Anza Arif and her husband Mike have been running Suni’s convenience in Ilderton, Ontario for the past 7 years. Anza’s inspiration for starting her own business came from her experience growing up watching her father run his own business. Her childhood was spent observing her father and learning from him. She gained firsthand experience from helping him and picked up entrepreneur skills along the way. Her brothers had followed in her father’s footsteps, so it was just a matter of time before Anza felt that she should build something of her own.
At Suni’s Convenience, they have everything and anything that provides convenience to the town. They stock a range of everyday items such as toiletries, snacks, drinks, newspapers and lottery tickets. Suni’s Convenience prides themselves in giving customer’s the old-fashioned corner store experience. Instead of having to make a trip to London, customers can make a quick visit to Suni’s. It’s a one-stop-shop where customers can find their essential needs.
Anza and her family relocated to Ilderton 7 years ago and fell in love with the town. They appreciate that there’s a strong sense of community and belonging in Ilderton. “The town is so supportive, it would not be possible to achieve what we have without the support we have received from our community members”. With Suni’s Convenience, they wanted to create a place that their community would be proud to call theirs.
Anza is passionate about uplifting the community and supporting her fellow entrepreneurs. Suni’s promotes and sells locally sourced items that were handcrafted by community members. They represent a total of 24 local business and offer locally sourced food such as fresh bread, produce, farm eggs, local meats and baked goods, as well as handmade products designed by local entrepreneurs. They also stock many exclusive exotic snacks that customers can’t find anywhere else. The selection of local products at Suni’s makes the store unique as customers can find special items that they wouldn’t see in retail stores.
Determining which products to stock can be a challenge, and Suni’s makes an active effort to acknowledge the community’s wants and needs to ensure that they are providing the items that people are looking for. They are quick to respond to feedback from customers and make changes to their selection accordingly. Through a process of trial and error, they have learned how to meet the evolving needs of the Ilderton community. “It was and is a huge learning opportunity, everyday opens up a new possibility in terms of what needs of the community we can meet and provide for” said Anza.
Suni’s is always looking to innovate and try something new. Earlier this year, they added an ice cream parlour with 18 different flavours of ice cream to choose from. The ice cream turned out to be a great success and has been enjoyed by everyone from kids and families to elders in the community. Suni’s has recently introduced a dry cleaning service as well. They are always looking to expand their services and provide more convenience to the town.
With the help of Community Futures Middlesex, they were able to access loans to help with COVID recovery and expansions. “It’s been great working with Community Futures. They’ve gone above and beyond to reach out to us and provide us with advice and support” said Anza.
Running their own business has also been an important learning lesson not only for Anza and Mike, but also for their children. Just as Anza had learned from watching her father run his own business, her children are learning from their parents as well. Their children are very involved in the family business and like to help their parents out. From a young age, their children have recognized the value of hard work and this has instilled a strong sense of work ethic in them. Anza appreciates that she can pass on these important skills and values to her children by getting them involved in the family business.
Starting her own business and being able to give back to the community has been a wonderful experience for Anza and she is looking forward to all the new possibilities that the future holds for them. “We are more than a corner store, we are a community hub, a place where the community can get together and support one another, and we are always looking for new opportunities to grow and help out our town” said Anza. With a vast selection of unique items and quality service, customers know that they can always drop by and find what they’re looking for just a block away at Suni’s Convenience in Ilderton, Ontario.