Ali Assadkhan

Forty under 40 winner 2018; president, founder, Visasave.ca; Age 32

Photo: Rob Kruyt

For Ali Assadkhan, the key to business success is not the ability to put one’s head down and work, but rather to hold one’s head up and work – keeping the focus on long-term goals and visions all the while.

That’s how Assadkhan, who founded online health-supplement platform Vitasave.ca in 2013, evolved his business from one bricks-and-mortar store in Kerrisdale into a web-based e-commerce force that employs more than 50 people and generates revenue reaching $21 million this year.

“I’ve spent a lot of time at that retail store – that 200-square-foot space up on the mezzanine … creating my own world with my mind,” Assadkhan said about his experiences at the physical store, which he has since sold due to the success of Vitasave online. “It’s almost like a meditation – almost picturing what I would be able to accomplish if I had more than what I have right now. That drove me forward. I would open the store at 10 a.m., close at 6, then stay there after hours until 3 a.m. every night.”

It was those long evenings of visualization that helped the executive to realize that the retail space he wanted to occupy with health-care products and supplements was in cyberspace.

So, with the goal he wanted to reach so clearly defined, he took steps to hire the right talent and delegate tasks, eventually making a successful switch to an online platform.

The most important step along the way, he said, was to foster the right corporate culture to expand the business the way he wanted.

“Working on the company culture was new, and it was a little bit scary. My goal is to create a place where people want to work, and to do that, I have to up our value to people as a company. It involves a lot of trial and error. In the beginning, we set up an Xbox and a small basketball hoop, and we tried to have employees take 15-minute breaks. But we realized quickly we needed discipline as well so that everyone respected their work and their work environment, so we really now focus more on our internal values.”

Those values, centred around doing more with less and keeping a customer’s trust, even if it means losing money on certain deals, were vital to Vitasave’s growth, and Assadkhan said he now plans to take his brand across Canada into the mainstream as a way to bring health products to more Canadians. He recently took the first step, opening an office in Toronto.

Birthplace: Durham, England

Where you live now: West Vancouver

Highest level of education: College dropout

Currently reading: Driven: The Never-Give-Up Roadmap to Massive Success by Manny Khoshbin

Currently listening to: Tha Carter V by Lil Wayne

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: NBA player

Profession you would most like to try: Sports analyst 

Toughest business or professional decision: There was a moment early on where I realized I had to sacrifice a good employee for the long-term benefit of the company – it was difficult at the time because we were a small team that relied on this person and they were actually really good at their job. But, it had to be done

Advice you would give the younger you: Put effort into eliminating negativity from your life, and go to Tony Robbins’ Date with Destiny event now

What’s left to do: Create something remarkable from a place of nothing

Join us to celebrate the 2018 Forty under 40 Awards January 24, 2019, at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit https://www.biv.com/forty-under-40