Just Do It! Young Entrepreneur Creates His Own Paycheck
Eskat Asfaw isn’t new to Inspirest. We actually summarized a recent interview he did with another blog several weeks ago. But we wanted to be selfish and speak to him ourselves.
Mr. Asfaw knew that after graduation it was going to be tough to find a job in this terrible econocmy. So instead of taking a risk of being unemployed, he created his own
See the scarifies he has made to be the owner of a successful transportation company called College Shuttles.
Can you tell me a bit about College Shuttles and how you began it?
College Shuttles began in 2007. I was in the Entrepreneurship Club at Frostburg University and at one meeting; we were sitting around discussing issues that affect college students. One of the issues that came up was lack of transportation. I just kept thinking about it. I had a white board in my room where I wrote down everything that students needed: food, entertainment, and transportation. Then I tried to find ways to meet those needs. For some reason, the idea of transportation really stuck with me. So, I decided to move on
that one. I just decided to do it. I just made a flyer with my cell phone number, and people started calling that very first week. I originally used my own car. Starting in 2009, we began acquiring vans and shuttles, and now operate at 7 colleges in two states. We even hire student interns. The weekend service is our main service, but we also offer group shuttles and even have a service called Nightlife, which takes students to Nightclubs and nighttime events. We also offer college tours and we offer students transportation to a lot of events.
What kind of background do you have?
Did you major in business, or were you involved in any other start-ups prior to this?
Yes, as a matter of fact, I have a background in both! I did major in business. I always knew business was what I wanted to do. Fresh out of high school, some friends and
I started an entertainment business. We rented nightclubs and promoted the events. I really do enjoy marketing. Just being able to market something and watch people enjoy it. I find that to be a lot of fun.
You have mentioned that you started your own business fresh out of high school and that you were in the Entrepreneurship Club in college, so have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Yes. I knew it. When I went to college and was in my junior year, I really made the decision. Actually, looking back, I began my first business in middle school, mowing lawns.
So, you have always run your own business?
How do you generate new ideas?
We talk with parents, students and school administrators to understand the transportation needs of students. Sometimes, they will call and ask if we offer a particular service.
Then, it’s “okay, so that’s what they need.” More and more questions come. You start to understand this is what people need. We brainstorm some, but we figure, if one or two people are asking about something, there are probably more people who need those services.
What motivates you to keep going when times are difficult?
Towards my senior year, I decided where I want to be. I know what I want to do and who I want to be, so I just keep pushing towards my goals. I look up to some entrepreneurs and see what they have done and I know it’s possible, and I can get there.
You say you know what you want to be. So, where do you see yourself in 10 or 20 years?
My main goal is to be a serial entrepreneur. I want to open multiple businesses. I also want to be a public speaker, a motivational speaker. I want to write books, not only about business, but also to motivate high school students. I want them to know high school and after high school are totally different. I want to help prepare them. In 10 or 20 years, I want to own a lot of businesses.
Where do you see College Shuttles in 10 years? Do you plan to still own and grow it across the nation, or are you looking to grow it and sell it to open another business?
I believe College Shuttles will definitely be nationwide doing the transportation for high schools students, as well as the college students. Our Nightlife service would be in cities across the country and helping people enjoy a night out safely. We will also hire students throughout the country. We will continue to grow College Shuttle until it makes college accessible to all students in America.
One of the motivations you mentioned was people you admire. Are there anyspecific individuals or companies that you admire?
I really admire Nick Friedman from College Hunks Hauling Junk. I met him while I was still in college. He was at an elevator pitch competition as one of the judges. I talked to him for a bit, and when I got home, I Googled him. I realize, hey, this guy is doing miracles! He’s only a few years older than I am. I sent him an email and he responded. We went to coffee and I couldn’t believe I was sitting at Starbucks with this guy. I read his book and followed what he was doing. He still gives me advice when I need it.
So, would you say he is your mentor?
So would you advice other young entrepreneurs to find a mentor or someone they look up to, to
help them out?
Definitely. You need to say, this is the person I want to be like. This is where I want to go. It’s so much easier to say here is where they have been, look what they have done.
What are the top three skills that an entrepreneur needs to succeed?
First, communication; you need to talk to people. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. You need to hear what they say. I don’t mean you need acceptance, but you need to be able to talk to people to understand what’s going on. You need to share with people to be sure of what you want to do. Don’t be ashamed of it. Another would definitely be to read and be
knowledgeable. You need to learn. You need to do research. You need to know what you want. Another skill is to really learn how to market and be creative. That’s huge. You need to be open to new ideas in marketing. Every business needs marketing.
A minute ago we spoke a bit about success. How would you define success?
Once you know who you are and where you are going. When you are reaching towards your goal, you are successful. It’s not about the money you are making. It’s about making a
difference, and being happy with what you are doing. In business, when we put out ads, and we have hundreds of kids using our services, we are definitely becoming a success.
Is there a specific formula someone needs to use to obtain success?
You should never give up. I don’t think there is one formula for everyone. Each person needs to figure out how to do what they want to do. They have to work hard. And when I say
work hard, I mean put in hours every day and work smart. When you understand who you are, and you decide failure is not an option for you, you will figure out your own formula for success.
I know you started this while you were in college, so how did you get the funding to start?
We were doing some events on campus, so we got some money from there. We also had student loans, so when we got our refund checks, we threw a little towards
marketing and other things. So after graduating, we were making more, so then we got our first van. In college, I wasn’t putting in 100%, just part-time, so we didn’t do it up too much. But later, when we went full-time, we were making more money, so we were fine.
What made you decide to go full-time with it and make it your career?
At the time I graduated from college, the economy was getting worse, and people were getting laid off. I realized I wasn’t going to get a job; there weren’t any jobs.
Although being an entrepreneur was my plan, I knew that the traditional way was to go to work for a few years and get experience, but I realized that was a risk itself. When I
graduated, I decided there are no jobs, so I am just going to stick with it and not let anyone come between it. So I decided that those little sacrifices were worth it.
What kind of sacrifices did you make to succeed?
I didn’t go out very much. I put a lot of time and money into it. Most of the sacrifices were hours. Sometimes I worked 16 hours a day. When you get a job, you
get a paycheck. When you are doing it on your own, there is no guarantee of making money. So that’s a big sacrifice.
You have only been working about 2 years full-time at College Shuttles, and have already gotten into 7 colleges in 2 states. That sounds like exponential growth. How did you manage to grow that fast in such a short time?
We just went and promoted it. We would go to different colleges and market it. If the students react, we will pursue it. When we started at Frostburg, the surrounding colleges called us. Their students were using us, so they decided to use it. It is in our growth plan. We decided to just go for it and see how they react. We keep growing and changing our plans to meet the students’ needs. Most of our customers would say that we do all we can to meet all their needs and just provide a great service and that’s all people want.
So would you advise others to write a long term growth plan?
Yes. But you don’t necessarily need a long business plan. Sometimes a short one page paper will work. We just answered certain questions: Where are we going to move? What is our growth plan? What type of schools do we want to work with? What kinds of services are we going to promote first? So if we hear of a new school we should approach, we are prepared to go for it. We just change our plans as we need to.
If you had unlimited funding tomorrow, what would you do differently?
I would definitely buy more shuttles. I would start going nationwide. I would hire more students. I would definitely do more marketing.
Is there any one piece of advice you would give to anyone thinking of opening their own business?
I would tell them don’t be scared and just do it. Start today. People won’t know about it if you don’t just go for it.
Connect with College Shuttles
- Website – http://www.collegeshuttles.com
- E-Mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Twitter – http://twitter.com/collegeshuttles
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