Rundle College alumnus Zakir Hussein attended the University of Calgary intent on studying geology but developed a keen interest in the environment. In his parent’s basement Hussein began researching renewable energy and concentrated on experimenting how to recycle waste oils.
He left university and launched Organo Energy in 2009, focusing on the collection of waste animal fats and grease from restaurants, along with used cardboard and Styrofoam.
It was a tough slog for a while. He leased a cheap warehouse in Acme and drove his truck and its dirty cargo there on a regular basis until he found a better proposition in Vista Heights. The business grew and today its bins are outside many restaurants where kitchen staff deposit waste oils that are gathered up free of charge by Organo’s EcoDine drivers.
At the plant, the oils are separated, refined and picked up for use in biofuel production.
It is mandatory for kitchens to clean grease traps and the Grease Squad division of the company does this at a discounted rate.
After graduating from University of British Columbia, Zakir’s sister, Azra, took over as president and CEO of Organo. The change has given Zakir time to get further educated.
A Harvard University faculty member heard of his efforts in environmental management and invited him to speak to his students. As a result, the busy Hussein is now flying regularly to Boston to study.
Both Azra and Zakir give back to this community.
One way is in Eco Dine’s partnership with Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary. Once a month Azra recruits a volunteer chef to cook a meal with the kids to help them to better understand nutrition. Eco Dine supplies all of the food for the Shining Youth Chef’s Program.
Zakir was able to pursue another entrepreneurial idea. Familiar with a number of Calgary restaurants, he launched a new company called Enerknight Media that supplies businesses with indoor digital advertising screens.
Out of Home Marketing Association of Canada research says that after viewing attention-grabbing messages on a digital screen, about one-third of people will visit a website and 30 per cent seek further information.
Hussein recognized the opportunity to use this information and his locally governed company is already showing videos to an audience of thousands every day.
Enerknight supplies commercial-grade screens or uses existing televisions in the bar or restaurant. It programs and manages the technology to show advertisements on the screens.
Advertising is sold on a variety of lengths on a five-minute loop, which means they’re seen for the cost of a cup of coffee a day on an average of five times per customer. And they can all be tailored to be seen by the people they are most interested in reaching out to.
Enerknight began with the clients he is most familiar with — restaurants and bars — and is now calling on a wider group. Shopping malls. medical centres, fitness centres and airports are high on his list of potential customers.
Recognized to date as Student Entrepreneur of the Year by Enactus, an Avenue magazine Top 40 under 40 and named a Leader of Tomorrow by Business in Calgary magazine, Hussein will no doubt reach a high plateau in the Calgary business community.
News and notes
It seems to be a long time since we were first teased with the announcement that Rodney’s Oyster House was opening a restaurant in Calgary. This week, Rodney’s opened its doors on the corner of 10th Avenue and 4th Street S.W. Spread over two levels of the 107 year-old Case Manufacturing building, the 8,000 square feet of dining area seats 320 customers. It features live lobster and crab tanks and the freshest choice of between eight to 20 different oyster varieties on any given day, live sea scallops and many other fist specialties.
Rodney’s has also opened a window along 4th Street side of the restaurant. A grab and go where you can stop by for a pickup menu that includes New England Clam Chowder, Ipswich Fried Clam Rolls and, of course, fish and chips with malt vinegar.
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