Of Campus Hacks and Chess Pieces: The Story of Rafi Chowdhury

Rafi Chowdhury is a 22 year old Non Residential Bangladeshi living in Memphis, Tenessee. He is a psychology grad, and an entrepreneur. This week Startup Dhaka catches up with one of the youngest entrepreneurs to be featured on our site while Rafi talks about his experience with his three young startups.

1) Tell us about your Businesses.

Here they are in the order that I started them:

– Chowdhury’s Chocolate Checkmates

Chocolate Checkmates are delicious chocolate chess pieces made from high quality milk and vanilla chocolate and packaged for sale in individual boxes. The mission of Chowdhury’s Chocolate Checkmates is to provide quality chocolate chess pieces to chess players and all other interested persons and to raise funds of the social networking website for the University of Memphis, myCampusHacks.com

 

– Chowdhury’s Chess Leadership Program

Chowdhury’s Chess Leadership Program is a 10-week chess leadership-based program currently available to students locally as an after-school program. Chowdhury’s Chess Leadership Program is to not only provide a comprehensive quality chess education to enthusiasts, but also incorporate an education in leadership, entrepreneurship, and psychology using the game of chess as the primary platform to teach these skills.

 

– myCampusHacks.com

myCampusHacks.com is social networking website for the University of Memphis which provides a platform for students to share helpful hints and tips.

The site aims to:

  • To provide a platform for students to share hints and tips with other students specific to the University of Memphis
  • To encourage students to share their experiences with their peers and increase student involvement
  • To educate students and make the new college student’s life easier and more efficient
  • To help students better navigate our campus
  • To build a campus social network which connects all University of Memphis students
  • To build a stronger, smaller, and more closely-knit campus community

 

The first 2 projects are under my company “Chowdhury’s”

myCampusHacks.com is still a very early stage project and does not yet have its own legal identity. It is soon headed that way, however.

 

2) What is your target market?

Chess Leadership Program and Chocolate Checkmates: Chess players, coaches, students, and enthusiasts

myCampusHacks: College students, faculty, and staff

 

3) How do you profit from those? What is your business model?

So far I have only monetized the Leadership Program and Chocolate Checkmates. Students pay a fixed cost to the company to take part in the 10-week chess Leadership course offered as an after-school program.

Chocolate Checkmates are currently being sold at local venues, to chess players, at chess clubs, and a couple of local restaurants carry the product.

The business model here is that the customers directly pay for the product or service they receive through the company.

myCampusHacks is expected to generate revenue in the future via ads and/or for various features on the site. We are currently looking for investors to help us take this project to the next level.

 

4) What are some milestones you intend to reach within a year?

With the chess business, I want to at least double my number of schools I currently work with. So, looking at about 20 schools next semester. Another goal I have is to have the business completely run by employees, and I take on the role of a director. This means recruiting at least 7 or 8 employees and training them to become instructors for each of the schools we work with.

For the chocolate business, the main goal is to try to get more stores to start carrying the product. Another goal is to try to get lot of the local chess clubs to start ordering these in large masses.

myCampusHacks is expected to have spread to at least one other school by this time next year. We plan to have a commercial web service product ready by then.

 

5) Tell us how you got started and why you chose this over a regular job?

I got started with all of this at the beginner of this summer, about 2 months ago. I just finished college and applied to an entrepreneurship MBA program. I was not able to get in simply because of my GRE score. I then started looking for a job. I was not able to find anything which suited my tastes. In the meantime, I was getting bored teaching chess for the organization which I had been working with for the past almost 8 years. On top of that, a friend gave me the initial idea for the chocolate chess pieces which we first sold by bunches at our chess camp. She wanted to discontinue furthering the idea of the chocolate chess pieces. So, she sold her shares of the business to me and left. I took this idea and wanted to start producing the pieces commercially to be carried in stores. That is the main reason I started my company. From that, I also added the idea of the chess leadership program, which became my second business. Alongside that, I partnered up with Nazir Saleheen, a comp science PhD student and developed the social networking website, myCampusHacks and launched it in BETA on our campus.

I choose this over a regular job because I have always enjoyed doing things on my own. I figured this is how I can really put my creativity and hard work to use and make possibly make a living doing it too. I also love the idea of helping people and solving key problems in society by creating something which can help lots of people at once. Those are just a few of my reasons for starting my own company. I am glad I did because I have already learned a ton of really important things from this short journey.

 

6) What are some challenges you faced, or are facing?

When I first began, I knew know anything about anything. I read two important books which sparked an interest in me to try to start my own business: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and You Call the Shots by Cameron Johnson. After reading these books and a few others and following some young entrepreneurs, I was fully convinced I needed to at least give this a try. I just did everything since then to try to overcome all my challenges which include:

  • Lack of parental support in my endeavors
  • Lack of certainty in the projects generating substantial revenue
  • Finding the right business partner (myCampusHacks)
  • Lack of money to fully utilize the potentials of each of the businesses
  • Support from specific organizations such as my University (myCampusHacks)
  • Dislike by my previous employer since I quit that job and started my own company (Chess Leadership Program)

There are many other challenges I have faced and will be facing in the near future. But the most important thing is to continue to try to make things happen. If I fail, I simply try something new. That is what keeps me going and gives me hope that one day, I will be able to create something very successful which may forever bring a big change to our world as we understand it.

To find out more about Rafi Chowdhury and his businesses, follow:

http://www.rafichowdhury.com/

http://mycampushacks.com/loginForm.do

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