HALIFAX – A trio of siblings from Halifax have won this year’s Young Entrepreneur Award for Nova Scotia. The award was presented Oct. 20, by the Business Development Bank of Canada, to Kim Hong Dao, 27, and her brothers Bang Gia Dao, 31, and Niem Gia Dao, 26, owners of Talay Thai Restaurant in Halifax.
When the three siblings, who came to Canada from Vietnam as children, opened Talay Thai in 2005, they never expected to see crowds lining up daily less than a year later. What’s more, two years later they opened another equally popular establishment.
Growing up in Halifax, the trio dreamed of owning their own restaurant. “We come from a restaurant background and our ancestry is filled with entrepreneurs. My aunt owned a Chinese restaurant, and we helped out there,” explains Niem. After his sister Kim graduated from community college, she did some market research. “There were a lot of Chinese restaurants in the area,” Niem says. “We wanted to do something new and different in Asian cuisine.” Working together to launch the restaurant, they were joined by Kim’s husband, Wen, a Thai chef.
The restaurant’s ideal location near businesses, universities and hotels, helped it attract a local following by offering an authentic taste of Bangkok. It also garnered the attention of restaurant critics, quickly becoming one of Canada’s Top 10 new restaurants. “From there, business took off very quickly. Just 10 months after we opened, we had line-ups every day.”
The savvy entrepreneurs lined up funding through government programs and family. With no previous management experience, they took a variety of courses to learn about bookkeeping and training staff. In less than a year, the siblings had paid all their loans and begun to build their savings. As demand continued to grow, they invested in their second restaurant, Cha Baa Thai, a bigger venture they opened in 2007. “This time, the bank saw our success in our financial statements; they were really impressed.”
In addition to sharing the same vision, the three attribute their success to a first-rate staff, a uniquely Thai ambiance, high-quality local ingredients and affordable pricing. “We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we also recognize our loyal, knowledgeable staff — we could never do any of this without them.”
After a few years of solid growth, the siblings are now looking to franchise their concept. Niem says they want youth in Atlantic Canada to know there are plenty of opportunities at home. “The most important thing is to believe in yourself and have a passion for what you do. Once you believe in yourself, you can overcome anything.”