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.

Bikram Yoga Lethbridge

Liana Suriano
Lethbridge, AB


“You asked for it; we built it” is Liana Suriano’s promotional statement when talking about her beautiful Bikram Hot Yoga studio located on WT Hill Blvd. South Lethbridge.  You can hear the pride in her voice when she explains the in-depth planning and preparation completed to make the space a state of the art facility.   The studio opened in April 2013 and has already had over 1500 patrons come through the door.  The Studio employs three full time instructors and two part-time receptionists.

It took two and half years for Liana to find a landlord who would work within her design parameters and modify the building structure to exactly what she wanted for her patrons. 

“I was told by Community Futures I had an excellent business plan and I had done all my market research to back it up so I knew my vision was attainable,” Liana explains.  It was her clear vision that kept her focused through the continuous search for the right location.

 “Others had tried to open a hot yoga studio in Lethbridge and gave up when met with the studio design challenges, and their stories simply motivated me to continue.  I knew I was going to create exactly what I wanted and what the community asked for,” she ardently explains.   Her passion for her business is captivating.

Liana was introduced to ‘hot yoga’ while attending the University of Alberta completing her teaching degree.  She speaks of the stress of working part-time while being a full time student. “I have experienced my product and I know the lifestyle health benefits that can happen.”

Not only is Liana passionate about the yoga, she also loves teaching.  She came from an entrepreneurial background, “My parents owned a restaurant in Lethbridge and I remember sitting on my mother’s knee as she did the books.” Through her parents, she learned what it takes to run a successful business although being a small business owner was not her initial intent while completing her education.  However, the concept of the studio brought all three of her passions together and she considers herself fortunate.

Her family history taught her about business finances and her introduction to Community Futures Lethbridge Region helped her obtain the financial security to move her business plan forward.    With financing in place, planning, commitment and determination brought the long-awaited vision to fruition.

Her business journey was challenging, but she was never disheartened.  “My goal was to create an environment for all levels of ability, to create exactly what my patrons were asking for,” she states. 

Liana’s commitment to her community comes from her heart.  “I have done all I can possibly do to get the business going.  Now I have to let the business take its course.”

She lives what she teaches; be calm, breathe and be in your own stillness. 

Website: bikramyogalethbridge.com 

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


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.

 

Umami

Patricia Luu, Alex Luu and Sven Roeder
Lethbridge, AB


The ideas for the Umami Shop developed over time between siblings and friends while all were living abroad as young professionals working in the fast paced corporate world.  Although their work histories were diverse, they all agreed they were good at one thing – food; they all loved food!  But they wanted the concept to be different; to challenge the norm, to be original and eventually in 2009 the UMAMI Shop concept was first born in Chalon-sur Saône, France. And then in 2013 Umami Shop Canada, in Lethbridge, AB.

“Everybody eats”, states co-owner Patricia Luu as she described the thought process around the business concepts. “We grew up with organic, natural food that we cooked for ourselves.  Our parents owned the Asian Supermarket in North Lethbridge and they ensured we knew how to cook, to understand ingredients and mostly the importance of freshness and that is what we bring to UMAMI Shop.”

Umami is used to describe food that is “delicious” and was discovered by a Japanese professor, explains Patricia. “It expresses the deliciousness of food; the pairing of food to please the palette.” “We focus on fresh healthy products. We broke the global norm, and placed our kitchen at the front of the store. The Chef prepares the food; show cases the ingredients while the client watches. It is completely transparent, open and visual,” explains Patricia. The menu incorporates local ingredients, the customer observes, tries the flavours and can buy the ingredients at the store and then can go home to recreate, to play.”

“Our mission is to offer our customers a world food experience that supports our philosophy of eat, play, and laugh. Together.”  At UMAMI Shop the happiness is bringing people together to enjoy food.

The Umami Shop offers a lunchtime menu, a bakery, a deli, fresh local produce, a global grocery boutique, catering, as well as cooking classes in the evening.  The business caters to fresh food, prepared daily.  There are over 6,000 products in the shop with a diverse ethnic variety.

The three partners of UMAMI Shop, Patricia Luu, Alex Luu and Sven Roeder bring their own unique experiences to the business and the group has learned to leverage their skills to complement the success of the commercial adventure.  The opportunity arose to work with Community Futures and the business partners chose to take it.  Patricia stated “Community Futures took us seriously, they believed in us and helped us with the perspective of local business.  The business sessions help us understand the process of financially starting our business and the people were easy to work with.”

Umami Shop Canada employs a staff of ten.  “Our crew is amazing” beams Patricia. “They know all aspects of the business and are motivated by the everyday activity.”  Everyone believes in eating fresh, being healthy, understanding food and educating others about the food products in the shop.  “At first, one of our biggest business challenges was the hiring, but once we were open, people came to us.  They loved the new concept and wanted to be part of it.”

Patricia’s advice to young entrepreneurs is to seek and understand the opportunities in the community and take advantage of them for you never know where they may lead you.  “Then duplicate yourself” emphasizes Patricia. “Share what you learned and success comes back in folds.  It is about community and bringing people together.”

UMAMI Shop creates a space to eat, play and laugh while you enjoy fresh food, wonderful aromas and even a café latte if that is what your palate desires.

A new concept, new experiences, new adventures combine to make a savory taste of success by three young entrepreneurs doing what they love. 

UMAMI Shop
814-4 Ave South
Lethbridge, Alberta

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.   

Isis Geomatics

Steve Myshak and Owen Brown
Lethbridge, AB


Steve Myshak had an idea; he shared the concept with a fellow University of Lethbridge classmate, Owen Brown, who agreed the idea could work.  So with a great deal of tenacity, brainstorming, feedback from associates and encouragement from family, the two young men built a multi-faceted company that focuses on aerial imagery data to employ in various industries.

Isis Geomatics Inc. was founded in 2011, and uses a Quadcopter, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, to fly into the designated area to gather the specified data using a variety of sensor packages.  The gathered data is compiled to give a detailed visual aid providing a site record at the time of the image capture.

The sensory packages include infrared, thermal, visual, HD video and zoom video.  The process employed captures imagery data traditional survey techniques would not. “It’s like building a mosaic,” explains Owen. “We set the flight plan for the drone, define the area coverage and slowly stitch the pieces of imagery together to create a digital surface model through photogrammetric processing.”

The variety of services offered by Isis has attracted companies from the agricultural, oil and gas and transportation industries, both locally and internationally, so far.  Brown further states, “We have completed vegetation health mapping, livestock head counts, stockpile inventory imagery and even snow dune imagery required for a recent research project at the University of Calgary”.  The businessmen get excited when they discuss the possibilities as endless from accident reconstruction to environmental disaster management.  They see the solutions offered by Isis Geomatics as timely, cost effective and a safer response alternative for company personnel.

The two young entrepreneurs share similar working backgrounds in agriculture, oil and gas, surveying and geographic information systems (GIS) making them a dynamic partnership, who are confident in each others strengths and skills. They both desired a career that would allow them to be independent and to work outdoors. Forming Isis Geometrics Inc. seemed like the next natural step for their career paths after their Master’s degrees. Steve expresses he likes the great feeling you get when you know the business is your own. “With your own business you have the freedom to pursue new ideas and push your learning curve well beyond your knowledge base. ”

“Working with Community Futures Lethbridge was a benefit to help us get started,” the young men explained.  “They believed in us” said Myshak, “and when we told them ‘to trust us’, they did.”  Community Futures was willing to listen to the technical concepts, assist with the ever changing business plan, secure funding opportunities and provide support.

Steve Myshak the Chief Executive Office of ISIS Geomatics acknowledges that he knew at the beginning of his educational pursuits, he wanted to start his own company; he just wasn’t sure what it would be.  While Owen Brown, Vice President of Isis says he is able to fulfill his love of the outdoors.

It all started with an idea, shared with a friend.

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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, 
Raymond, 
Shaughnessy, 
Spring Coulee, 
Stand Off, 
Stirling, 
Tempest, 
Turin, 
Welling, 

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