Few can claim to be as hard-working and successful in two vastly different industries at the same time as Javid Javdani. After moving to the US in 1982 in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, Javdani worked relentlessly as a young man out of high school to make ends meet and continue his studies. He worked at a car wash, gas station and restaurants to learn not only how to be self-sufficient through hard work, but also the ins and outs of running a business himself. After graduating from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Javdani attended the University of the Pacific and earned his Doctor of Pharmacy, becoming licensed in California as a pharmacist in 1994 and settling in San Diego.
Despite his success as a pharmacist, Javdani’s entrepreneurial yearnings blossomed when he wanted to open his own pharmacy. After scouting a location, the landlord notified him of a grocery store next door whose owner was motivated to sell. It was a very small store serving the Persian community in the Clairemont neighborhood. Javdani took the plunge into owning an international grocery store and found quick success, tapping into other ethnicities in the area to provide specialty food and groceries. His small grocery store grew exponentially, and he began running his own restaurant and catering hall. Javdani continues to serve his community as a pharmacist, but he also keeps a close eye on his expanding business, all while enjoying time with his wife and daughter.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I began as a pharmacist and worked at various places in San Diego, but then I took over a grocery store that became a real opportunity for growth. When I bought it, the store was solely serving the Persian community, but I saw a potential customer base in the many other international groups in Clairemont. I expanded the store to serve those people and they have really supported me and helped me grow.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day is very complex because I have to juggle all my business and professional activities. I work only part-time as a pharmacist now at a place called Met-Plus Pharmacy, and it gives me plenty of time to handle my other business affairs and to spend time with family. I work at the pharmacy two days a week. When I visit the other businesses, I spend some time in the office and get a lot of the paperwork and things like that out of the way. I speak with the managers who handle the day-to-day activities, and I go over the issues and problems that arise for them. I also talk to customers and make sure their needs are all taken care of.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I think because I worked so very hard in the beginning it helped me realize how things get done in situations like mine. It forced me to be a multitasking person, so I could take my ideas and have the time and mental space to work them into my businesses. I learn from my mistakes, and I solve a lot of my problems through experience.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Especially after COVID pandemic, the trend of online ordering and delivery is very exciting. What I see in San Diego is there are a lot of international people moving here, Asians, Indians, Eastern Europeans. My particular store does not have Asian products currently, but the demographic trends we are seeing here include a lot of Chinese and Korean people moving to San Diego. Hopefully my next endeavor will be to serve all international groups including Asians and South Americans.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I’m an early riser and I try to accomplish a lot of things early in the morning. When I get up, I focus on what I need to do and put a list together of all the things to do for that day. I go through the list and get the items done and out of the way. That helps a lot.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself not to take things for granted. Don’t take too much risk, and make sure you study things before you take on more responsibility. And definitely make sure you have time to spend with your family.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
When it comes to expansion and advertising and getting more business, I truly believe that working with and giving back to your community really, really helps. It certainly has in my case. I don’t do print advertisement. I do grass roots advertisement. Some people might not agree, and they may think that’s not doing enough. But I work with religious groups, including Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities. When they see that my store is not something to just make a profit but a company that also wants to support the community, that really makes a big difference. For example, during COVID for a few days a week, we send food to hospitals for frontline workers to make sure they’re getting taken care of. That’s a great marketing tool, and it helps people. In addition to getting involved in the community, I also work with professional and charitable organizations. Having so many different networks really does wonders for marketing as well as learning any given trade.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I think the connection with your customers is the best. When my customers come into the store, I say hello to all of them. I know them. They talk to me about their families. They always give me feedback about things that we need to do. I highly recommend having personal connections with your customers. Don’t see them as a customer alone, but also see them as a part of your store.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
When I see a need in the community because of customer feedback I have received, I work to provide it. For example, when I opened my store in the beginning, there were a few customers of Russian descent that came to me and asked if I could bring in certain products, so I started supplying them. Then people asked for kosher, and I provided that. They would even tell me where I could get it. Eventually I brought those items in and got their feedback, and later on people brought on the idea of catering, so I had to learn that business, and now we offer full-service catering. I get the feedback, see an opportunity, and that’s how I grow the business, just by listening to my customer base when they tell me what their needs are.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
As I said before, I learned a lot by making mistakes. I should have consulted the professionals. You try to save a lot of money and time by doing things yourself, but if I had hired a professional accountant, bookkeeper, or attorney from the beginning, it would have saved me time and money. Now I even have a full-time bookkeeper, and it is a blessing.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Because the international community is growing in the US, it is a good idea to have an online service to sell products that encompasses all the international communities, especially with the new generation that is comfortable using apps on their devices. A lot of those apps focus only one ethnicity, but not one that has all of them all together.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
During the pandemic I gave a lot of hundred-dollar bonuses to my employees to retain them. They could have just not come into work, but they were my frontline workers. They get exposed on a daily basis because we still get a lot of customers coming in. I gave a lot of them bonuses on their paycheck every two weeks just to make sure they’re happy and to make sure they know that I appreciate the risk they’re taking.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The new online delivery programs for food like Uber Eats and Postmates have been really helpful during the pandemic. Our restaurant uses several of them to deliver our food.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
A long time ago, when I was a director at the hospital, the CEO gave me the book called The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson. I really liked that book because it helped me a lot to make decisions.
What is your favorite quote?
“Lead by example and walk the talk.” I have had a lot of employees over 15 years but not much turnover. They know that I walk the talk as the owner of the business. I am a hands-on person, and I help them when they need things. I’m not just some guy coming in and telling them what to do.
• Direct customer connections are the best way to build your business.
• Give back to community through service
• Lead your employees by example
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.