On October 3, during their annual membership banquet, The Greater LaBelle Chamber of Commerce awarded K&M Drugs, owned by Ayman Kaki, with the distinct honor of being named the 2016 LaBelle Business of the Year.
Master of Ceremonies, Lamar Yeomans, stated that “when it was time for the Chamber to vote for the 2016 Business of the Year, it was a very clear decision,” and that “this business has stood out as something very special, and has become a very welcomed and reliable name in our community”. Yeomans also noted that “on a daily basis Ayman and his staff see people at their most vulnerable states, and treat them with dignity, respect and thoughtfulness”.
Ayman is a local resident, who grew up in Clewiston and graduated from Clewiston High School in 1997. He received his Doctorate in Pharmacy (Pharm. D) in 2006 from Nova Southeastern University. He has two local brothers, Haitham and Kasem, who are also pharmacists, one brother, Amir, who is a cardiologist in Detroit, and a sister, Amy, who is currently a student at Florida Atlantic University. His parents are Dr. Karim Kaki and Miriam Kaki of Clewiston.
Upon graduation from college, Ayman worked at the local Clewiston Walgreens while his brother, Haitham, worked at the nearby Wal-Mart. After gaining experience working for these companies for two years, Ayman and Haitham decided to branch out and purchase their own pharmacies. Ayman always had a dream of owning his own pharmacy. Rather than working for someone else, he preferred to have the ability to make his own rules, grow at his own pace and most importantly give back to his community.
In 2011, a partnership was created between the two brothers and K&M Drugs was established. K&M Drugs was derived from their parent’s names – ‘K’ for Karim and ‘M’ for Miriam. Ayman stated that “his father and mother are his inspiration.” Having started from humble beginnings, his parents instilled in him a good work ethic along with the desire and drive to achieve success and happiness. They are still the driving force behind his motivation to push forward and tackle the challenges a business owner faces every day.
It was decided that Ayman would operate the K&M Drugs in LaBelle while Haitham would be in charge of the Clewiston location. In 2012, the Kaki brothers opened another K&M Drugs in Lake Placid. With the partnership of a third brother, Kasem Kaki, the fourth pharmacy in Belle Glade opened in 2013. This year, the brothers opened another location in Fort Myers. A sixth shop will be opening in Orlando by the beginning of 2017. That makes six successful business built in approximately six short years.
To date, K&M Drugs has over 50 employees working at their various locations. At the LaBelle location, K&M Drugs has 12 employees. Ayman noted that “part of the success of K&M is the fact that our employees provide fast and friendly hometown customer service.” To the Kaki brothers, people are more than just customers - they are like family.
Ayman has teamed up with the LaBelle High School’s Allied Health Academy program, and mentors numerous students throughout the year. These students generally want to pursue a career in a health field, and this partnership gives them the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and skills. He also offers summer employment to local students enrolled in pharmacy programs who return home over the summer.
Being able to bring the hometown feel into their pharmacies, the brothers hope to open more locations around the area. They are adamant about letting the growth occur slowly so that none of their businesses will lose that “local charm.” K&M Drugs takes pride in their good reputation as well as all of the extra services they are able to provide on a daily basis.
For example, K&M Drugs offers free delivery. They provide flu, pneumonia and shingle shots in-house with no appointments necessary. Ayman will match or beat competitor prices which is a blessing for many people. Even though Ayman generally works 60 hours per week, he is still willing to help his customers in need at night and during the weekends. Not many businesses will go the extra mile, but K&M Drugs certainly will.
K&M Drugs is one of the most community-minded and supportive businesses in LaBelle. Ayman is humbled by the fact that he is able to help support the local schools, athletic programs, various community organizations and many fundraisers that occur within this small town. He and his business have received several awards and recognitions during the past five years.
When asked what advice he would give to students who hope to one day have their own successful business, Ayman kept it simple. He said, “provide good customer service, have a good work ethic and be willing to put forth the extra effort all of the time.” Given the success of his businesses, this sounds like solid advice.
Ayman finds being a business owner extremely satisfying. He noted that he “enjoys helping people and putting a smile on their faces,” and “it’s gratifying to know you can help make someone feel better when they’re ill.”
Whether you’re in need of medication, supplies, a gift, advice, a fist pump, a friendly chat or a little hug, go see Ayman at K&M Drugs in LaBelle. He and his staff will help put a smile on your face.