BY JOE WEPPLER
In a video he filmed with the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre, Masood Rehman described a situation he found himself in when a friend asked him for help and he couldn’t provide it.
“I did not want to feel like that ever again,” he said.
At the beginning of 2014, Rehman, a public relations student at Conestoga College, started Khandor Brand Skateboards because he wanted to give back to the community.
His plan was to create a company that offered not only excellent quality skateboards, but also one that represented his ethical, environmental and social ideals. He wanted to inspire people to embody the change they wanted to see in their neighbourhoods.
Khandor decided to operate under the unofficial slogan of “a choice and an opportunity.”
“A choice to make a better world today and the opportunity to do so in a meaningful way,” Rehman said.
Khandor was founded in 2014 in the basement of Jonas Maata, a friend of Rehman’s. At the same time, the “Skate for the Kids” mission was born.
“Skate for the Kids” was an initiative to support local youth in need of basic life essentials like nutrition, shelter and education. From the get-go, a portion of all proceeds went to the homeless youth of Kitchener-Waterloo.
To Rehman, it was an issue that hit close to home.
“Five years ago I was sleeping on a park bench in Cambridge,” said Rehman. “It just goes to show that as long as you work hard and claw through the dark times, there is a way to achieve your goals.”
Rehman has faced his own share of hardship. In a blog post entitled “The Dark Side of Business,” he described the issues faced by those who live the entrepreneurial lifestyle and their susceptibility to mental health issues.
“Many (entrepreneurs) have admitted to struggling with self-worth, they struggled through crippling anxiety and despair and there were times where they almost gave up,” he said.
To him, Khandor Brand represents years of hard work and dedication. Demand for their products quickly surpassed what they could create themselves, so Khandor Brand made the switch to a business-to-business model. They stopped production of physical products and restructured themselves as a design company.
They now sell designs to skateboard manufacturers across the world.
“I was absolutely surprised by the growth of our company,” said Rehman. “I didn’t expect the brand to see the success that it did but I am forever grateful for it.”
At the beginning of 2014, Khandor operated with a budget of $6,300. By 2015, that budget had skyrocketed to $300,000.
While Rehman spoke to potential investors, he often struggled with depression and worried he might have invested everything he had into a sinking ship.
He found his sliver of hope in the form of a program called Summer Company, run by the Waterloo Region Small Business Council.
“They provided start-up money to help with the costs as well as provided mentorship from local business professionals and experts,” he said.
Summer Company is a program for young entrepreneurs and is funded by the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. It is also supported by the Government of Canada.
Successful participants in the program can receive funding up to $1,500 to help with business start-up costs.
“I wouldn’t have been able to launch the business as successfully as I did without their help,” he said.
Aside from Rehman, Khandor Brand employs four designers, two marketing and brand ambassadors and two product developers.
Based in Cambridge, they also operate satellite offices in Meaford and New York City, and are planning to open an office in Carlsbad, Calif. this summer.
Khandor has sold designs globally, with markets in various countries including Romania, France, England, the United States, Argentina and Italy.
Rehman attributes his success to hard work and motivation, but it’s been far from a cakewalk. Stress takes a big toll on him, but he manages it the best he can.
“I try to relax and go to the gym or play a video game to help manage the stress,” he said. “I’ve gone through some near mental breakdowns in the past. I’m working on scaling back my workload and taking better care of myself.”
Another factor in his success is the guidance of his mentors, classmates, friends and family. In his blog post on facing depression, Rehman stressed the importance of finding a strong support system, going as far as extending an open invitation for readers to contact him if they were struggling.
Some more advice he has for prospective entrepreneurs is seeking help from those who came before you.
“Running a business is hard, so make sure you network and find the right mentors,” he said.
Thanks to the work and dedication of Rehman and his employees, the prospects for Khandor Brand are bright. Last quarter, Khandor made a profit of $71,392.
As for Rehman, he plans on pursuing new ideas soon.
“I plan to step away from Khandor in the near future and focus on new ventures,” he said. “I have a group of employees who I believe are elite and I am grooming them to take the brand on to be a success in the future.”