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From immigrant to eBay’s micro-multinational entrepreneur of the year

March 30, 2022

By Vancouver Sun |

Even as a boy in Pakistan, Jahen Zeb was drawn to collecting objects around him. It could be anything, especially hard things such as rough rocks and shiny stones, but also butterflies.

“It was my passion,” Zeb said. “In my home back in KPK I had made a collection of butterflies and it’s still back there where I was born. I visited a few years back and it is in the zoology department at a local town college.”

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) is one of four Pakistani provinces, partially bordering Afghanistan and once known as the North-West Frontier Province. Zeb came to Vancouver in 1994 and got jobs working in retail, from convenience stores to grocery chains to big-box outlets, working his way up the promotion chain while he was at it.

Zeb’s first job in Vancouver was at an independent corner store and the Royal Canadian Mint‘s cornucopia of collectable coins fascinated the young man as people paid with them.

“I was working the night shift and dealing with all these different types of Canadian coins,” he said. “The speciality of Canadian coins attracted me, the special designs and artwork for commemorative coins.”

The Canadian mint first began making specialty coins to commemorate Expo 67, followed by the RCMP 100th-anniversary ‘quarter-horse’ coin in 1973 and onward.

The 2004 poppy quarter brought special joy, since it was the first coloured coin (the red poppy) in the world and because U.S. defence and intelligence officials thought the pieces were ‘spy coins‘ containing tiny transmitters that were planted on at least three American army contractors who visited Canada. The mint produced nearly 30 million of the 2004 commemorative quarters in honour of Canada’s 117,000 war dead.

Zeb was able to quit his day job in 2018 to turn what began as a hobby into a full-time job selling coins. The East Vancouverite was honoured by eBay recently as its 2021 micro-multinational entrepreneur of the year for the 20 per cent of his business that it exports out of Canada —  largely to the U.S., but also to Israel, Brazil, Spain, you name it.

The award, one of eBay’s three major categories for annual awards, came with a $10,000 cash prize.

“It was a great feeling, it means recognition of my hard work, recognition on a national level,” Zeb said. “I was not expecting it because there are so many outstanding sellers out there doing an amazing job.

“So I was thinking it’s not possible (he would win).”

His eBay site is Mahin888.

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