Ken Valvur

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Featured Alumni Profile

Ken Valvur, BCom ’84

“My two ambitions were always to see the world through my work, and ultimately to have my own business.”

Ken Valvur (B.Com.1984) is a chartered accountant whose entrepreneurial spirit and love of travel combined for the perfect career.

The choice of the University of Toronto for his commerce degree was easy – obtain a top-notch degree and be able to use the money he saved by staying at home to satiate his need for travel.

“My BCom was the foundation of my education that taught me the fundamentals on how to start a career in finance,” says Ken. “This lead me to a career in capital markets with lots of experience working abroad – all while enjoying a world-class education in my hometown.”

Upon graduation, Ken took a position with PriceWaterhouseCoopers where he finished his accounting pre-requisites – he then went on to attend the American Graduate School of International Management (now known as the Thunderbird School of Global Management) and the Japanese Institute for International Studies & Training.

His postgraduate program had a foreign language study component and Ken did this during his placement in Japan – a destination that would shape his future career.

Ken was soon with Scotia Capital, training in Toronto and London prior to starting a two year investment banking assignment in Tokyo. His next jobs with Scotia were setting up debt private placement businesses in the US, Asia and Europe in his role of vice president and director, including a second transfer to Tokyo and then on to London. It was in London that Ken had to make a big decision about his career and family life.

“We had been living abroad for some time and we had small children, and my wife wanted to be back in Toronto closer to family,” says Ken. “I saw a business opportunity that I really felt I could make happen in Canada and I knew it was time to go out on my own.”

While living in Japan, Ken really loved the practice of picking up a bento box at a local restaurant and taking it to the park or office during the working day. Ken also saw this trend emerging in London and really felt this would be something that Canadians would go for.

“All of my amateur spy footage really came in handy,” Ken laughs, “I knew I could do this.”

Ken founded the Bento Nouveau Group of Companies in 1996. Best known for being Canada’s largest producer of sushi with 31 retail stores from coast-to-coast in Canada and in New York City, over 300 onsite sushi bar locations in supermarkets and cafeterias, and four factories with distribution reaching over 2,000 customer locations. Ken is enjoying the freedom and financial rewards of his own venture. “In some ways things have come full circle,” he says, “I’m proud to say we also have several Bento Nouveau sushi chef stations at U of T.”

Ken is very busy these days, but feels his work-life balance is much better and the pros of self employment can’t be matched.

“My two ambitions were always to see the world through my work, and ultimately to have my own business,” says Ken. “I would encourage all graduates to work abroad early on, before family circumstances change – it provides life experience and perspective that can’t be learned in a classroom.”