The next time you’re at the Charlottetown waterfront by the large, red 2017 sign, look down at the wood print paving stones on the ground.
That is one of the projects from Island businessman Ali Younis and his company – The P.E.I. Brick Company.
The business opened in January 2016 as the only stone veneer and paving stone (standard and decorative) manufacturer on P.E.I.
Located in Crapaud due to its proximity to Charlottetown and the Confederation Bridge, the company has six employees, including Younis, 26, and co-founder Ghanim Mahal, an engineer.
“We started the business with little money and lots of hard work,” said Younis.
Younis came to the Island from Dubai in 2009 as an international student. He graduated in 2013 with a degree in business administration (minor in economics). Prior to graduation, he got his first taste of the business world by opening Pizza and Poutine in Charlottetown. The business expanded to Cavendish but Younis decided to move on. He was growing tired of the long hours and late nights.
“Most of our clientele were 4 a.m. to 5 a.m.”
Rather than leave the Island, Younis decided to stay and continue his business career.
He said the Island has become home and a good place to do business. He cites resources to help new entrepreneurs, such as the Greater Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce and Innovation PEI. Business owners, with open minds who are also willing to assist.
“Here, it’s open for you to do what you want and they give you room to fail and succeed. But, it boils down to you and how you figure it out.”
Younis admits that getting his foot in the door was a challenge since some businesses on P.E.I. prefer to deal with the same supplier rather than give someone new a chance. But others are more open to trying out a new entrepreneur.
The company is now in the midst of promoting a new stone veneer it started selling a couple of months ago. The innovative product is embedded with recycled glass, which helps it absorb sound. It is also lighter than other types of stone veneer and is easier to install because it doesn’t require mortar.
“You can just screw it on,” he said. “It looks exactly the same. It’s as durable.”
The product is consistent with the company’s goals of being innovative and environmentally friendly.
Younis said another innovation being looked at is using types of ash as a substitute for cement.
“The world is going to a better place where we’re more conscious of what we’re using and we have to keep up with that. This is what the market wants. This is what we want – more environmentally friendly production,” he said.
Younis said the most exciting part of the business is “taking an idea to reality.”
“It’s not about the money. It’s just seeing what you and mostly your team is capable of.”