Student entrepreneurship: Success and what’s next

During freshman year, students are eager for the ultimate college experience and join many of the organizations on campus. However, Hamad Mazhir chose to take a different route.

He started a business.

 Photo by Andres Cruz-Wellmann | The Signal
Photo by Andres Cruz-Wellmann | The Signal

During his freshman year in 2008 Finance major turned Management major Mazhir was sitting in the Georgia State library during their renovation period when he noticed the development of a coffee shop inside.

Familiar with the restaurant business, Mazhir had the desire to open up a business and, after consulting with the Saxby’s franchise company about opening a franchise in the library coffee shop area, the popular coffee shop was established on campus.

“I thought that this business would grow,” Mazhir said. “It worked out and I’ve been doing franchises ever since.”

Mazhir, now 25, did not stop with this success.

“I only have one IHOP, but I own two Tin Drums right now and I’m opening one more,” Mazhir said.

Mazhir, who transferred and graduated from Kennesaw State University during his college career, has kept his franchise locations close to the college campuses he attended.

One of his Tin Drum restaurants is located amid Georgia State’s campus, across from the Aderhold Classroom Building. He is opening up another location on the Kennesaw State campus.

Mazhir’s story is turning into the story of many college students around the nation.

Student entrepreneurship has sparked in today’s college students due to a declining job market that not only continues to threaten the stability of traditional employment after college but also eases the financial obligations of business owning.

“One of the reasons I’ve been building in the last two years is especially because since the job market is bad the markets lowered the demand for space to build new units which decrease the cost of rent,” Mazhir said.

Now students are coming up with creative business ventures that can either guarantee income after graduation or serve as side projects for their future careers.

Students are also creating their own businesses as a hobby and a different alternative to working a traditional college job.

Sophomore Madrid Thomas, along with business partner Julian Ashton, a Howard University student, began the clothing line, A.M. Apparel, last year.

“We don’t want to work for anybody but ourselves,” Thomas said. “A 9 to 5 isn’t cutting it. We were really into clothes and buying them so we decided to make our own.”

Although their business is in its developing stages, Thomas, an Exercise Science major, said he hopes it will be a major part of his future.

Though starting a business during college has its advantages, challenges do surface.

Thomas attributes money as the main challenge in the start-up of A.M. Apparel.

“That’s the main problem when you and your business partner are in school, unemployed and can’t find investors,” Thomas said.

The Robinson College of Business incorporates several programs to engage budding student entrepreneurs, such as “pitch parties,” conferences and competitive competitions.

“We have some students doing some pretty creative businesses.” said Clifton Ray, lecturer and Associate Director of Herman J. Russell Center for Entrepreneurship in The J. Mack Robinson College of Business. “Usually long term success as an entrepreneur is enhanced by completing an education.”

According to Ray, starting a business while in college is a good idea for students aspiring to be business owners.

“Entrepreneurs frequently learn from experience,” Ray said. “The sooner you can start gaining that experience by actually doing [the work], the better.”

Ray said although there is always a risk of business failure, starting a business in college has the perks of low-risk failure.

“You don’t have much at stake because of the freedom that you have from not having so many financial incumbents.”

Mazhir agreed and said college is the time where students can dedicate their time and efforts toward something they find interesting, because once students graduate, responsibilities overtake that time.

“I guess I always saw school as when your time is the least valuable. I could go out and be apart of a frat…or try to do something that I wanted to do,” Mazhir said. “While you’re in school, you have the time to play around and experiment, and I decided to experiment.”



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