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How To Build a Community Business When You Are a High School Student? The story of Tariq Ansari.

by National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship
August 17th 2021

NACCE believes that dreamers and innovators shape the future of work. Hear host Jeff Smith speak to student entrepreneur

So we are excited to get to talk to him as a former graduate of Triangle Math Science Academy, he just graduated and so he started his business as a student. And so we're excited to have him here as a student entrepreneur um hoping to hear his story and hope it's inspirational to everyone out there. So again, welcome sir, thank you. Thank you. I'm really, really happy you guys had me on this podcast this experience. Sure, thank you man. So we believe that a new generation of innovators, entrepreneurs dreamers and makers are emerging to shape the future of work and I count you among them. So as I said, I'm super excited to talk to you today about your entrepreneurial journey. So first off I want to ask you what has been some of your childhood experiences that has helped you embrace the entrepreneurial mindset.

Um so I think, I think first of all the entrepreneurship I get from my mom completely, um I think she's much more uh kind of that has that entrepreneurship type spirit, thinking that kind of translating to me, I guess from a young age, I was always trying to get little ways to make a little bit of sad money, you know, and even in early high school selling baked goods, which I'm sure the admin wasn't too happy about, but you know, I made my, I mean my 40 bucks a week, which was great, you know, selling cinnamon roll, so you know, it was always small little stuff like that where I try to, you know, make a few extra bucks without really having to go work at a fast food place or uh you know, something like that, where I felt like I didn't really enjoy it, I always really liked the freedom of having to do my own thing and you know, a big, big thing for me was always um and even to this day, you know when I work is when I do something I really want to enjoy it because to me that's when I get the best result, so when I'm able to do something that I really enjoy, you know, I feel like I'm able to do a much much better job, wow, thank you for that. So tell me a little bit more about what attracted you to entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship were specifically like the landscaping side itself.

Both all right. Um so in terms of entrepreneurship, I mean it kind of just happened to be fully honest, I've never had, if I'm honest, I've never really had a real job peacekeeping was the first thing that I that I did, and as I said previously it was always small, those things on the side that I was trying to get, you know, just to make a few extra bucks, but then after after covid kind of happened, you know, of course places weren't hiring school was, you could say out since we were just doing online classes on zoom for a few hours a day. So it kind of made you, it kind of made me uh I think a little bit, you know, what am I gonna do here? You know, I can either sit here the whole summer and not do much or I can find something and hopefully make something out of it. So uh landscaping was was something that I've I wouldn't say had a lot of experiencing. Um but you know, of course I was modeling outside, I was helping my dad with small things here and there and that kind of translated into into something I want to do, okay, um so here and they see when we think about entrepreneurship, we think about in terms of business creation, but also we think about in terms of people who have an opportunity to find um uh problems and provide solutions and that that can be um really used as a way to provide solutions not only in business creation but in your own life, so I would love to ask you how have you apply the entrepreneurial mindset to your own life, We know that during covid a lot of people dealt with um you know, a lot of illness and uh you know, emotional and mental turmoil and so how have you um apply the entrepreneurial mindset in your own life as it relates to walking through some of the things that, you know, many of us experienced?

Yeah, so uh Kobe for me, I think was a much, much different experience than a lot of people had, right, um I think one of the biggest things for me that made it much better was was able to start my own business and so in terms of navigating covid it, I wouldn't say it was really an obstacle, is more of a path for me to to really grow um and then when we kind of talked about the problem solving and, you know, entrepreneurship side of things um in terms of problem solving, you know, every single day with the businesses, just solving new problems, things that will come up even with the project about there, you know, we'll run into things literally every other hour and it's just it's a constant, you know, you've got to find, find a solution to that problem and keep going and it just repeats over and over and over and that that really translates, I'd say into life and in the school and different things where it kind of gives you a determination of, not only it gives you a determination but it also gives you kind of um that mindset of, you know, we have a problem and I'm not going to give up and rather going to try to find a solution to it and then move forward. Okay, so speaking of problems and solutions, I know it can be hard to work with people sometimes, so you are actually a co owner so and um your um I think your buddy, his name is Louise.

Okay, so tell me a little bit about how you all have been able to work together to start your business. What's that been like? Yeah, so we started last year, this is actually probably the one year anniversary business actually, I think we started last year we formed the LLC in june of last year, it must have been around these two weeks actually. So my side is much better at the labor, you know, I've done a lot of research and I know the technical um kind of way to handle these bigger projects, but I'm not good at computers and technology, none of that, that's just not my aspect of things luis that's kind of what he brings to the table. He's he's much better at that, you know, you can mention use our website to take care of that whole process, he's put all the pictures up on there and you know, create that Ceo and all that and as I said, that's just not my area at all. Um, so when you, when you bring those to kind of aspects together the labor and the kind of the back end type of things, it works really, really well together, very nice. So one of the things that we oftentimes focus on is uh related to the entrepreneurial mindset is growth mindset.

So people who, you know, believe that they can um try and try and try again and so in what ways have you kind of develop that growth mindset and how's that reflected maybe in the various projects and hobbies that you find yourself doing? Yeah, so I think right now we're still really small, right, we'll do maybe 1-2 crews that are running a week. Um, and I think, you know, that's great, obviously it's great. I get to, you know, I got to make some money, I get to go to the company a little bit, but obviously looking in the future, that's not the way the company can keep going right with just one or two crews working. So it really makes you think of how can I grow this you know so when we when we sit down with, when we look at next year we kind of start to think of how can we start to get other crews and other project managers to start taking responsibility themselves and then um kind of working now I would say working by themselves would operate their own crews that we start collecting profit through that. Um so the growth mindset, it kinda I want to say it's forced but you either you kind of by the run with it or you just you know you just let it go right and as I said if you just have one crew you're just doing all the work yourself.

That's great. But you can only do that for 1-2 to 3 years until you'll just get burned out at a certain point. Uh huh. Especially with something with landscaping, you know when you're working on the 95 degree heat, you can only make so much money yourself and and really when you think about it, the way to really make a lot of money to grow is just to get other people and give them more responsibility and then kind of start branching off like that. Okay thank you for that. What's um what's one of the crazy experiences that you've had thus far work in your landscaping business that is appropriate to share here. Um My my business partner ran a bobcat into the truck the other day, so that was what we've seen. A few snakes. Uh we've had mulch flying out of our beds going on the highway. Oh yeah, there's a few, there's a few things here and there. Okay, so I have a lot going on. Let me ask you this, what um personality traits would you say have helped you most and being a successful entrepreneur?

Um I think I say this previously when we first started, is that what I'm passionate about? Something? I tend to work a lot better. Uh you know when I do that, when I do think that I'm passionate about. So I think I think Just having passion for it is the biggest one Because you know when you get out of bed at 5:30 AM, if you really don't want to do it, it's not gonna work out too well, right? And uh if you have that passion um you're really able to get out of bed and get going and then you know, continue that process and really be able to have a good mindset when when you're doing things where you're doing things out of the day. I think that's one and then the other thing I think is um just leadership, especially when you're When you when you're leading crews of 4-5 people, then you start having other crews working at the same time, you really have to find them the quality of leadership in yourself and figure out how to balance the dynamic of different people because you know, you hear everybody say one of the hardest things is dealing with different people and different personality traits. Um So so as a leader you have to figure out what's the best way to do things and what's the best way to handle people? Mhm. That's a good point. What would you say prepared you for that to lead in that way?

Uh huh. I'm not sure if there's anything that can quite prepare you for it apart from just say just patients and trying to try your best understand. Um because you know there will always be problems no matter how much you try to streamline things much, no matter how much you try to get things right and plan, there will always be things that pop up, you know, I'll go to Lowe's three times in a single day, even when I planned out the entire day, you know there's there's always things you have to be patient and understand that you know, things happen sometimes. Um and then two is kind of understanding people's mindsets, right? So we have we have certain people where we'll see that they have leadership qualities and it doesn't make sense to have and keep working at you know at at a lower level, we understand that, you know, this person, they have the ability and skill and mindset to be um you know to be brought up to a leadership position, so there's no reason to keep them there and it's, you can tell, you know, they'll they'll put in more work will be more motivated, they'll talk about how they want to do their own projects and stuff like that. You kind of have to understand that this is somebody who can be really valuable to the company and there's no reason that just keep, you know, just keeping them there and then uh one more thing about kind of understanding thing, kind of understand things, it's just respecting people, I think that's a big thing and especially me being 18, You know, I don't automatically game, I don't automatically receive respect.

Like that respect is something that's earned, especially as I said because I'm 18. Um So with employees you have to make sure I feel as though you have to make sure that, you know they're happy first of all because for me, if I'm happy when I do when I do a good job, I'm usually happy, I think that's the same flight of employees in mind. Um So I think as long as you, big thing is if you respect them and treat them well, we'll do a much better, much better job for you, wow, that's great advice. So one of the things I heard you say is that passion is a motivator for you, what can you talk a little bit more about um some of your passions other than for your korean business and how they might be directed towards entrepreneurial pursuits in the future. Yeah, I think apart from that, one of my biggest passions is just the possibility of financial freedom, which was something you hear people talk a lot about um it's just the possibility of being able to sit back one day and kind of all the people run the show while you just sit back on your island and you know Aruba and chill out, that's a dream for all of us, but on, I think I think just just just a drive and willingness to want to have that type of freedom is really something that they're kind of motivates me to do this type of thing.

Yeah, so let me, I'm gonna ask you, I'm dig a little bit deeper, so you have all the money that you need and you have had all the um time that you need to uh so relax, um so I want to know what do you do then? You know, I think, I think you end up finding a new passion and pour yourself into it again, I think it's funny how that works because a lot I was actually talking about this this morning when I was having breakfast was, you know, a lot of times you think, you know, I wish I could just make all the money in the world and go and shot on chill out on the island but when you see these people who make all the money in the world, they usually find some new passion and put themselves and put themselves into it again. So it's not just you know you're finishing your relax, I think you always find something new, especially if you have that spirit, you always find something new that you really like and then you kind of go all the way back into it again. So I love that I uh I'm so interested in your the you're thinking uh in terms of leadership development because you talked about how being able to recognize people's talents and they're promoting them.

So what would you say to another student entrepreneur that's trying to pursue something similar, what would you, how would you encourage them, what would you say, what kind of lessons or advice might you give them? Um I mean, so in terms of leadership, what I, what I can say is based off my limited experience, what I look for at least is that I think the best of people who have kind of a very technical mindset and then and then you kind of try to get them because usually technical people who are very technical are not, you know board leaders I say um at least what I've noticed, so I think trying to get them to take on more leadership positions is really where you want to be and I think they will I think they started take to it a little bit naturally but there's you gotta give him a little bit of a push but you know they'll get there um it's hard to say what exactly makes. I think just the biggest one is being able to solve problems because you know that's that's a big thing, what that's a big part of what managers do right? They just try to solve problems and solve conflicts and stuff like that. So you know when I'm when I'm working on the field with a few people and I see these guys who run the problems and just solving by solving by themselves and that was like all right, all right into this, picked up, solved it on to the next thing to me that's a really big sign of um of leadership because if you can do that on your own you can probably do that with a big group of people.

Yeah, so it's just it's just responsibility. You always have the guys who will do I want to say that their minimum but you know they do their job and they'll get they'll get by they'll do a good job but you have those you know there's a few guys who will you know come up to give you their own kind of solution to the problem and you're like and you have to also be willing to listen, you know, as a boss, you got to be really, really willing to listen to these guys because they can be the ones who can really propel your business to the next level. So you know, look like I got a solution to this problem and it could be a super, could be a super awesome solution you guys well this is way better than even when I was thinking. So I think just having that problem solving mindset and as well as kind of passion and willing to work, just that responsibility were really, can I take you to that next level? Yeah man, I really love how you value people and uh you know how you like how you make reference to people having gifts and talents and being able to cultivate that. I mean honestly I think you know just singing to my own experience, it's like that's the type of boss that you want to, you know someone who can identify and recognize your talents and and then help cultivate that.

So I appreciate you sharing that. Um, so what has been your biggest failure as an entrepreneur and what did you learn from it? Uh let me, I got to think about that first. Okay, um I think not, not giving, not giving 100 um, because that, you know, when, when it comes to landscaping, you know, people are giving you money to do things that they want to have done on something that doesn't really matter that much, if we're being fully honest right? Things like grass mulch retaining walls, patios, that stuff, it isn't a necessity, it's something that, that they just want, you know from there appeared desire. So if you walk in there with that, I'll get it done. It'll look okay that that type of mindset just, it's just, it's not going to lead anywhere right there with, I want to go above and beyond because not only is that what the customer expects, but that's what will allow you to get those, get those referrals. Um and that takes me to another point is one of the biggest things in landscaping is just word of mouth and probably in business as well as just word of mouth.

You know, if if one person tells another person, that person tells three people, it just keeps on going um that can work for your benefit when we can work for your, for your downfall. So if, if you walk in with that, you know, kind of 50% mindset of, I'm just going to try to, to get past, you gotta remember that the customer doesn't really need it, they want it and if they see that you're not doing, if they see that you're doing, you know, kind of a half, but job, they're just not gonna appreciate that at all. So that, that was kind of, I think that was one of my biggest learning learning moments is um There you know what, when it's 95° in the middle of summer, there are times when your, when your mental strength gets tested right? You kind of want to go home what you got to realize that it doesn't work like that because if you do it, if you do a 50% job, we're just a bare minimum. Um it that word of mouth will just carry over and kind of ruin your, you know your company. What about I'm gonna flip that and say what has been your biggest success as an entrepreneur thus far? Um I'd say I'd say so this year, last year when we first started it was a little bit harder to land jobs and you know just because we start to get our name out there and this year we really started picking up a lot of jobs and we actually finished this retaining wall job, it was 213 while job we finished, it took us two weeks um and on that project on that project, I worked with two guys and as I worked with them, I started to see them, you know kind of pick up the skills and kind of pick up that leadership I was talking about and to me that was one of the biggest successes that I was able to get them to take on their own responsibility, you know because as I said you can only do so much work yourself when you have other people that are able to take on that responsibility and leadership to me, that's a huge achievement.

So I'd say that's my biggest, biggest successes that I was able to teach people new things that they can do on on their own and you know, kind of ingrained that level of potential detail and responsibility into them. Yeah. You know, in our culture, oftentimes um entrepreneurs are celebrated not just for the um they're kind of entrepreneurial skills and ability, but they also provide like thought leadership. So I would love to hear just some of your ideas about, you know, um just things that you are um passionate about problems that you see um things that are going on in our community um that you wanna, that you want to impact um just any areas of thought leadership that you might be able to share as we're entering into the, the mind of an entrepreneur. Yes, I think I think one of the things I'm most passionate about is getting people kind of into the, into the workforce um you know, when I see people who are, you know, asking for money or homeless to me, you know, giving money is great and I was trying to get, you know, either food or money or gift card, but when I, when I get home, I'm like, you know that didn't really make a difference, right?

What they need is someone who will bring them from here, get him a job, get an apartment, a car and elevate them into um into the community, into an international workforce. Um so something I'm looking to next year is actually we're starting, we're starting to what we're trying to get more long cruise going and I'd really, really like to take underprivileged people and get them, get them into the, into the crew or uh something my mom was actually mentioning was refugees. There's a lot of refugees that have come from Syria and some of these other Syria Palestine, some of these other countries where you know things haven't been super good with the government. So I'd really like to bring some of those people um kind of into the team and let them take on that responsibility and let them let them grow as well. I love that man speaking of that, who are your influencers, like who do you look to for inspiration and who do you read and who, who do you watch or some of those people that impact you in that way. I think it's very over the years. I think when I first started working, there was a guy, his name is stuff on taylor, he runs his own landscaping, landscaping service called it.

TLS taylor expertise or t e t s taylor expertise, service and he is, he was one of a kind of taught me, you know the basics and his attention detail was phenomenal. I mean he would he would not leave a job site without cleaning everything on, make sure make sure everything was tidy. And I'd say that's one of my, one of my weak points because I'm like I'll be here back the next day. It doesn't matter, I just kind of leave it a little bit of a mess. Um but he was really, he was kind of one of the first people I kind of looked up to and said, wow, I want to be like this, I don't have that type of type of attention to detail. But now that I, I feel like I've kind of achieved that and I've kind of started building company a little bit up. Um there's a guy named Corey Ballard and he runs perfect cut lawn care. It's a uh it's like your company and I think michigan are somewhere around there. And So he started perfect. And I think when he was like 25 and up till this point, I think he has 200 long cruise. Um and you know, I remember watching Youtube video of his facility and he had this huge, It must have been like a 10,000 square foot facility and he had like 20 trucks in there with all the same logos and everything and he was like, you know every morning the guys come in, they take their trucks and they go out and he was like, I don't deal with anything.

I was like, you know, that's kind of, that's kind of where you want to be at, right, is where you guys come in, they go deal throwing things that come back and you're like, wow, good day guys. Um and uh, you know it, I think often what happens is we see that end product, but we don't see what happens, you know, in the middle and on the way to building that. Um And another one of his videos, I think he mentioned um the emotional mental stress he took on trying to get up to that and he was like, it's done things to my, to my physical and mental being that I came here first, you know, whenever you watch any of these videos, I was like, I'm hyped up on four read books right now. So I'm sure, I'm sure there was there was a strenuous path along the way. Um and then after he created that successful long business that has, I think 200 cruise that go out, he created another business that's called Ballard Products and they sell kind of accessories for lawnmowers and ice cream and stuff like that. So, he's kinda one of those examples of what I was mentioning before. It's kind of a continuous cycle. You succeed, you kind of laid back for about three minutes and then you're like, all right, let's go back into it. I found something something new that I really like and he kind of just jump right back into there and started that, you know that second company.

Yeah. Do you see your current business spending off into anything new and exciting? Maybe maybe a few hours on the line. We just got to get going with the, with a few, with a few cruise first because as I said, you know, at this point it's still me and my crew doing all the work. So I mean hopefully. Yeah, but I think I'd be content with, you know, once we get a few, a few dozen line crews going, I think that'd be pretty cool for me. We um one of the things we do here in AZ is trying to promote and support student entrepreneurs. So I'll just ask you from your point of view, um just graduating and then about to enter into college, what are some of the things that you think would be helpful um would have been helpful or could be helpful to you um as a student entrepreneur um that someone like our organization could provide for you. Um Yeah, well, I think our biggest challenge in the beginning was marketing. Um I'm not sure if that's something you guys will be able to help people out with, but I think just getting our name out and uh building our brand was a huge thing because you know, now we kind of have a little bit of brand recognition within the apex area, so I think that's, I think that's more something that you know, you gotta do yourself and I don't know if you can get any help from anybody, but I think just marketing and kind of building the website is something that just people in general don't really know how to do um you know, I was lucky enough to have a business partner who knows how to do all that type of stuff, but if I didn't, I think that really be something that I would be looking forward or that I'd be looking for is you know, somebody who could, or a team of people who could help me out with, you know, business marketing, all that kind of back and stuff go and finally I want to ask you what would just someone who is out there and they might be, you know, thinking about trying to pursue something entrepreneurially, but they are hesitant, um what would you tell them, what, what kind of advice would you give them or direction, I'd say make sure you're stable first and then pursue your passion.

I think a lot of, A lot of times what you see on social media is forget everything, pour yourself 100 100% into your passion, eat crap for three years, you just barely survive and you know, maybe some people want to do that, but I'm much more, you know, have your stable, have your stable job, have your stable income and then if you want to start your side hustle Start that you get more passionate and start to succeed than kind of transition more into that rather than just ditching college, and saying all right, I'm just gonna do this 100% because um Because if you just, if you just did your job, there's, there's no income anymore. And if you just ditch everything and say I'm gonna go with 100% I believe in it. That's great. You know, you have to believe in it, but at the same time you also, you also got to make sure that you have stable income and make sure that you're stable first of all. Yeah. So what are um tell us a little bit about your future goals in terms of, I know you're getting ready to start taking courses and such. I know you've already taken some college courses, right? Cause you did, I guess you did dual enrollment.

Yeah. Okay. So what does that look like for you? Uh So I want to major in finance and then maybe get my NBA after that, which is, which is weird if if this happens to take off, but there's kind of two plans at this point. One is this day is fairly small, maybe two or three crews that I just managed here here and there, number one would be, you know, a few small cruise along with my corporate job, which I hope to get, which would be in finance and then you don't get my NBA down the line and continue up that ladder. Number two would be, this takes, you know, I got my degree in finance and then this takes off, you know, coming through college and I just decided to do this full time. Um Either one of sounds, I think I'd rather do the second one just because that sounds a little more exciting to me, but you know, either one I'd be I'd be super grateful, I'm grateful for. Yeah, no, I hear you and there's a lot of room for entrepreneurship in the financial industry as well. Yeah, so um finally we usually ask people to kind of share with us a quote um or some type of kind of ending insight or something um as we close out, so I'll ask you to do the same, is there a quote or some something uh that you would like to share with us?

As we end the podcast? I'd say just be passionate about what you're doing because I don't get you the best results. You know, if you're if you're doing something that you hate, you probably won't be doing at least for me, I probably wouldn't be doing too good of a job at it, but if you if you're doing something you love um you'll get much more uh you know, bang for your buck or you'll get much more out of your time. Well thank you so much for that like you, um I appreciate your energy and your passion, um very encouraged by just your thought process and uh how you, how you talk about leadership and how you kind of lean into these things that you're talking about. So I think a lot of people, particularly student entrepreneurs, will be super inspired by hearing you and it's our desire to be able to help support, to promote them and to promote um falconry and staff who are also helping to support um student entrepreneurs who are creating businesses, but um also beyond that, just solving problems in our world, because there are a lot of problems to be solved as you know, so again, thank you so much for being part of making our way.

Yes sir, thank you for having me, Thank you so much for joining us. We hope they're listening to this podcast will help you to explore the many ways we might define entrepreneurship, join us every other Wednesday for more episodes as we celebrate opportunity to learn from one another and grow together. Subscribe to this podcast, connect with us on social media and learn more about today's speakers at Macy dot com forward slash podcast. We look forward to making our way forward together with you, have you heard about our latest book impact ed how community college entrepreneurship creates equity and prosperity. This is our roadmap for building back better in 50 states and globally. In each chapter, we share the inspiring stories of everyday entrepreneurs and explain how community colleges play a crucial role in their success. Visit us at Macy dot com slash impact add to order your copy now and join us in this work.

How To Build a Community Business When You Are a High School Student? The story of Tariq Ansari.
How To Build a Community Business When You Are a High School Student? The story of Tariq Ansari.
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