Park Bench to President

Sitting on a bench...just sitting on a bench. That’s how it all started. Started what, you ask? The path that led me to where I am today.

In 1984 at Klein High School, I was an incoming freshman trying to find avenues to help me become a wealthy person. That was my ambition at 15. After school, a friend of mine named Jack DeLage, and I were talking. I asked him what is he doing, he responded that he was signing up for JA (Junior Achievement). What was that I asked...he said a business club…SAY no more!

It was so cool how we started our company and had corporate executives guide us. I still remember the folks from Mobil Oil and how they went out of their way to help us. I stayed involved in the organization in 9th, 11th and 12th grade.

In 12th grade, our school was selected to attend a local competition with SME of Houston. After winning that competition, I was selected to go to a national JA competition at Indiana University. At the competition, I won second place. I can still remember how excited Jerry Mutchler and the rest of the JA of Southwest group was for me. I still remember the Eaton Corporation executives congratulating me. The emotional support provided by my JA group provided me with a new level of confidence. The best part was the $1,000 scholarship. I mentioned the prize to my mom, and while she was happy, I was happier that she didn’t ask for the money!

Back in Houston, a competition judge by the name of Mike Holsey started to call me. I had blown him off my entire freshman year when I was (unsuccessfully) managing 3 dry cleaning stores for a family friend.  Mike persisted--he wanted me to sell books door-to-door for Southwestern Publishing. 

I cried all the way to Nashville to receive a week of sales training! After that week, I spent the summer in my territory, Youngstown, Ohio, where I worked 80 hours per week knocking on doors. After many weeks of heartache and hard work I decided to go off schedule and go to the local mosque on Friday. Being away from family and home makes you think of God and going to a familiar place. There I met a college student named Nasif Sharique.

Fast forward five years… Nasif called me and said “I have the perfect woman for you!” He must know me pretty well, because his introduction has lasted 21 years (and counting). We have a running joke that I helped him get a job at Coopers & Lybrand, and he got me a wife. While he left that job, I am still with Tabassum.

During that time, I had begun a new job at Tom James, a custom clothing company, and after 3 years decided I wanted to run my own office. I was offered the opportunity to do this in San Diego at the same time that I was introduced to Tabassum, who was in Toronto…bummer. Thankfully, Tabassum said that if she were to live in the U.S., it would be San Diego, so at least I had that going for me!

Tabassum and I got engaged in March 1998, and I started to think about our social life as a young couple. During my time selling suits to executives, I was fortunate to be referred to Sayed Ali. After many months of trying to get him on the phone, we set up a meeting in person. Sayed was gracious enough to buy a sport coat from me, and he introduced me to a local mosque. I was happy; this is where I could start meeting some people, so when Tabassum came to town, we had a place to go. Here we met Mahmoud Mostafa.

Mahmoud and I worked closely together on building a new center for many years. In 2002, I asked him to look at a business I wanted to buy; it was a small medical supply store. In turn, Mahmoud asked me to look at a business that he and his brother wanted to buy. It was a couple of retail stores selling furniture. They said you can help us with sales and we will run the operations. In August 2003, I became a business owner.

We did not like the retail business, a business where you are stuck waiting on people to come in. Remember, I was trained to go out and get it. The silver lining was a trip to Asia to meet the factories. During this trip, I found out there were supplier hotels in Europe. Voilà, I could start calling on hotels!

We failed miserably on the retail side and shut down the stores while the hospitality was taking hold. Fifteen years later, the three of us are still in the same business of custom furniture manufacturing for hotels under the banner of Biscayne Hospitality.

Back to the bench.... where am I today? Looking back all these years, it was one ordinary day after school that started an extraordinary journey for me. For me, Junior Achievement was a life changing event. It gave me the skills and confidence to believe in myself. Junior Achievement started my path to sales training, to my wife, to my business and career as the President of Biscayne Hospitality. There is no better gift than helping people realize their potential and giving them the tools to excel. That is Junior Achievement, and 32 years after that bench, I am proud to still be involved in helping other students realize their potential through JA of San Diego.

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