The judges say: Samir provides a very valuable service to the community and does so with integrity and thoughtfulness
The 2010 Business-to-Consumer Products and Services Entrepreneur of the Year is Samir Manji , the President and CEO of Amica Mature Lifestyles Inc.
It’s clear that family comes first for Samir Manji. Over coffee in his downtown office, which is adorned with his children’s artwork, the 41-year-old father of three explains that strong family ties have been integral to his success at redefining retirement for thousands of older Canadians who call his luxury seniors communities home.
With emotional and financial backing from his parents, Manji, a former accountant, leaped into the seniors housing market with the purchase of a Burnaby retirement home in 1993. More followed, but the Amica brand wasn’t established until 2000, when Manji partnered with Toronto-based property developer John Daniels, leaving Manji free to focus on filling a service gap he saw in the industry.
“Nobody from a Canadian perspective had, in a focused, disciplined, exclusive manner, honed in on high-end independent living,” he says.
Amica’s luxury communities are expressly designed for today’s brand of spry seniors, with a focus on customer service. Every “Amican” has access to large communal areas and a bevy of health and wellness programs including restaurant-calibre dining, fitness training, yoga, bridge clubs – even computer classes.
What was your first real job?
In Grade 9, I worked as a stock boy in a corner drugstore .
What was your first big break in your current business?
Making the decision to buy that retirement home in Burnaby and to really deplete our family’s cash resources. And meeting business partner John Daniels; it was the game changer.
Who is your role model/mentor?
My parents are absolutely my role models. My dad has a work ethic about him and a real drive and desire to succeed. And my mom is the rock of the family .
If I wasn’t doing this, I’d like to be . . .
A stay-at-home dad with my wife and raise our children on a full-time basis.
“Picture a high-end hotel for seniors. That’s what we aspire to achieve and provide for our customers,” says Manji, noting his housing options range from studio suites, starting at $2,800 a month, to two-bedroom penthouses at over $5,000 a month.
Amica has grown quickly since its launch, with the company employing more than 1,200 people and boasting a total of about 3,400 suites, both in use and in predevelopment, throughout B.C., southwestern Ontario and Calgary. That’s up from 1,500 units in 2005.
Though Manji admits the recession has kept a cap on growth, as has a lingering stigma among seniors about moving into the dreaded “home,” he feels Amica is poised for long-term success. And again, it’s all in the family.
With adult children often responsible for getting their parents in the door, Amica is at once serving today’s clients while sowing the seeds for a boomer crop of future customers, says Manji: “When they’re with their parent or parents touring, we will often hear, ‘Mom, what’s there to think about? I’m ready to move in.’”