Reena Vadan: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

If you work in downtown Calgary you’ve probably already met Reena from Mezza Mediterranean Grill. During lunch, people would flock to Mezza for the delicious food and the awesome customer service. Even during a busy lunch rush you could count on seeing Reena manning the till with a big smile for all her customers, most of whom she knew by name. For those of you who miss the Mezza at lunch, rest assured that you can now find the same great experience across the street in the Bow Tower.

Describe your job in a nutshell.
My husband and I own a market-style restaurant called Mercatino (which means “Little Market”) in the Bow Tower. My job involves anything and everything from mopping, making coffees, managing and leading our amazing team of 20, stocking shelves, accounting, food preparation, and more. The day starts at 5am and finishes after everyone goes home. I believe that when you immerse yourself with your team at all levels of the business that is when you can truly understand the nature of your business, and how to be successful at it.

Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
Mercatino has been a dream of ours for 3 years. Previously, my brother Rishi and I owned a small Mediterranean deli, called Mezza Mediterranean Grill. We had phenomenal customers and gained so much happiness from serving and feeding people that we decided it was time to start something on a larger scale. We were lucky enough to understand our business and create a plan that would allow us to serve more customers, and expand our offerings. We pitched the Taurus Property Group who represented the Bow Tower back in May 2012 and a few short weeks later they called us to let us know that we were the lucky ones going into the Tower!

The inspiration for Mercatino came from my love for food, working with good people, and my entrepreneurial spirit. It was also a goal of mine to create a “fast-food” type of restaurant that is vibrant and customer centric, and that serves delicious and high quality foods – which is surprisingly hard to come by!

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is spending time with our team. I believe everyone has something to teach, and everyone has something to learn; this makes for a very productive, dynamic, and innovative environment. The most challenging part is staying away from all the fresh baked goods, and generally, all the great food.

What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
One sign is that my business is always on my mind – I strategize all day and dream about it all night. Although, at times it is difficult, I am comfortable that my work/life balance is off right now. I think that when you’re young it is the perfect time to work hard so that you can have more freedom in the future to be more independent. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I hope to build our brand, and have 2 or 3 more locations. I also hope to incorporate recipes in my restaurants from my travels abroad.

What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
One challenge that I had to overcome is the fear of being rejected. Last year, my brother almost died suddenly from an unknown infection. After going through that experience, I have nothing to lose except life itself; it really put things into perspective for me. If you really want something you can’t be afraid, you just have to go get it!

What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Success for me is creating new jobs for good people, seeing growth & creativity within my team, and when customers tell me how much they enjoyed their experience at Mercatino. Happiness comes from having the positive energy and confidence to deal with anything life throws you.

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
The most memorable milestone is the first time I walked into our location in the Bow Tower. The butterflies haven’t gone away. It is a moment that I will never forget, and a moment I will always be thankful for.

Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Don’t be afraid to fall; don’t be afraid to ask for an opportunity; and don’t be afraid of hard work.  

Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
Other than Mercatino? I’m a vegetarian, and would love to see more options for vegetarians. On the occasion we do go out, we’ll go to Cilantro. They have flavorful, consistent food and an extensive wine list.

When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
I love to meditate and I enjoy power yoga, but when I’m feeling like I need a bit of therapy I have a very special little nephew and niece that occupy my time.

Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
I love Thailand. It offers the downtime I require on the beach, great food, and adventure.

If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
That’s a tough one. I love old school hip-hop & rap so I would have to say “I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me)” by Jay Z.

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
I would be working with under privileged or sick children.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I believe that the best thing you can provide, even more important than your money, is your time. Selfless devotion is so good for the soul, not to mention the community. Every week, I volunteer as a cook for the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter. It is important to me to prepare and serve healthy and comforting food to children and women who are in high-stress situations. To educate children about nutrition is very satisfying.

What to you is notable?
Compassion, generosity, and knowledge.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone all the way. Steve Jobs is a huge inspiration for me.

#LYNL | Live Your Notable Life

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