A typical day for University of Central Florida junior Ishmam Ahmed may start with studying aerospace engineering, and end with mixing coconut oil and beeswax to create a hair product.
The two may seem unrelated, but to Ahmed it’s all going toward his future.
At the start of 2016 Ahmed was balancing classes for his minors, business administration and entrepreneurship, and his aerospace engineering major. It was a combination of joking between friends and a business-minded move that drove Ahmed to do what he did next.
“My friends would always joke around saying I had good hair, and how I should have my own hair brand,” Ahmed said. “I started thinking about where I would get the money to start, and an hour later I check my bank statement and I got a random deposit from UCF.”
With a hefty deposit of nearly $1000 from UCF in hand, Ahmed’s hair product business was able to take off. Essence of Ish, Ahmed’s nod to his first name ‘Ishmam,’ has been entirely funded by Ahmed himself from jump-start to present day.
The company is a natural-ingredient line of hair products targeted toward young men and women of all hair types. The line consists of four different scented pomades, or waxes, conditioning oil and heat protectant sprays.
Ahmed did attempt to reach out to the Blackstone Launchpad, a entrepreneurship program that advises UCF students on business ideas, however after one visit with them Ahmed decided to create his company on his own. The advice he received was better fitted for a larger company at the time, Ahmed said.
Yaseem Virji, junior in the legal studies major, and Ahmed’s long-time friend, was cautious. “I was unsure of how he was going to develop his product and get it out on the market,” Virji said. “But I was surprised to see his business develop so quickly, and to me that was really exciting.”
Since the company’s development in late April, its Facebook page has over 600 likes, and it's made more than 40 sales.
Using a combination of beeswax, coconut oil, shea butter, castor oil and various scents; Essence of Ish products are made and labeled by Ahmed in his own home. Besides the occasional consult with his friends, Ahmed works largely on his own in developing, packaging and shipping his products.
Nothing but five star reviews can be seen on the company’s Facebook page, some from students who have received a free sample in passing. Edwin Goris, English and creative writing junior, was one of many happy customers.
“I've personally never found anything like it,” Goris said. “Most definitely, I plan on buying one of his larger sizes of the product as soon as possible.”
It’s more than just products Ahmed has to worry about. With an MBA on his goal list, school is something he and his parents want to keep in mind.
“My parents did not want to me get sidetracked with too many things,” Ahmed said. “I have a lot I need to get done for my MBA.”
Ahmed’s fear was not having enough business experience for career opportunities after he graduates.
“Well I want to work on the admin side of aerospace, so it’s important I know both business and engineering,” Ahmed said. “I want to have the experience by the time I’m done with school.”
Essence of Ish is in the starting months of development, however once sales are steady, Ahmed is considering a warehouse and a few more hands to help.
With the fall semester settling in, Ahmed hopes more sales from UCF students will come. His goals for Essence of Ish are to see steady growth by the time he graduates.
For now he’s focusing on completing orders, marketing his brand and studying for school.
First published Sept. 15