control to your staff. The moment we decided to empower our staff and let them run with it was the moment our growth exploded. Instead of one passionate person trying to grow a business, we now had multiple passionate people trying to grow a business."

Talented employees, innovative ideas combined with passion and a sprinkle of risk, establish the vision needed for successful entrepreneurs. It seems to be a tried an true recipe for LA Chefs Catering and Events.

 

Edo Japan

Mike and Chrysline
Lethbridge, AB


Mike Esquivel knows the importance of hard work to get ahead.  He started working for his grandfather at the age of twelve and as soon as he was of legal age to get into the fast food industry, he took the first position he could get as a dishwasher.  He worked hard, taking extra shifts, volunteering to do more and he soon graduated up the ladder until he was working as a waiter in the upper end restaurants in Edmonton while supporting himself through college.

He took no holidays or extra time off and was no stranger to receiving the employee of the month award.  “My focus was to learn and train so I could move up the ladder within the corporation,” says Mike.  He wanted to understand this industry and all aspects of the micro business systems.  His hard work paid off and he was recruited by Planet Hollywood to train to be one of the site managers.  “I watched my managers and learned what not to do and my efforts paid off.  I trained in San Diego then finally got my own restaurant to manage in Vancouver.”

Mike spent four years in Vancouver before returning to Lethbridge to help his parents with a new business venture they started.

“Everything I learned about a responsible work ethic came from my parents”, explains Mike. “I watched my mom and dad work sometimes as many as three jobs so I could have the educational opportunities and a career of my choice.  So when I had an opportunity to help them, I was glad to come back to Alberta.”

However he missed the fast pace of the restaurant business and in 2008 when an opportunity came for his wife Chrysline and he to purchase EDO Japan in Park Place  Mall, they branched out in a new direction. “I had a clear understanding of my capabilities in the restaurant environment so when the opportunity came our way, we didn’t hesitate.”

Mike stated, “I know what customers want and I know how to give it to them.  They want to experience good taste, a clean environment and excellent service.  So that was our intention.”  Soon their success with the first store developed into an opportunity to purchase a second and eventually a third EDO Japan location.  “Our first location had been open about a year when the head corporation offered us the second store.” 

“I had no idea of how to go about the financial implications of purchasing a second store when I learned about Community Futures.  The people there were so easy to work with and taught me the ins and outs of the financial world of growing your business.”    Mike described how the people at Community Futures believed in him and in his business succession plan, offering sound business advice and the financial assistance to reach his future business goals.

The past six years have been a whirl wind for Mike and Chrysline, Not only has their businesses grown by three but so has their family, with a daughter and then a set of twins.  “I am busy in all aspects of my life, but the most important thing I have learned these past few years about owning a business of my own is that life is about balance.  My life has to be balanced between business and family.  I only have so much time, and I want some of that time to be about memories for my children.”   As dedicated as Mike’s work ethic is, he fully understands through experience that time is what a family really needs.

Mike describes himself as a happy man and he believes life is about happiness in his business world; happy family, happy staff and happy customers.  It is a formula that works for him and the high expectations he places on himself.  He is definitely a young entrepreneur who is serious about his work, understands his business, enjoys life and has lots and lots of energy.

Park Place Mall
L04, 501 - 1st Avenue South

Lethbridge, Alberta  T1J 4L9


Coulee Creek
3703 Mayor Magrath Drive South

Lethbridge, Alberta  T1K 8A8


West Lethbridge
#23, 550 University Drive West

Lethbridge, Alberta  T1J 4T3


Building a Restaurant Empire

Ram and Olga Khanal
Southern Alberta


Enduring support for an entrepreneur’s budding idea – to three
thriving businesses

Sit down with Ram and Olga Khanal at one of their three restaurants and you’re immediately
comfortable.

With Ram’s energetic passion and Olga’s calm kindness, it’s easy to get lost in
great conversation.

Engaged in the community both personally and in business, the pair are proud of their
adopted country and Southern Alberta where they call home. Their love shows up in how
they’ve built their businesses; creating meaningful relationships with local suppliers and
giving back to the community through various local charities.
While the Khanal’s ambitions don’t stop with their current three restaurants, it did begin with
one: The Picture Butte Hotel and Tavern.
This restaurant, which provided the foundation for their company, would not have been
possible without the support of Community Futures.
A history of ambition
Ram, who was born and raised in Nepal, and Olga, who was raised in Ukraine, met on a
cruise ship. But they weren’t lounging poolside – they were working in one of the many
restaurants on the ship.
After years on the high seas, the pair decided to settle down and start a family. Instead of
settling in one of their home countries, they chose to start their next chapter in Canada.
During the immigration process, they laid down roots in Picture Butte and Ram found
employment using his MBA in the Oil and Gas industry.
“It was a job I had dreamed of for 17 years – and I hated it every day,” Ram said. “So at that
moment, when I was travelling back and forth to work, I decided to open a restaurant.”
Pushing for a dream


Both Ram and Olga had plenty of experience in the hospitality industry, but they didn’t have
the capital needed to start a business. All they had was a savings account earmarked for the
home they intended to purchase in Butte.After a long discussion, the couple decided they wanted a home and a business, so they put
a down payment on The Picture Butte Hotel and Tavern where they could live and work.
After buying the hotel and moving in, they took out a loan to renovate the space and get it
back in working condition.
However, midway through renovations, they ran out of money and Ram found himself
trudging from bank to bank looking for someone to help fund his dreams. Bank after bank
shut their door, leaving him out in the cold.
Finally, a banker suggested Ram and Olga try speaking with the folks at Community Futures.
Recognizing – and stoking – entrepreneurial passion
What Ram and Olga found when they walked into Community Futures was completely
different than the banks they had previously approached.
“Community Futures come in as advisors or counsellors instead of coming as a lender who
is only greedy to make the investment to grow,”
Ram said. “A bank always looks at you as a
customer and the discussion is only whether you are good enough or not. And when I
walked in the door at Community Futures, I never felt judged in that particular area that way.”
Instead, Community Futures looked at Ram’s potential as a business owner, and his vision,
then chose to help. With that critical support from Community Futures, Ram and Olga were
able to finish renovations and open up their very first restaurant.
Sustained support, year after year
As Ram continued to build his brand, Community Futures remained steadfast beside him, as
a mentor, and as a source of financial assistance when he needed it.
Even recently, when the fallout of the pandemic all but halted the hospitality industry,
Community Futures was able to step in to help once again.
In early 2020, Ram and Olga, who already owned both The Picture Butte Hotel and Bar and
The Telegraph Taphouse, had their sights on the newly vacant Water Tower. Following their
instincts, they purchased the space, and once again, experienced unbridled success in the
first couple of months after opening.
Then COVID-19 hit and sent the world spiralling. Because Ram and Olga’s third business did
not exist before 2020, they were not eligible for CERB or most of the other government aid.
However, through Community Futures, they were able to secure alternative government aid
to access the money needed to make it through the worst of the lockdowns and find
success on the other side.Building a thriving future for our community
With the help of Community Futures’ loans and mentorship, Ram moved from a job that
didn't fit him to owning and running three successful restaurants with his wife Olga. Not only
has this given them a chance at living their dreams, but it has allowed them to build back
into the community they love by partnering with local producers.
As Ram and Olga’s Butte Hospitality chain of restaurants continues to grow, they are excited
to bring the best of Southern Alberta to the rest of the province – and even to the nation.
Visit Ram and Olga’s three restaurants for delicious global cuisine:


Picture Butte Hotel and Tavern (shown above)
Water Tower Grill and Bar

Telegraph Taphouse

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Community Futures Lethbridge Region
2626 South Parkside Drive
Lethbridge, AB T1K 0C4

403-320-6044

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Communities Served

Barons, 
Blood Band Reserve, 
Broxburn, 
Coaldale, 
Coalhurst, 
Del Bonita, 
Diamond City, 
Iron Springs, 
Kipp, 
Lethbridge, 
Magrath, 
Monarch, 
Nobleford, 
Picture Butte, 
Raymond, 
Shaughnessy, 
Spring Coulee, 
Stand Off, 
Stirling, 
Tempest, 
Turin, 
Welling, 

 

COMMUNITY FUTURES LETHBRIDGE AIMS TO BE A SCENT FREE ENVIRONMENT, PLEASE REFRAIN FROM USING SCENTED PRODUCTS WHEN VISITING OUR PREMISES

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