How many food truck owners have an advanced diploma in aviation management?
Sachin Sharma, the young, creative force behind FoodiezBarrie, can claim that distinction. He came to Canada from Punjab, India as an international student in September 2017 to study at Georgian College.
For many of us, success isn’t always a straight line, though Sharma seems to have a knack for whatever he tries his hand at. After finishing two semesters at school, he began a co-op placement in Iqaluit.
Nunavut was challenging because of the low temperatures—he was there in the winter—but Sharma had a great experience. He worked at the airport in the capital, meeting with airport authorities and various airline companies. He did two full stints there, spending a total of eight months, before returning to Barrie to finish his studies.
Shortly after his graduation in 2019, Covid happened. There were two promising job opportunities for him at Air Canada but because of the pandemic they couldn’t hire him; the company was letting go of their current employees as flights were being grounded. Sharma took a job at Starbucks for a few months, before coming to the realization that he wanted to be his own boss. “I knew I wanted to do something on my own instead of working for someone else,” he says.
Cooking is his passion and it actually traces back to those days he spent in Iqaluit. The sun went down at 2 pm daily, and there were only two grocery stores and no restaurants. Sharma was forced to cook every day, and it became a habit that carried over when he was back home again in Barrie. He also had lots of long-distance help and advice from his mom, back in India.
While it wasn’t an easy journey, he now runs a successful food truck that specializes in Indian street food. Facing multiple administrative challenges, it took him three-quarters of a year to get it up and running.
Initially he started the business with a partner, but the union only lasted six months. The partner was a Canadian citizen who Sharma felt took advantage of him as a non-resident. He didn’t contribute time or effort, expected Sharma to work solo from open to close, yet expected to share in the profits. In the end it served as a good lesson, confirming his commitment to working for himself.
Then there was the weather. “Operating a food truck in winter is very complicated, it’s just on a different level,” says Sharma. Everything in the truck freezes and he has to leave it turned on for the whole shift. There were times he’s had seven heaters on inside the truck, because it was a punishing -35°C out.
Running a food truck is demanding, even on a good day. FoodiezBarrie is open from 4 pm to midnight seven days a week, every day of the year. Sharma doesn’t seem to mind the hours, or the lack of holidays. “I love to work and I love to serve people who love my food,” he says.
Customers have certainly responded well. The locals like his dishes; he estimates that 40 percent of his business comes from customers who live in the Barrie area. Another huge portion of his sales come from students.
“When I came to Canada, Barrie was the first city I lived in. I couldn’t find any of the street food that we used to have in India, so that was my main goal, to open up a business so that everyone who comes here can find that kind of food,” he says.
Sharma’s girlfriend works alongside him and supports his dream; another employee makes up their gang of three.
His advice to others? Once you’ve decided to do something, never give up, just keep going, even if you fail sometimes. You’ve got to keep trying every day, he says. He is so glad that he took the leap.
“I struggled a lot,” he admits. “It took me eight months to find a spot and to get the licensing, but I did it. I had it in mind that I had to do something on my own. I feel proud that I am one of the business owners in Barrie. It has only been three years since I came here, I am new to this country and I started this business; I’m very happy about it.”
He’s okay with the fact that he studied something totally different in college than what he is doing now as a career. He’s also grateful for the help he has received along the way—from other small businesses, local MPs and MPPs, and the Barrie Chamber of Commerce, which played a huge role in helping him and supporting the business.
Says Sharma, “I love the community here. Barrie is the only city I want to live in, and I will live here forever.”