As the pandemic dragged on in 2020 and Code Red restrictions forced Winnipeg stores to remain shut, it was looking bleak for businesses anxious to get their products into the hands of customers at one of the busiest retail times of the year. A glimmer of hope appeared just in time for the holidays as goodlocal.ca, went online—a platform created by Winnipeg’s serial entrepreneur, Obby Khan and his business partner, Ali Esmail.
The mad rush of the holidays may be over and the pandemic still a factor, but the interest in the platform Khan calls, the ‘Amazon for Winnipeg’, is still strong.
“Honestly, Good Local has been a rollercoaster with lots of ups and downs but that is how it is with startup organizations and I love it. It has been so much fun, so rewarding and seeing reviews from vendors and customers really makes all of this worthwhile,” says Khan.
The platform, which is a tribute to all things local, sells everything from beard oil to Manitoba-made snacks, art pieces, clothing and fresh groceries. The site had just 100 vendors when it first went online in November 2020. Today, it boasts more than 450 vendors, eight full-time staff and 12 part-time staff.
“Good Local is nothing without its vendors, partnerships, and customers, and it's due to our communities coming together that we are able to see such a large amount of success, even in our early months,” adds Khan.
In those early months, EDW's YES! Winnipeg business development team helped the startup find key connections to grow, warehouse space and options for funding. Khan credits a much-needed funding boost from the province last December for a ripple effect on the business’ success today.
“The support made everything more manageable and now we have the resources to scale and help more local businesses and expand to help rural communities and businesses right across Manitoba. As we keep growing and expanding the business we absolutely have plans to keep hiring.”
Good Local is also looking to expand into other provinces this year, starting with Saskatchewan and will introduce Good Local PRIME, a monthly or yearly membership.
Good Local's Obby Khan with Office Manager & Senior Manager, Lynn Tran.Photo: Sebelius Studio
“We are looking to offer this service for businesses that are not on Good Local, because we want to support all local businesses and we understand that the delivery aspect for companies is one of the hardest aspects of all. Additionally, the customers will love it! They will be able to order from any local business that is part of the Good Local PRIME program and receive their items quicker than if it was mailed.”
When asked if he thinks the ‘support local’ trend will continue, Khan is adamant it will.
“Yes, I think supporting local is here to stay. There is no going back, and there can't be for the livelihoods of all the incredible businesses here in Manitoba. We have already seen a huge shift in awareness of what is readily available from local businesses instead of as a consumer always having to go to the big box stores. I believe Manitoba will choose to support local, now and after the pandemic is over.”
Khan knows starting a business can be difficult at the best of times, never mind during a pandemic. But, the owner of two other Winnipeg businesses, Green Carrot Juice and Shawarma Khan, has some advice for new entrepreneurs.
“Make sure you love what you are doing. Don't chase the money or the fantasy of it, you have to really love the business, love the grind, love the long hours and love the results, both good and bad.”
And if it’s a new business selling products, he also knows a great place they can start reaching more local customers.
Obby Khan: 5 Things you don't know about Good Local
1. Good Local was intended to run out of the back of Shawarma Khan as a side business with 10-20 sales per week, not hundreds and thousands per week.
2. Lynn Tran (Good Local's Office Manager & Senior Manager) is 'Obby Junior', she runs it all.
3. Ali Esmail (co-owner) wanted to call Good Local, LoveLocalMarket. I had to arm wrestle him to change the name.
4. My two favourite Good Local products are Archie’s Pizza and the Dark Chocolate Toffee from Utoffeea.
5. We started in the basement of Shawarma Khan on Graham Avenue and packed items on the floor and stairwell in the first few weeks--it was incredible seeing the passion from the employees and volunteers who came to help right from the get-go.