Shane Madhani strolls to his hidden corner office at the Pub, high-fiv-ing students and patting their backs on the way. The air smells like deep-fried oil. The room hums with chatter. It’s Wednesday afternoon at the Blind Duck Pub.
He makes himself comfortable in his black office chair, wearing a dark sweater and jeans, two navy blue lanyards slung over his neck with the words University of Toronto outlined in white.
He grins when a student walks in to pass him a cheque at the door.
“Thanks, buddy. I’ve always liked money,” he jests.
In an exclusive interview with The Medium, Madhani opens up about BDP’s turning point—from deficit to profit—the value of personal connection, working hard, and maintaining balance.
Another student appears, this time asking for a square head. Madhani politely declines.
“They always come to me for everything, you know?” he chuckles. And they have. Madhani, 37, currently manages the Blind Duck—and is doing a pretty good job of doing it, too.
Before UTMSU hired Madhani in 2007, the BDP was consecutively losing around $200,000 per year. Nearly $500,000 worth of student funds were used to cover the losses. Students were not purchasing food and beverages and the BDP was simply not making enough money to keep the operation sustainable.
However, under Madhani’s leadership, the BDP managed to break even at the end of its first year.
“It was amazing!” UTMSU’s current president, Vickita Bhatt, gushes. The year after that, the BDP made a slight profit, and have continued to generate revenue ever since.
Although the money doesn’t add up to too much ($3,000 to $4,000), whatever is made goes back towards financing the BDP in order to provide better services for students. In the past few years, the pub has received a “facelift” from said profits, sporting a new TV, tables, chairs, brighter curtains, repainted walls, and retiled floors.
Nowadays, the BDP is full to the brim with students from the moment they open at 11 a.m. until closing time at 7 p.m. from Monday-Thursdays, or 4 p.m. on Fridays, whether it’s for wings, a pint of beer, or an occasional salad. They cater to student clubs and social events at the Student Centre, ranging from academic to leisure, and have regulars among the faculty as well.
“It’s crazy,” Madhani exclaims, scratching his silver-stubble beard. “But I went above and beyond the call of duty.”
“A satisfied customer is a returning customer. I think that’s what really helped us. That was the transformation for the BDP.”
When asked what former background or education led to his success as an entrepreneur, he laughs.
“You know what? I didn’t even go to school,” he says. “I didn’t even go to college or university. I was sort of self-made.”
From the time he was 21 years old, Madhani has been self-employed. Initially motivated by money, he worked hard developing his own dry-cleaning business before eventually moving on to hospitality and the casual dining industry. Now 16 years down the road, he has accumulated countless networking associates, business experiences, and world knowledge under his belt.
“Now, it’s not about the money anymore,” Madhani admits. “I just like to do what I enjoy. I don’t want that stress anymore. I’m content with getting a paycheque every two weeks and just enjoying life.”
To the young entrepreneurs and students alike on campus, he advises, “Have balance in everything that you do. It is paramount.”