Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Michael Dell all have one thing in common besides being extremely wealthy — they were all student entrepreneurs.
Zuckerberg developed Facebook when he was at Harvard University while Gates worked on personal computer software.
Dell was just a freshman pre-medical student at University of Texas when he started an informal business, putting together and selling upgrade kits for personal computers.
The list of famous “dorm room entrepreneurs” also include Larry Page and Sergey Brin — the founders of Google and Frederick W. Smith — the founder of FedEx.
Being a student entrepreneur is not an easy task. Most of them drop out of college to pursue their dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
“It can be pretty rough,” says Asyraf Rahim, a 24-year-old student entrepreneur from Kuala Lumpur.
Asyraf runs a very successful T-shirt printing company from a makeshift bachelor pad in Pandan Indah while still attending classes at the International Islamic University Malaysia.
“It requires plenty of dedication and determination. I really don’t recommend it for anyone,” he said with a smile.
The communication-engineering undergraduate says it is not easy to manage his business and study at the same time.
“I have missed one or two classes before,” said Asyraf jokingly.
His business, Flixter Solution Enterprise is one of the most sought-after T-shirt printing companies in the Klang Valley and in 2014 alone, they printed approximately 12,000 T-shirts.
This is a far cry from when Asyraf first started four years ago.
“During our first year of operation, we only printed several hundred T-shirts. We have come a long way since then,” said Asyraf.
Asyraf comes from a family of entrepreneurs. His father is a successful contractor and he attributes his business acumen to his old man.
“It is in my blood,” he said. “I learnt a lot from my dad. He is someone that inspires me and most of my business knowledge is from him,” he said.
Asyraf was only seven when he got his first taste of running a business.
“In primary school, I used to make timetables in an excel sheet, print them at my father’s office and sell them for 50 cents to my class mates. At that time I realised that if you had a good product, it will sell,” said Asyraf.
“I sold stationery, customised timetable and pen drives in school,” he said.
Asyraf has always been involved in business one-way or the other but it wasn’t until he was 16, he found something that he really enjoyed doing.
While working on the school magazine, Asyraf visited the local printing shop regularly.
He was intrigued and immediately requested for an internship to study their operations.
“From there, I slowly started expanding my company and at 19, I officially registered my own company with the Companies Commission of Malaysia,” he pointed out.
“I invested some RM500 to kickstart my business. Everything else was done based on the profits,” Asyraf revealed.
“I was not just into T-shirts when I first started. I was doing planners, business cards, posters, flyers and everything that involves printing. But it was difficult to get customers. I wasn’t famous and people did not know my company,” said Asyraf.
“Over time I realised printing T-shirts were far more profitable than the others and I decided to focus all my energy here,” he said.
Flixter sets itself apart from its competitors by providing total solutions for its customers without a minimum order quantity.
By charging anything between RM20 and RM35 per piece, Flixter is able to attract the everyday man who wants to print T-shirts in small quantity.
Despite only having a manual system in place to print T-shirts, Flixter’s turnover last year was RM80,000 but this is set to change in 2015.
Later this month, Flixter Solutions will upgrade its production facility to a fully automated system, which will enable them to increase production.
“Currently I have five partners. All of us are college students and because of that, our schedule can be pretty hectic at times. I invested RM8,000 to bring in a fully automated system that can help us with the printing,” said Asyraf.
“With the new system, we can minimise human error and take on more jobs. We can do up to 20 jobs a night if we wanted to,” he said.
For Asyraf, Flixter Solution is a platform for him to continuously sharpen his entrepreneurial skills but it is not something he sees himself doing for the rest of his life.
“You can’t be rich printing T- shirts,” he quipped.
“I plan to build my company up to a level where it can run by itself under the watchful eyes of some very trusted people while I take a leap of faith in the corporate world. You need corporate experience as well to be successful,” he said.
Asyraf also believes in sharing his knowledge with others as part of the growing process.
“I am open to teaching others. I don’t see newbies as competition. I am at the stage where I can pass on my knowledge to those who want to know more about T-shirt printing,” said Asyraf.
Determination and discipline are Asyraf’s key to success and he believes anyone with the two attributes can be successful.