BBA, Entrepreneurial Leadership Alumnus
Ankit Sharma isn't your typical construction guy.
"I'm the opposite of handy. I don't remember the last time I changed a light bulb. My 7-year-old son is more handy than I am," laughs Ankit. "I was a behind-the-computer sort of guy, building websites."
The self-deprecating owner of the multi-million-dollar building supply company Kitply Industries may not be a handyman, but he has a nose for business and a stomach for start-ups.
He is founder, owner and CEO of Kitply, a BC Business 40 Under 40 award winner and a visionary entrepreneur, driven by dual ambitions: to make a difference in the world and to ensure his family's security. The path he chose? To run his own business.
Emigrating from Bareilly, India at 16 with his family to the Lower Mainland, Ankit grew up relatively poor.
"What drove me initially was my family's security," he says. "Coming from an immigrant family, we lived in basement suites growing up. I knew to have financial stability I had to run my own business."
Based on his uncle's advice that computers were "where it's at" Ankit enrolled in the IT program at KPU.
He graduated with a diploma in Computer Information Systems in 2005. But his true calling was elsewhere and he returned to KPU's School of Business and enrolled in the Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurial Leadership.
"I was very introverted growing up. I didn't have a ton of friends at university," says Ankit. "But in my entrepreneurial marketing class, there were participation marks so I forced myself to put up my hand.
"Even though there were a lot of people that said way more than me, my teacher always latched on to my ideas. It dawned on me then that I was inherently able to take a step back and take a larger view of business."
He counts Wayne Tebb, Dean of KPU's School of Business, and instructors Chamkaur Cheema and Shawn Chrochima among those who had a significant impact on him during his studies.
After graduating with his BBA in 2007 Ankit launched Kitply. He was 24 years old, and ran the fledgling startup out of his parents' basement.
Since then the cabinet hardware distributor has grown to earn more than $5 million in revenue annually and employ twelve full-time staff. Ankit is now considering expansion opportunities.
He has some advice for those who want to strike out on their own to start a venture. It begins with making sure you have no distractions.
"Burn all bridges (to potential distractions)," advises Ankit to anyone fully committed to starting their own business. "I quit my day job so I had no fall back. The more bridges you've burnt the more fire you have in your belly."
But he also stresses that there should be no illusions about what it means to own and operate your own business.
"You've got customers that are your boss. You've got suppliers, staff that you've got to take care of. You're never the boss. That's an illusion."
Hard work, dedication and focus on family are major components of Ankit's success. So is the understanding that the learning never stops.
"The quest for experience, for learning, for something challenging in my life is what drives me now."
KPU gave him a strong foundation on which to build his achievements.
"With smaller class sizes run by teachers that care about their students, Kwantlen prepared me well for a successful entrepreneurial journey."