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Thriving plant and tree-sourcing company has deep roots at Concordia

Marketing grad Shireen Salehi grows successful business with fellow alumni
August 12, 2021
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By Aviva Engel, BA 02

Four founders of GoMaterials standing on a street Concordia grads Kunsheng Zhao, MCompSc 12, Shireen Salehi, BComm 15, Michael Bellows, BComm 15, and Marc Elliott, BComm 14, are co-founders of GoMaterials. | Photo: Benoit Dery

Judging by her professional success, one might not guess Shireen Salehi, BComm 15, wasn’t born an entrepreneur. Nor does she claim to have a green thumb. Yet she and three other Concordians co-founded GoMaterials, a North American procurement marketplace that helps landscaping professionals source their plant and tree materials.

Montreal-based GoMaterials launched in 2017, yet its seeds were sown as far back as 2009, when Salehi and fellow John Molson School of Business graduate Michael Bellows, BComm 15, became friends as case competition participants.

“The case competition program was the most rewarding experience,” says Salehi. “I learned about entrepreneurship, how to think quickly, understand and address business problems, and how to present ideas in a digestible way. These life skills really came in handy. I also had the opportunity to travel for competitions to Hong Kong and within Canada.”

Shireen Salehi wears a white blouse Shireen Salehi is one of four Concordia co-founders of GoMaterials, a wholesale marketplace that sources landscaping materials. | Photo: Benoit Dery

A business is born

Following graduation, Salehi was employed as a brand manager for Mega Bloks, while Bellows worked in sales at PepsiCo. At the five-year mark, however, each began to consider their future career plans.

“I started to get an itch, and thought about what I wanted to do next,” says Salehi. “Being my own boss and taking on a new challenge appealed to me. Mike was in the same place. We began meeting and brainstorming startup ideas. Mike brought in a friend, Marc Elliott, BComm 14, who had owned a landscape business and was looking for his next opportunity. Marc shared his experience as a landscaper; how difficult it was to source plant material. That’s where the idea stemmed from.”

The learning curve was intense for Salehi as she immersed herself in the world of plants and trees, learning myriad names of flora and plantation processes. Today, she oversees all of GoMaterials’ marketing and product development.

Salehi develops website and paid media campaigns, creating sales pamphlets and tradeshow booths. “On the product side, we're developing an app,” she says. “I work with technical product managers and the development team to apply users’ feedback and implement features to improve their experience.”

Since its inception, GoMaterials has doubled in size annually and now serves customers in New York, Texas and Florida, in addition to Quebec and Ontario.

Kunsheng Zhao, MCSc 12, is the fourth co-founder of the company, which employs about 20 team members. In Quebec, GoMaterials has been involved in high-profile landscape projects, including at Parc Jean Drapeau.

A full university experience

Salehi encourages current and future students to make the most of the university’s rich supplemental offerings. As a John Molson student, she participated in an international exchange program and served as director of events for the Commerce and Administration Students Association.

“Network as much as possible and meet as many people as you can,” she says. “Try out different extracurriculars and join associations because that's going to enrich your experience. There's more to university than just going to class and going home.”



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