Junior Sritharan is a Toronto-based serial entrepreneur whose current portfolio of companies including Fox on John, Touti Cafe, Junior's Burger Joint & Shivaa's Rose. He has big dreams for his latest venture, Shivaa's Rose, which is in the cannabis space to expand from simply a brick-and-mortar play into more of a lifestyle brand.
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Tell us a bit about your upbringing and how that potentially played a part in you becoming a serial entrepreneur.
I grew up in a home of ten people with my extended family. Everyone from the youngest to oldest was involved in building our family business, which was my first real taste of entrepreneurship.
How did you get into the business of food and run 3 businesses around it?
Our family business was in the food and beverages industry, so it became very native to me. Throughout our upbringing, we learned many philosophical and trade lessons that we still maintain and use today.
You currently have 4 companies (Fox on John, Touti Cafe, Junior's Burger Joint & Shivaa's Rose). Three of them are in the food business; what made you decide to get into the cannabis business?
We have been in numerous business industries that led us to work within the cannabis industry; from food and beverages, consumer goods, accommodations, real estate and consulting. Cannabis falls under hospitality and tourism. So it was a natural decision to branch into the cannabis space.
Do you run these businesses by yourself, or do you have partners? How did you choose your partners for the various ventures?
Our business is formed with a tight niche group of people which includes myself, my brother, my dear friend and investors that we partner with for our numerous ventures. Choosing the right partner(s) is actually a very crucial part of growing in general, as a person, as a businessman or businesswoman. The first thing I check off is whether the ethics are there, then it comes to the synergy and whether we can create magic when we’re put in an office. You have to not only choose creators and leaders, but you must also choose partners with some traits opposite to yourself so you’re privy to perspectives that you may not have realized on your own.
How did your friends & family feel about your starting Shivaa's Rose?
Our family and friends have supported our brand Shivaa's Rose because through knowing us; they know that going against the status quo was always a part of our plan.
Did you have to raise money to start the business or is it completely bootstrapped?
We had to do both. There are two sectors of our business. One is our brick and mortar retail storefront selling cannabis products, and the other is a lifestyle brand that promotes and sells CPGs as well as the Shivaa’s Rose experience. The latter requires raising capital which we have been doing for the past 14 months. It’s then a game of capital allocation and where we are expected to be in the coming year (obviously the uncertainty of covid plays a part in this).
We have a very large and strong vision for Shivaa’s Rose, and we foresee a bright future ahead. The Cannabis industry is new with little to no historical data or case studies that we can follow. A lot of the grunt work that we have to do right now is through trial and error, from testing the market with our retail front. By having a retail store, we also use it to learn more about our consumers and develop our other fronts from franchising, manufacturing, CPG, tourism and lifestyle, technology and logistics.
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Do you have plans to open more locations?
Yes, we do have plans to grow. We are looking to align ourselves for the right timing to expand into new markets, as currently there is an acquisition frenzy. We are doing more market testing to align ourselves to take advantage of the opportunity for when the time for expansion appears. The opportunity to increase our locational fronts is coming soon.
How has COVID-19 impacted retail cannabis sales?
The pandemic has impacted overall consumer spending, therefore like any other industry, and we have experienced some setbacks. However, it has forced us to be agile and focus on growing the business in innovative ways.
Do you have plans to sell other products in this category in the future (CBD oils, gummies, etc.)? Where do you see the business (Shivaa's Rose) in 5 years?
Since we also pride ourselves in being a lifestyle company, we are very particular in what we bring in, but we carry all of these items.
In 5 years, we see Shivaa's Rose becoming a robust brand within the hospitality space, with numerous retail fronts across Canada, our own consumer product good lines, and top-notch service encompassing nation-wide on-demand delivery.
Can you tell us about a failure you've experienced in the last 5 years and what you learned from it?
While we were in the early stages of our entrepreneurial journey, we wanted to enter the Consumer Product Good industry with a premium coffee brand. All while not fully understanding how to do market research, acquiring shelf space and marketing within the CPG space. We learned that understanding the league that you are in allows you to be more efficient, therefore allowing for organic growth.
What do you do outside of work for fun?
Let’s be real… work! I am very fortunate that I find my line of work to be fun. I understand that’s not the case for most but that’s the beauty of true entrepreneurship.
What is an insecurity you have?
My industries are heavily dependent on consumer spending and can be affected by uncontrollable variables. The pandemic was a perfect example of that. This sometimes can have me feel like I'm always playing defense.
In terms of your personal legacy, in a few sentences, describe how you want to be remembered by your family and friends?
I would like my legacy to provide prosperity and opportunity to my loved ones and my community. Additionally, I would love to help develop the new generation of hard-working people through knowledge, dedication, culture, and ethics.
What do you think you would tell 16-year old Junior looking back?
Looking back, I would tell 16-year old Junior that your parents know way more than you think they do, learn to have 2-3 power hours for work to complete significant tasks, volunteer to discover and learn more about different industries.
What book have you read or podcast have you listened to recently that's impacted your life in a positive way?
I am a big fan of The Joe Rogan Experience, as it has broadened my horizons through exposure to individuals in different career paths and experiences.
When it comes to books, the most impactful book I’ve read is the Thirukkural. It’s more of a set of instructions on how to live life morally.
What is a new belief, behaviour or habit that has most improved your life?
I have started going on regimented walks in nature daily. I have found that it has improved my happiness and my overall well-being.
If you were given $1 billion, how would you allocate the money to change the world?
I would allocate the majority, if not all, of the money to one cause to make a substantial impact and a paradigm shift, which will be connected one way or another to children in need (whether it is health, poverty or educational relief).
How would you describe the impact that the Toronto Tamil community has had on you personally and professionally?
The Toronto Tamil community has impacted me since they have set the bar really high by progressing and creating incredible opportunities over the last 30 years. I strive to achieve as much success and continue to push the community forward with my ventures.
What is your favourite Tamil food (meal or dessert)?
My favourite meal is Kothu Rotti while favourite dessert isVadulappam.
What is your favourite Tamil movie?
What does Tamil culture mean to you?
When you have a culture this rich, it’s hard to put into words the depth of appreciation you have for it. The integrity and honour within our Tamil culture will forever be something that resonates with me and will always be timeless.
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