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Aurelia Au & Wayne Poon

Aurelia Au & Wayne Poon

BBA, Entrepreneurial Leadership Alumni

When Aurelia Au and Wayne Poon registered for KPU's Entrepreneurial Leadership Program together, little did they know they were beginning a journey that would lead to a romantic relationship and a wildly successful business in the break-neck paced restaurant industry.

Part of the program's practicum project requires students to develop a business plan. This led the pair to explore opportunities in the restaurant industry.

"We saw the potential," says Aurelia. "We're both food enthusiasts so I just looked at him [Wayne] and said, 'I love food, you love food, let's do something that's related to food.'"

Wayne was in and the pair set themselves to the task of launching a Hong Kong-inspired sweet shop reminiscent of the Cantonese food scene in the 1960s and '70s.

Located in the busy Vancouver neighbourhood of Marpole, Snackshot opened in the summer of 2017 mere months after Aurelia and Wayne graduated.

With zero advertising budget and primarily word-of-mouth buzz, Snackshot has line-ups out the door most nights thanks to its picture-worthy desserts and the Instagram-friendly décor inside the café.

Online reviews are overwhelmingly positive, and an affirmation of the couple's concept:  Hong Kong cuisine the way it used to be.

Aurelia and Wayne, who met at KPU in their third year of business, are now serving up traditional Cantonese sweet soups tong sui for the social media age.  Their menu includes a vitasoy red bean bulldog drink and a 9-dessert soup tasting platter with designs swirled on top.

It hasn't been all fun and selfies for the two KPU alumni. They ran into obstacles with city permits, equipment and human resources, but thanks to the challenges KPU business instructors Carlos Calao and Chamkaur Cheema and others had already put them through during their studies, the young entrepreneurs were able to adapt and persevere.

"Carlos is really experienced. He gave us a lot of real-life examples to understand the theories. Even in the practicum, I would go back to Carlos for advice outside his office hours," says Aurelia.

Wayne adds, "The instructors are very helpful at KPU. Whenever we needed advice, they would make time to answer our questions and guide us to solve our problems."

"The legendary Cheema," Aurelia laughs as she reminisces about their other instructor. "Back then we thought Cheema was too harsh, but now that we're out in the real world, we realized he was right.

"He warned us from day one that we would need more time to open our business. We didn't believe him, but he was right! He was like a fortune teller. Whatever he said happened."

The couple worked hard to get to where they are and they did it by keeping it in the KPU family with the help of not only their instructors' ongoing guidance, but also relying on fellow KPU grads and friends who pitched in to assist on the front-of-house service when customer demand threatened to overwhelm Aurelia and Wayne entirely.

Almost all the staff who work at Snackshot are fellow KPU alumni.

However, KPU has proven instrumental for this young couple, from being the place where they met, to fostering their entrepreneurial spirit, to serving as their jumping-off point into running their own business.

"The program got us really prepared for the work world," says Aurelia. "It isn't only about theories and exams, it's practical and about the real world. It was really trying to push us and prepare us for running a business. If it wasn't for the practicum, I don't think we would have started Snackshot.

"As a business owner, I'm dealing with accounting and HR every day. Everything that I'm calculating right now is from my operations class. HR is a huge issue I'm running into now so I'm digging out my HR textbooks. The program is very very helpful. I'm telling everyone."

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