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Lessons Earned: Listen to your customers and the rest will follow

For Sohail “Zee” Zaidi and the rapidly expanding Remedy Café, the secret to success is clear: give the people what they want.

Before becoming the owner and CEO of Edmonton’s famous Remedy Café, Sohail “Zee” Zaidi’s business instincts were flourishing even as a child.

“I was born to do this. I’ve been doing business my whole life. I used to create businesses all the time as a kid,” Zee explains. “In Pakistan, we celebrate Eid after Ramadan. I used to make Eid cards and sit in front of my house and sell them. In Germany, I used to sell T-shirts, keeping them in my trunk then taking my car to a busy marketplace and selling them. When I came here and I saw this business for sale, I bought it and here we are!”

“Here” is currently represented by seven Remedy locations in Edmonton, with another three opening in the next few months. This is a quite radical departure from Zee’s original growth strategy, but when the opportunities are available it’s hard to pass.

“I used to open a store every three years, and now I’ve opened three stores in one period,” says Zee. “I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to do it,’ I couldn’t lose those spots; they were very important to me. So, I did it, but I think CWB did it with me. They’ve done so well with me. They’ve stood with me and whatever I’ve needed they’ve done and gone beyond. So here come three new locations opening!”

Growth built on ever-changing options

One of Remedy’s keys to success, according to Zee, has been their dedication to accommodate the customer. Always. This has meant, for example, keeping one ingredient on site at one location because one customer will reliably come in each week and order that drink or dish.

“My business is unique because I don’t own it,” Zee explains. “I’m owned by the customer. And this is reflected in my menu and seating arrangements — all done by customers."
"We’ve given a lot of our drinks the customer’s names. They like to drink it, so I name it after the customer.”
This hyper-personalization may perplex some people. But Zee has wholeheartedly adopted the approach and credits this mindset: “That’s the way I run my business, and that’s where my success has come from. Ninety-nine per cent of my customers are repeat customers. They own it.”

Setting specific menus for what will soon be ten different locations within Edmonton and Sherwood Park may appear to be a large undertaking. But Zee wouldn’t have it any other way. And this kind of growth only reinforces his approach.

Partner with your banker

Of course, success isn’t created in a vacuum. Through his experiences as an entrepreneur, Zee’s found that you can’t put a price on a banker that understands your business and works to help you achieve your goals.

Signing three leases at once was daunting, and Zee had many discussions with his management team before a final decision was made. “I completely agree that If Canadian Western Bank (CWB) didn’t stand with me, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
“They are my partner now. That’s what I’ve felt,” Zee continues.
The dynamic between Remedy Café and CWB functions as more of a partnership than a strictly financial transaction. For instance, staff will drop off deposits from Remedy locations without first marking the tally. Zee also describes how his relationship manager will stop by the café with a commissioner and papers for Zee to sign if he’s too busy to come to the bank.

“We’ve got the best,” he says. “There’s no need to ever look anywhere else. Why would you shop around when you’re not going to get good service?”

Zee would recommend any business looking to grow as Remedy Café has to start by looking at CWB. “If you want to grow, and if you want to do well in your business, you have to trust your bank and your bank has to trust you. And you have to go with this bank — CWB.”

CWB is here to support companies throughout every stage of their business. Speak to a CWB Relationship Manager today to see how they can help your business grow.