The logo for biscayne hospitality.

Welcome back! Here is the second, and final, part of The Bench story…

Fast forward five years… Nasif calls me and said “I have the perfect woman for you!” He must know me pretty well because his introduction has lasted 21 years (and counting). We have a running joke that I helped him get a job at Coopers & Lybrand, and he got me a wife. While he left that job, I am still with Tabassum.

The owner of Southwestern Publishing is also owner Tom James, a custom clothing company. They were considered sister companies and Tom James recruited heavily from Southwestern because they liked the sales experience that we had. After selling books for 5 years, Ash from Tom James, was really working me to join his group. Again, I underestimated his great salesmanship skills. He had discovered that my dad was very influential for me, so he called the both of us for a lunch. There, he brought a tie as a gift for my dad, who was ecstatic! And now Dad was on the same side as Ash. I guess you can say that I sold for a tie. That is the law of reciprocity at its finest.

After 3 years at Tom James, I wanted to run my own office. Tom James offered me this opportunity in either San Diego or Toronto. I went home to Houston and asked my mom which city. Mom said San Diego; after being born and raised in Toronto until I was 7, I guess she figured that SoCal would better for me. My decision to move to San Diego occurred at the same time I was introduced to Tabassum, who is from Toronto. Bummer. Thankfully, Tabassum said that if she were to live in the USA, it would be San Diego. At least I had that going for me!

Tabassum and I got engaged in March 1998 and I started to think about our social life as a young couple. During my time selling suits to executives, I was fortunate to be referred to Sayed Ali. After many months of trying to get him on the phone, we set up a time meet. Sayed was gracious enough to buy a sport coat from me and he introduced me to a local mosque. I was happy; this is where I could start meeting some people so when Tabassum came to town, we had a place to go. Here we met Mahmoud Mostafa.

Mahmoud and I worked closely together on building a new center for many years. In 2002, I asked him to look at a business I wanted to buy; it was a small medical supply store. In turn, Mahmoud asked me to look at a business that he and his brother wanted to buy. It was a couple of retail stores selling furniture. They said you can help us with sales, and we will run the operations. In August 2003, I became a business owner.

We did not like the retail business, where you are stuck waiting on people to come in. Remember, I was trained to go out and get it. The silver lining was a trip to Asia to meet the factories. During this trip, I found out they were supplier hotels in Europe. Voilà, I could start calling on hotels!

We failed miserably on the retail side and shut down the stores while the hospitality was taking hold. Fifteen years later, the three of us are still in the same business of custom furniture manufacturing for hotels under the banner of Biscayne Hospitality.

Back to the bench…. where Am I today? Looking back all these years it was one ordinary day after school that started an extraordinary journey for me. For me, Junior Achievement was a life changing event. It gave me the skills and confidence to believe in myself. Junior Achievement started my path to sales training, to my wife, to me business. There is no better gift than helping people realize their potential and then giving them the tools to excel. That’s Junior Achievement. And 32 years after that bench, I am proud to still be involved in helping other students realize their potential through JA of San Diego.