By Dave Yanko
Abe Eazadi was riding his bicycle in Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park on the July long weekend when he spotted former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall and his family. Eazadi immediately hopped off his bike and ran over to Wall. “I’m sorry to bother you and your family, Mr. Wall, but I couldn’t stop myself,” Eazadi recalls telling the former politician. “It was under your government program that we came to Canada from Iran. And I just wanted to tell you that it’s been great. We’re very happy here.”
Eazadi, who says he was in tears as he spoke, says Wall handled the vacation interruption with grace. “He was really humble and he said he appreciated it.”
Eazadi and his partner Abbas Eslami own and operate the highly successful Mike’s Hydraulics Sales and Service in Saskatoon and they’ll be opening a Regina branch in the near future. The expansion is part of their ambitious plan to get into the mining industry, manufacture hydraulic systems and machinery, and extend their reach to new locations.
The two mechanical engineers were university roommates in Iran and graduated with master’s degrees. They operated their own businesses in that country before deciding to look for better opportunities abroad. After considering options including Europe and Australia, they applied under the entrepreneur category of the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program (SINP) and were successful. Saskatchewan, in turn, nominated them to the federal government for permanent residency in Saskatchewan under terms set out in the program.
The two travelled the province for 11 months reviewing business opportunities, including a tempting offer to open a franchise hydraulics operation in Saskatoon. They talked to would-be competitors, researched existing hydraulics companies in the city and were impressed with the quality and quantity of information available to them. Encouraged with their findings, they purchased Mike’s in June 2014. It was a small business with a primary focus on servicing hydraulic equipment used in farming.
Eazadi and Eslami took a year to orient themselves in their new endeavour and Saskatchewan’s business culture before beginning to expand into the repair of pumps, winches, motors, drives and gearboxes. Throughout their journey, says Eazadi, Saskatchewan’s business community has been nothing but helpful and welcoming. “To be honest with you, when it comes to doing business here in Saskatchewan, I feel more comfortable than back in Iran.”
Today, Eslami taps into his business experience in Iran to design equipment targeted to the construction and mining industries in Saskatchewan. The partners borrowed an idea gleaned from their investigation into the franchise hydraulics business to launch a full coverage mobile hydraulics service while expanding their stationary facilities on the 1700 block of Ontario Avenue. “We’ve increased our indoor space from 4,000 sq. ft. to 7,000 sq. ft. and we now have a big showroom, a big shop and a big yard,” says Eazadi. “Our business has grown almost fivefold since we opened.” He proudly proclaims that when it comes to things hydraulic, “we cover everything from A to Z.” This includes a much-expanded inventory and partnerships with some of the biggest hydraulics-manufacturing firms in the country, he adds.
Eazadi shares his enthusiasm for life in Saskatchewan with Iranian friends and acquaintances considering opportunities outside of their home country. He told two friends researching immigration opportunities to forget about Europe and look more closely at Saskatchewan. “If you go to Europe, everything’s saturated. Here, the economy is huge, people are friendly and the atmosphere is open.” For another friend he had a business tip. He told him it takes two or three days to get ball bearings delivered in Saskatoon. “I told him that if he starts up a bearings shop on Millar Avenue here, it will sell. But that’s just one example.
There’s lots of room in every sector.”
Eazadi says the partners’ families are adjusting well to life in Saskatoon and learned early on to make the most of summertime in Saskatchewan. At the time of the interview, the two families had just returned from cycling to Outlook and back, a round trip of just under 200 kilometres. They’re also avid boaters and enjoy plying the waterways of Saskatchewan’s provincial parks.
Learning to live and do business in Saskatchewan wasn’t without challenges. Eazadi says the culture is different and the language that the men thought they knew quite well, well, they did not. “We couldn’t understand people at first,” Eazadi says, laughing.
“It wasn’t as easy as we expected. But I told Abbas, ‘Look at these people. Everybody has a car, everybody has a beautiful house. We can do that, too. As entrepreneurs.’”
And so they have.