Entrepreneur, Innovator, Student.

You could say he’s a poster boy for entrepreneurism at Minnesota State Mankato, through technically he didn’t win the contest that would have put him on a poster.

Meet international businessman Shaharia Chowdhury, an IT grad currently pursuing a master’s degree in data science. He’s doing this while running an apparel factory in his native Bangladesh that serves as a supplier to a regional firm with University ties. It’s not his first business since enrolling at the University.

He came to the University in 2015 to pursue an engineering degree. but promptly switched to an IT major. He enoyed the aspect of being able to work from anywhere. One of his first steps en route to running his own business (and carry on a family tradition) was joining the University’s marketing club. Some fellow students in that club began discussing starting a clothing business through the United Prairie Integrated Business Experience program, in which students create viable companies over the course of a semester.

“One friend started a clothing company and he started making web sites for his business,” Chowdhury said. “When I saw his website I thought, dude, there’s so many things you don’t want to keep on the web site.” It prompted Chowdhury to help out, which led to creating a website development software for non-developers.

That became Webytor, launched in the 2016-17 school year. He entered it into the University’s Big Ideas Challenge, the annual contest among student entrepreneurs. By that point he had availed himself of the University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. There, he developed skills at pitching his idea, public speaking and promoting his business.

Chowdhury’s response to not winning the Big Ideas Challenge might be all you need to know about what makes an entrepreneur tick.

“I didn’t win the competition but the connections I made were tremendous,” he said “The Big Ideas Challenge changed everything.”

Soon after, he struck upon the idea of connecting his family’s apparel factory in Bangladesh with a company in the Mankato area that has an international base – Fun.com. Infinity Sourcing resulted – in which his family’s factory supplies costumes to fun.com while eliminating the guesswork in overseas ordering.

“There’s a lack of trust doing business overseas. So I wanted to create a company over there so you can have the trust thing going on over here.”

He sought out some mentoring from officials at Fun.com, and the company today sends sketches of costumes they need and designers at Infinity Sourcing supplies them.

Two years into it, the company has 23 employees and is growing, he said. While it grows, he’s now pursuing his master’s degree in data science at Minnesota State Mankato.

“There’s so many things a data scientist can do. As an entrepreneur you know how business runs. Most data scientists have programming but not business skills. They don’t understand much of business data, they’ll take it but don’t have a business background.”

It’s not a hedge against failure. In fact, to hear Chowdhury describe failure is enough to make you almost want some yourself. 

Entrepreneur, Innovator, Student.“I’ve had failure in my life with businesses, but I didn’t see it as failure. I see it as opportunity to solve a problem.”

This story is in the latest edition of Maverick Nation, the University’s online magazine for young alumni.

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