Obby Khan is applying the same tenacity to his entrepreneurial pursuits as he did with professional football. If anything, he’s working harder now.
“I should have put more effort into my training ‘cause this is a lot harder,” jokes the former Winnipeg Blue Bombers offensive lineman.
“Johnny (Kien) and I always say we’re wired the wrong way ‘cause we just work, work, work.”
Khan’s newest entrepreneurial venture, Green Carrot Juice Co., is a cold-pressed juice bar – a joint business formed by Khan, Kien (owner of Saigon Jon’s Vietnamese Kitchen) and Tina Jones, owner of Banville & Jones Wine Co. It also serves up vegan sandwiches and salads and carries the local Gorp energy bars.
The restaurant is a welcome addition to Osborne Street near Stradbrook Avenue – and a novel addition to the local food industry in general.
But the road to get there wasn’t easy.
One-day shelf life
“We have a one-day shelf life because we’re governed by Manitoba Health. The industry standard is three days,” says Khan.
Elsewhere in Canada and in the United States, he says, the longer shelf life allows products to be more easily distributed to other businesses. Green Carrot has already been approached by local yoga studios, coffee shops and gyms to sell its juices, but the owners haven’t gotten the OK to expand their horizons yet.
Khan says the food inspection has been grueling compared to the one he experienced with his first restaurant, Shawarma Khan, adding the menu there is dominated by meats.
Though it is experiencing resistance at the bureaucratic level, the business has been flourishing since it officially opened its doors in April.
“We’re selling out our product every day – except for one day that it snowed,” says Khan.
Khan and Kien start their day at 5 or 5:30 in the morning most days, and finish juicing for the following day at midnight.
“Because we’re not a chain, we have to develop everything. As soon as you open the store, business plans usually get thrown out,” explains Khan.
“The whole juicing process itself is almost a 12- to 16-hour process.”
People who have caught on to the juice trend likely use centrifugal juicers at home, the most common type of juicer.
In contrast to cold-pressed juice, centrifugal juicers generate heat which can destroy enzymes in the fruits and vegetables, plus they oxidize the nutrients so the juice is less nutritious. This is why, when using these types of juicers, it is encouraged to down the juice as quickly and as soon as possible.
Khan could go toe-to-toe with anyone who wants to talk juice – he says he “dove right in” to the business research and was already passionate about juicing due to the health benefits he’s witnessed since he started juicing back in 2008.
Khan’s educational background also has more to do with the scientific side of the business than business management.
“I’m a pure science guy,” says Khan, who majored in kinesiology at Simon Fraser University.
“It was med school or professional football. I’ve never taken a business class in my life.”
Khan learned a lot about running a business from his first venture, Shawarma Khan, and from his involvement with the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF).
Through the CYBF, Khan was set up with mentors Brad Houghton, owner of Eatz Enterprises or the Moxie’s Grill & Bar chain, and Glen Daman, president of The Dilawri Group.
The CYBF is also where Khan made most of his business connections – like Kien – who he became fast friends with.
“The food industry here in Winnipeg is a pretty small-knit community,” says Kien.
“There’s a lot of 20s, 30s young restaurateurs” and they all support one another, he says.
Khan and Kien took their business idea, packed up and toured many major cities in the United States where cold-pressed juice bars are found on every block to learn about the businesses so they could apply the model at home.
Winnipeg is home
Khan, native to Ottawa, has no hesitations about calling Winnipeg home.
“It’s home for me, plain and simple,” says Khan. “All my friends are here, my wife is here. Ottawa is where my family is but I call Winnipeg home.”
Khan expanded his Shawarma Khan business rapidly after opening in early 2013 to reach the Investors Group Field fans, and just a year later, he’s opened this brand-new business.
“I think the entrepreneurial bug has got me,” says Khan.
Khan hinted that he may be sounding off on his frustrations to get his juice business going soon, particularly since opening the business created 13 jobs in the local economy and the food is health-conscious.
Two pounds of produce
Green Carrot Juice Co.’s juice is raw and unpasteurized, and they squeeze one or two pounds of produce into each juice.
Khan knows the health benefits from juicing first-hand – he has colitis and turned to juicing six years ago. At that time, “I’d juice but I’d eat like a pig,” says Khan, who needed to keep his weight up for football. Once he retired, his “food intake dropped drastically” but he kept juicing. “I dropped 35 pounds,” says Khan.
The cold-press juicer at Green Carrot Juice Co. uses 2,000 lbs. of pressure to squeeze every last drop of juice and nutrients out of the fresh produce.
Smoothies and juices are available with varying levels of sweetness versus bitterness from veggies (for the hardcore juicers, there is literally a “Hardcore” mix).
The price of a 473-ml bottle (the standard size) of juice is about $9 plus tax.
Green Carrot Juice Co. is located at 132 Osborne St. and is open seven days a week. Visit greencarrotjuice.com for store hours and more information about the cold-press process.