NJIT Student Owns Two Internet-based Businesses
A short trip with Uncle Junior to the hardware store, Quaison recalls, was apt to turn into a tutorial.
“My uncle would grab a product off the shelf, turn to me and say: ‘Quaison, how would you make a better product than this? And if you had a better product, how would you market it?’ I was like 11 years old, but he’d hit me with these questions. I suspect my answers were comically uninformed, but he got me thinking like an entrepreneur at a young age, and for that I’ve always loved my uncle.”
With an uncle like that, it’s unsurprising that Quaison grew up to be an entrepreneur: He now owns two Internet-based businesses. What is surprising is exactly how young Quaison is: He’s junior at NJIT -- majoring in business management.
In the below interview, Quaison (pronounced Kwa’-son) talks about his businesses, his studies at NJIT, and his unquenchable entrepreneurial spirit.
Can you describe your businesses?
The first one I started, called FIND-IT-PHONE, is an Internet-based phone system that businesses use to create and operate their own marketing, advertising and promotion for nightclubs, restaurants, real estate, etc. It's a telephone directory system that offers much more than just a telephone number and address like 411. This system gives product description, prices or any type of information that a company can use. If you visit the website, http://www.finditphone.com/, you’ll see how an entrepreneur can take the first step in developing his or her own business.
What about your second business?
That business, "Fetch FIRE,” is a repository of emergency information that families and others can use to stay in touch with each other during emergencies. It allows users to post emergency contact information on the website. In case of an emergency, the user, and others who have an access code, can retrieve emergency information. When families subscribe to FetchFIRE, they are given a user name and password to the website, where they enter their itineraries, emergency contacts and emergency procedures. They are also given a toll free number to enter the site. Subscription to FetchFIRE starts at $9.99 per month. That’s how I make a profit.
Are there other websites like this?
It might sound like simple idea, but there is nothing out there like Fetch FIRE, because it fulfills a real need. Many families, for instance, don’t want their children to have cell phones, but they still want the children to know how to reach them at all times. For instance, if a father travels a lot, this service lets his children and wife know where he is at all times and how to reach him. And if he is traveling and can’t be reached, his wife, or his child’s teacher, can check the website to see what action to take. I’m concentrating on this business now and I have high hopes for it.
You are also considering joining the business incubator at NJIT – a program that helps start up companies.
I am thinking about joining the business incubator, which has a business without walls program. I won’t have an office in the incubator, but for a reasonable fee I’ll get all the great services that the incubator gives start-up firms. Those services include financial, legal and marketing advice, help with a business plan, use of its conference rooms, etc. When I found out that NJIT had a business incubator, I was thrilled. It was like a Godsend. The incubator is just what I need to take my businesses to the next level.
You transferred here last semester from Mercy College. Why did you pick NJIT?
My two main interests are business management and technology. NJIT has a great reputation for both fields, so it was a natural choice. It is also close to New York City, a big plus for me, since the city is the business center of the world.
So why didn’t you come to NJIT as a freshman?
I would have loved to, but I had one small impediment: my grades, which in high school were, how shall I phrase it, something less than distinguished? In point of fact my grades were dreadful. It’s not that I wasn’t smart. I was just obsessed with starting my own business and playing soccer. I was recruited by colleges for soccer. So I went to Mercy College and played soccer, but during my two years there I improved my grades dramatically. When I reached a point where I had a 3.8 GPA, I knew I could transfer to a top college. I applied to NJIT and was accepted.
Do your classes at the School of Management help you with your businesses?
Yes, all my classes help me with my businesses. The “Principle of Management” class helped me refine my business plan. The professors at the School of Management have a lot of business experience, which is extremely valuable to me. The professors are also a great network of professional contacts. And outside of class, I’m a member of the Society for Advancement in Management, which provides networks of friends and business professionals.
Do you like your management professors?
I love how the professors teach management here. One of my favorite teachers, Professor Annaleena Parhankangas, never gives written tests. Rather, she has us work on hands-on management projects that give us business experience. I even presented one of Finditphone’s products to the class -- in a live demonstration. The next day, I saw that some of the students in the class had used the site. That was awesome. During my first day of classes here in the fall, I was new to campus and I went to the wrong classroom. When I realized that, I was mortified and about to bust out of there. But then the teacher, Professor David Hawk, started to talk and I was held rapt. I stayed to listen to him. And later actually went back to audit the class. I marveled at Professor Hawk’s teaching ability and the ease with which he connects with his students.
Are you on the NJIT soccer team?
Yes. And I really do enjoy being part of a growing Division I team. Mercy College was Division II. I love the soccer team here; my teammates are great, and Pedro Lopes is the perfect coach to mold us into a Division I powerhouse. I was injured this season, but I plan to be a major contribution to the team next season.
Is there a connection between being an athletic and an entrepreneur?
For me, definitely. In both sports and business, you must focus on goals and be determined to succeed. I also have the kind of temperament that thrives on keeping busy and scheduled, so playing soccer and taking classes and running my businesses is good for me. If not I’m busy, I’ll play videogames or watch TV.
What about Uncle Junior? Are you still in touch with him?
I’m much more than just “in touch with him.” He is my partner in both of my businesses. And just like when I was a boy in the hardware store, he’s still testing me, pushing me to be innovative. But now we are partners and we are focused on real tests – the products we market. Both of my companies are under the umbrella of his company, Better Business Solutions. As that name suggest, my uncle’s company is always looking to either improve other businesses or partner with them.
What do you plan to do after you graduate?
I plan to continue with my businesses, and hope one day I can live off the profits. They are just beginning to be profitable now. I’ll probably start another business or two before I graduate. I also want to start a nonprofit business to help mentor and tutor high school students in Newark. My idea is to bring professionals into the schools and have them tutor the students, and give them the connections and experiences they need. I was lucky when I was in school. I had my uncle as a mentor. But many of today’s inner-city students, sadly, are without mentors. I’d love to provide that for these students and watch them grow into self-assured entrepreneurs.
(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)