Life After Uplift provides an in-depth look at what Uplift Education alumni experience after graduating and going off into the real world.
In this edition of Life After Uplift, we learn about Fahim Ahamed, founder of Hold My Chai, a chai business set for its grand opening in Frisco this summer.
“When I was at North Hills, I was nowhere near as confident as I am now, especially when it comes to business,” Fahim said. “I was a very quiet, very intimate person. I didn’t open my mouth or talk unless someone spoke to me.”
It wasn’t until Fahim started working in retail that he began developing a voice and becoming more comfortable talking to people.
As a first-generation Bengali American, Fahim built his network by working internships and full-time jobs while he attended college at UNT. Fahim realized he wanted to work towards something that he could call his own.
“Hold my Chai was a concept I came up with six years ago while a student at Uplift North Hills, and I have talked to my friends about the concept for years,” Fahim said. One of my best friends, Sanjida Rahman, recently asked me why I was waiting so long to execute my business plan and encouraged me to pursue my dream.”
Besides being a motivating friend, Sanjida had previously worked with Fahim to co-found One Qalb, a clothing company committed to serving communities who are constantly misrepresented. Through this unique previous business venture, Fahim was essentially able to partner with himself to sell Hold My Chai merchandise such as T-shirts, hoodies, mugs and stickers through oneqalb.com.
“With One Qalb, Sanjida and I strive to make these misrepresented voices heard by ultimately creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome,” Fahim said, “As Muslim innovators our goal is to inspire the youth who are our future. We are more than just a label. We are a community.”
Fahim’s original plan was to launch Hold My Chai as a passive hobby once he was around 30, settled down, married, had kids, etc. However, with interest rates at an all-time low, Fahim figured, why wait?
His business model for Hold My Chai resembles that of Starbucks.
“Starbucks is killing the game with their coffee,” Fahim said. “They provide a quality cup of coffee while building a community at the same time.”
Fahim plans on doing the same thing with traditional Chai.
“Starbucks sells Chai tea or Chai latte, and I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but unfortunately, it’s not traditional Chai,” Fahim said. “You might find Chai at Indian cafes, but it comes in a Styrofoam cup. Now, if we’re talking about authentic Chai, like my mother or the aunties and uncles make, it’s more authentic, so it provides the opportunity to flip the narrative. Watching my mom make Chai growing up, many cultural aspects come with it. It’s like a family connection extension, my roots. If I can create a melting pot within the Frisco community, that would make me so happy.”
Like most startup businesses, Fahim needed help securing funding, so he started with a GoFundMe that he would share with his friends and family.
“It evolved once I reached out to one of my former coworkers who had gone on to join the Frisco Citizen’s Bond Committee. I reached out to him, and I said, hey, I have this GoFundMe. Would you mind just sharing it with everyone?
Instead of sharing it, he offered to help Fahim build his vision. Fahim and his business partner Ram Majji will be opening up two Hold My Chai locations this summer; one in Frisco and a second location in Celina. Once open, the plan is to franchise the business and open an additional location in Houston and, ultimately, New York.
“You need to ensure that your business is scalable. My main concept was that I wanted to franchise this,” Fahim said.
“Age is not something that needs to be a determinant for business,” Fahim said. At the end of the day, if you simplify what business is, it comes down to having something to sell and someone to sell it to. So, if you have both of those things, you can succeed in business.”
One of the most important things driving Fahim’s success is the support he’s received.
“I’ve probably sat down with more friends, just the last few months alone, than maybe the last three years combined,” Fahim said. “When people come by to hear about my vision, I give them free Hold My Chai stickers, and I sit with them and tell them my vision. Having that human connection with people helped me establish that foundation and a following.”
Hold My Chai has accumulated over 500 combined followers on Facebook and Instagram and 18,000 followers on Tik Tok in a short time. He has also developed filters on Snapchat that over 460,000 people use.
“So many people are messaging us asking what our hours are and if they can swing by,” Fahim said. “Hold My Chai is just a concept; we’re not even a brick-and-mortar store yet. Our investors are loving the data that I’m presenting to them.”
Speaking of the Hold My Chai concept, the story behind the name is one of the main driving factors in their marketing.
“Hold My Chai was probably the last name I would have ever thought of, and honestly, it was one of those ideas that popped in my head like at three in the morning,” Fahim said. “When you look at the whole marketing aspect, I wanted to tap into guerilla marketing and word of mouth. I wanted it to come from my niche and inner circle, and who do you trust more than your friends?”
The name comes from what people do when they order boba, coffee, or a drink from Starbucks. “People hold it up, they take a picture of it, and they promote it on whatever social media platform they choose,” Fahim said. “It’s begging you to hold it up and take a picture of it; Hold My Chai.”
Hold My Chai will provide a friendly, comfortable atmosphere where customers can expect to receive quality food, service, and entertainment at a reasonable price. The chai/coffee house will offer a variety of choices to the customers.
“Aside from traditional Chai, we’ll also offer espresso, cappuccino, americano, boba, soft-serve ice cream, and baked goods that are provided from other small local-owned businesses,” Fahim said. “There will be nightly entertainment featuring keynote talks or topics of interest to the community. On select nights there will be poetry readings and an open microphone. The walls will be used as an art gallery promoting the art district of Frisco. I’m helping other small businesses grow and connect with the community.”
Fahim’s advice to other Uplift scholars interested in starting their own business is to develop a supportive network.
“If you have an idea, reach out to people; have people hear what your ideas are,” Fahim said. “When you’re very passionate about something, you’re often blinded by what you’re doing. That’s when you need a third voice or a separate opinion to understand your thought process. Get with someone you trust who will tell you what they think and be honest and upfront with you.”
“If it’s the right time and the right moment, you will flourish. If it’s not, well, that’s how business works, it’s not always butterflies and rainbows, you will have downfalls, and it’s up to you to get back up and hold yourself accountable. Dream big, work hard, and do whatever it takes to achieve your vision.”
Are you an Uplift Alumni who wants to be featured on Life After Uplift? Please email us at email@example.com. We would LOVE to share your story with all our scholars, families, alumni, and staff!