Students here are diverse, interesting, and as the last couple of months have shown, brimming with ideas. From the recent KAMUN conference, to the Key Club and Round Square projects, the Mock Trial and Code co-curriculars, and the Feminist and Ecce Homo clubs, students have demonstrated leadership, organization, and initiative. One enterprise, however, that has escaped the public eye, and demands attention just like any extracurricular activity, is the small, student-led business that has made Nihal a more savory place after study hall: ShermIts™.
Twice a week, at quarter til ten, Hisham and Yacoub collect orders through a dorm-wide, online form, and set up shop in one of Nihal’s kitchens. With the help of several employees, the two entrepreneurs prepare hotdogs, and beguile Nihal with their culinary skills. Customers can order a simple hotdog with their choice of condiments and toppings, or opt for the Hamido’س special, which (inspired by the loyal customer, Hamid Al-Derhally) includes every sauce, vegetable, and decorative imaginable, along with chips and soda. Once the orders are placed, the ShermIts crew processes the information to create a database (using an algorithm of their invention) that they use to prepare the hotdogs, and deliver them to customers in the comfort of their rooms.
Amazed by the success and instant popularity of the business (as well as the delicious hotdogs), this reporter interviewed Hisham and Yacoub, and learned about their experience as entrepreneurs. Here are some excerpts from the interview:
The Rexonian: What inspired you to start doing this?
Hisham and Yacoub: Well, initially, the main reason was for us to earn money in order to buy a feed for the dorm, and show teachers that we don’t need them. You could say it was an act of rebellion.
TR: And the answer was Shermits?
H/Y: Actually, it didn’t start with the hot dogs. At first, we discovered the Sunday discount at Burger Shack. People here love it, and we decided to get it to them more easily, and make a profit. We would buy meals every Sunday, and deliver them. That’s what made us special: the ease that we provided.
TR: Then the hot dogs came along?
H/Y: Last year, there was a hot dog business in Nihal, but the teachers didn’t like it. There were always long lines, people were late for check-in, and there was even a food fight once.
When we wanted to start, we took into consideration the expectations of the dorm, and tried to work with them. We wanted a business that didn’t break the rules, and instead, contributed to Nihal. So, we decided to give it another shot—only this time, it would be better.
TR: What are some challenges you faced?
H/Y: There were three challenges. First, the system. We had to find a way to translate orders into a system that is quick, easy, and structured. It took a lot of thinking, but in the end, we designed an excel function. This was tough, on the technical side.
Second, getting people to understand that this is an ordered system, different from last year’s hotdog scheme. Some people still don’t take it seriously, but once you give them rules that they must follow, with consequences, they will. We play it by the rules, and so do our customers.
TR: Interesting. What are some lessons learned that you’d like to share?
H/Y: We learned that, for things to work, you sometimes need to be a jerk.
TR: Finally, of greatest interest to our readers, what about the name?
Y: Mmm…It’s actually an acronym. It stands for Steven Hawking, Einstein, Rutherford, Mendeleev, Isaac Newton, Thompson, and the last “s” is for plurality.
H: Let’s just say it’s a combination of letters that makes sense to us.