Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Toronto-based coffee connoisseur Khaldoun Toukan, whose passion behind the art of bean roasting is the driving force behind his business and inspiring outlook on life. You might never think of your morning java the same way again…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
I roast coffee in a Toronto-based coffee boutique – Hale Coffee co.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
My interest in coffee actually started brewing during my previous career as a banker. Long hours meant that I was drinking 8 to 10 cups of coffee a day, and although I was getting my much needed caffeine fix, I knew there was something much more to the drink than just a quick hit of energy. I began to explore the history and science behind coffee roasting and came to learn that there were so many different levels of taste and aroma that could be unleashed from a single batch of coffee, and that’s when I teamed up with my current Hale crew and decided to take our coffee addiction much more seriously and open up Hale Coffee, an independent coffee roasting facility, in November 2012.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
Nothing beats the excitement of delivering a rush order. The look of relief on the face of a client is priceless. Knowing that our work in the Hale coffee lab is going to bring happiness to coffee connoisseurs throughout the city is what drives us to work long, hard hours every day.
The most challenging is trying to sleep after I’ve downed 3 or 4 liters of coffee on a sampling day.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
I have maintained a well-balanced lifestyle since the start; I cherish my hobbies, but when I see that the snowboards are getting rusty, I know it’s time to gear up and shred some powder in Quebec.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I will still be roasting coffee – it’s my passion! I even want to get more involved in the world of coffee and begin to work directly with farmers, finding new ways to support them and their livelihoods. Ultimately, we are indebted to their hard work for all the cups of coffee we enjoy.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Entering an industry that I had no formal training in was very challenging. My persistence to learn coupled with my ability to assemble the right team enabled me to create a setup that was able to overcome all the obstacles associated with any startup. We never gave up. The more letdowns we encountered, the stronger and sharper we became. Persistence is a core value within Hale. But ultimately for us, establishing meaningful relationships with others in the Toronto coffee scene made all the difference.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
My ideal goal is to be in a place where I have the ability and funds to support up and coming young start-ups as an angel investor. I want to reward young people with drive and ambition. This requires money.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
The day we received an entire pallet of green coffee beans. There was way too much coffee. I had no clue how I would sell it; I thought it would sit in our roasting facility for years. But our success meant that we had to place another full pallet order only two months later.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
I have two:
1. Don’t wait for that million dollar idea to get off that chair and chase your dreams; big ideas develop and evolve through your passion and care. An oak tree starts as a seed – even Steve Jobs started as a sperm!
2. Make sure that your passion shows in your eyes. If you’re not buying your own ideas, nobody else will.
Where is your favourite place to wine & dine in your city and why?
I will give this one to Churassco Villa on Eglinton & Mt. Pleasant. Real grill, fantastic food, you won’t be judged if you eat with your hands.
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I took up cycling over the past summer and going around the city is one the greatest pleasures I can ask for. I run my errands and stop wherever catches my eye.
I train in Thai boxing, snowboard throughout the winter, and play Foosball like it’s no one’s business.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
I normally go to ski resorts; I prefer active vacations as opposed to going to mind-numbing beaches. But I visited Rio de Janeiro last summer and it was everything you could ask for – adventures through vibrant favelas, a culinary heaven, great beaches, even better mountains for hiking, and of course it is the cradle of football!
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
Quentin Tarantino’s full movie discography – on shuffle.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
The obvious answer is a banker, that’s the industry I come from; but knowing myself and the endless energy I have, I would have found another way to break out of those chains.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Naturally, as part of our industry (specialty coffee), we build partnerships with farmers across South America, Central America and Yemen. We support specialty coffee farmers by directly trading with them. We ensure that farm owners are compensated well above commodity prices for their harvest. This also helps in regulating their cash flow during the year, removing the need to borrow money in the off-harvest season.
In a more traditional sense, I support Movember and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada.
What to you is notable?
A handshake is more binding than a signature.
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