At the height of the pandemic, the GTA has lost over 4,000 small businesses, declining the employment rate by 82 per cent in just 2020. 

Although those numbers are freighting for business owners, it does not stop this young man with a strong entrepreneurial drive. He defies the norm of the traditional route to success and breaks barriers to become a notable and one-of-a-kind business owner. 

Giordano Exotic, 22, single-handedly built Vaughan’s largest exotic snack, cereal, and soda store, Exotic Snax GTA, in November 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic arose. 

Exotic says, “In March 2020 everyone was freaking out, even me. I had to shut down the business and didn’t know what the future had in store for me.”

Opening a store at the beginning of a pandemic is very challenging, and to see it prosper is unusual due to many small businesses and restaurants permanently closing their doors in consequence of the health and safety measures to protect people from the COVID-19 virus. 

Exotic Snax GTA was able to stay afloat due to their website that launched at the beginning of 2020. “We were able to do online orders all throughout Canada and deliveries locally through the site. So when we closed down in March 2020, all our business was online for the next three months.”

The business was still fairly new at this point, not many people knew there was a candy store selling imported goods from places like the United Kingdom or Japan. Luckily, a TikTok video went viral in May, getting the ball rolling again for Exotic Snax GTA. 

“Everyone in the city was starting to hear about my business after that video. There were people waiting for 2-3 hours to come into my store, just to give you a perspective of how busy it was.”

Items were flying off the shelf, he says. “Being the only employee in there is tough, I’d have to call my mother for help sometimes.”

Exotic’s mother, Adrianna, is the owner of Artigiani, a furniture, decor, and accessory store that imports products from France and Italy. 

Ironically, Exotic’s storefront neighbors stores with Artigiani. “My mom works next door, she is probably here 60 per cent of her workday.”

He said during the busiest times of the store being open after Exotic Snax GTA had expanded, his mother and father would come in and help him out.

“My dad is a tile setter and my mom has her store next to mine. I say this all the time to them, ‘you guys might have to quit your jobs and work over here full-time.’”

Adrianna Exotic says, “I am so proud of my son. He worked very hard for everything. I love working next door to him because he’s my son. What mother wouldn’t want this.”

The young entrepreneur says he’s always been a business person his whole life. 

“I’ve been selling things since a kid. I’m talking about being a kid and walking around the block selling cookies to neighbors, that’s just one example. In seventh grade I started selling ‘I love boobies’ bracelets for breast cancer, I got suspended from school for that. Then ninth grade I realized everyone in school needed headphones, I started selling headphones.”

When Exotic had the idea of opening a store and selling imported goods, he was still working part-time at Costo Whole Sale and attending George Brown College for HVAC. 

Exotic took a leap of faith and dropped out of his college program after a strike occurred in the first six weeks attending, he said, “When we came back they gave us a choice, would you want to drop out and get your money back or would you want to have a condensed course? I didn’t like what I was doing anyway so I dropped out and got my money back.”

At this time he quit his part-time position at Costo and devoted all his energy to starting his business. 

Now, Exotic has established himself and looking to expand locations in the near future. 

Exotic Snax GTA is now a part of certain people’s lives, “I have people that come here every week if not, every other week.”

A happy customer said, “I love shopping here. Obviously, it’s because they got the craziest stuff, but I like the owner, he’s a nice guy.”

“People can go spend their money anywhere, nobody says for them to spend it here, that’s why it’s a good feeling when you have returning customers,” says Exotic.