Fahad Hassan was thrilled to make an appointment with his first business client to sign a $250,000 contract…then he realized it conflicted with his high school prom.
But that’s what happens when you’re 17 years old and learning the ups and downs of big business in your basement meanwhile living the life of a high school senior. A mix of ambition and good connections, lucky breaks and business smarts, and constant learning experiences have made Hassan, now 20, one of America’s future business leaders.
Hassan took a liking to business early on – the native of Montgomery County, Md. was introduced to the corporate world through Johns Hopkins University’s engineering preparatory program for high-schoolers called "HeadsUp." As one of the charter members, he found himself meeting CEOs of major corporations and even discussing the program on CNN.
Through a series of internships, Hassan perfected his craft of software programming, but it was the insight of companies and mentors along the way that sparked his interest in branching out on his own.
"During a high school internship, I watched a company turn an idea into making money," Hassan said. "It really got me going. Around my senior year, I just had to start my own thing."
He studied business models and designed a plan for his own computer consulting company. The company would service computers that were sold by a larger retailer. Recalling the advice of a mentor that told him to avoid running out of money by first finding a customer and then building the business, Hassan found himself landing a client…with a contract for $250,000.
"I was kind of shocked," he said. "I then realized I was 17, in a bedroom on my cell phone without a company, employees, or anything. But I had a client! I had to learn quickly. I’d spend all night researching companies and what they do."
Unable to legally establish his own corporation in Maryland, because of age restrictions, he created FCS, Inc. – Fhast Computer Solutions – out of Delaware.
In a few months, Hassan had an insured company with a client, recognized by the federal branch. He borrowed money from a relative for supplies, and based on the financial parameters of the contract, hired computer technicians…then it was time to tell his parents.
"They found out by accident," said Hassan. "…when I had Verizon and AT&T start installing multiple phone lines in my basement to start a call center, I had to tell them. I showed them a contract for $250,000 in revenue. It’s not like they could tell me ‘bad job.’ But yeah, they were kind of surprised!"
In August 2003, Fhast Computer Solutions was officially open for business and fully operating.
"Some days were great, we could even handle the amount of calls we got," remembered Hassan. "But I would lose money on days the company wouldn’t get or send us as many calls as we needed. I then realized I should have made clauses."
Strategically, Hassan picked up another source of income for the company – designing websites–to make ends meet. Even then, the company was continuing to lose margin. Employees left for more stable work, and the lack of a clause in the contract guaranteeing payment regardless of call volume eventually put FCS out of business.
Hassan had already recognized that personal sacrifice is the hardest lesson to learn in business. He had chosen to forego guaranteed admission to Johns Hopkins University along with a year of college and a football scholarship, but he has no regrets.
"There are just certain things you need to go through to get the experience," he said.
Hassan then enrolled at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., but the transition from full-time entrepreneur to full-time student was not a simple change: "It’s a big emotional-roller coaster. When you go through something like a business crash, you can’t be down – I just always thought about what I could have done differently…but I bounced back because of the people I surrounded myself with."
Hassan returned to college reenergized with a new perspective: "It was round two. I cleared my head, got my head on straight, came back to school and started doing research again. It’s a matter of establishing yourself, no matter what."
The college senior says he is only better for having his business experience.
"A story like mine is a real eye-opener," said Hassan. "It proves that it’s just important to teach people to keep going as it is to teach them how to do well."
Currently a finance major earning double minors in math and religion, Hassan now works for an aerospace company at Virginia Tech’s Corporate Research Center. He serves on the board of directors for HeadsUp and he has been offered a myriad of prestigious job offers based on his experiences and undeniable ambition.
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