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Entrepreneur of the year

Jeweller top young businessman in the NWT

Nathan VanderKlippe
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Oct 22/01) - Hau Than Huynh's first visit to Yellowknife in 1998 wasn't intended to be long, and certainly not permanent.

He came to visit his wife's sister, but found a city whose people and surroundings attracted him.

NNSL photo

A sparkling success. Hau Than Huynh, owner and founder of Arctic Jewellers, was recently named Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the NWT. - Nathan VanderKlippe/NNSL photo

He got a job and started working. Soon after, the city's economy began to rise with the influx of diamond money, and Huynh saw an opportunity to start his own business. In late 1999, he founded Arctic Jewellers.

His business quickly took off, doubling in size in the first year. That growth is continuing, and he expects to double again this year and hopes to move to a larger location.

Last Tuesday, his business skills were recognized by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), who awarded him Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the NWT at a gala in Edmonton. He attended the event with the winners from the other provinces and territories, who were given awards for business in everything from new media to organic farming.

Huynh is a goldsmith who custom-makes jewelry and does one-hour onsite jewelry and watch repair.

He attributes his success to his onsite repair, which avoids lengthy waits while jewelry is sent to Edmonton or Vancouver, and to his service. In his native Vietnam, Huynh was trained in hand-crafting jewelry, making everything from bangles to necklaces. When he moved to Canada in 1989, he discovered that most jewelry here is machine-crafted, while repairs are done by hand. His upbringing gave him the skills to develop an efficient in-house repair system.

Huynh said his location gives him an advantage over competitors located farther from mineral and gem mines. Tourists come "from all over the world and most of the time they want gold or diamonds from here," he said. "So they stop in the store and ask, 'Can I see a Canadian diamond from Yellowknife?'"

Huynh also advertises with major tour operators to advance his business. Such promotion is important, since tourists comprise over 40 percent of Huynh's business.

Although much of the BDC prize's value is simply the recognition that comes with being named Entrepreneur of the Year, Huynh has also been paired with a mentor, Fred Hunt, president of the Nunasi Corporation. With Hunt's aid, Huynh hopes to create a Web site to further market his product.

"I am really impressed about the award, and I deserve it," he said. "I spend my years working hard, trying my best to do my business and I'm really confident about my business. I hope it goes bigger and bigger and in the future my dream is to have 10 stores across Canada."