Calling All Student Entrepreneurs: Tell Us About Your Startup

The Mushroom Hacker

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Jan 26, 2015

Nilufer H. Karim is a lifelong learner. She studied botany, plant physiology, and bio-technology and now she is studying startup and entrepreneurship. After completing her graduation from Dhaka University in the 70s, she started her career at the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute. She worked at BRRI for thirty three whole years. Once I asked her how she feels about her work at BRRI, she said, Ifeel satisfied: when we started at BRRI we were not self sufficient in food but now we are self sufficient, even capable to export. Once you have dedication, vision and right leadership things will fall into their places.

Nilufer H Karim
Nilufer H Karim

Last year Nilufer started a company called Memento International-a natural and organic food manufacturing and distributing company. The brand name of her product is Nature’s Gift. As a botanist and a biotechnologist Nilufer has always been passionate about nature and natural foods. Last couple of years she conducted extensive research on ago-products and natural products while working with Rahimafrooz on building an Agriculture project. Her love for mushroom and mushroom products started there. When she was researching about natural food she came to know that mushroom has a great nutritional and medicinal value that works as a very effective preventative medicine. Since then she wanted to do something with it. She thought and planned a lot about how to produce and distribute mushroom products but could not come up with a concret plan. “I put that research in my backburner but I was looking for an opportunity” -Nilufer told me.

Our ability to learn and explore regardless of our age is an extraordinary act of courage and inspiration. Nilufer’s story teaches us that we can take initiative, no matter how young or old we are, we can solve a problem we are passionate about and we can make a ruckus if we have the passion and courage and dedication. We have only one life, what else matters if we don’t live it fullest.

That’s when I came to know about Bangladesh Startup Cup and once Minhaz Anwar invited me to join the event and encouraged me to start my own business. I was hesitant at the start, but Minhaz convinced me that although new, my idea has potential. That’s how I started. I participated at the event and learned about startup and business and got my trade license and now running my business on a small scale.

Nilufer’s Journey was not as smooth as it sounds though. She had her own part of struggle and hardship. One of the challenges was my own perception about myself that whether I could do it or not. I doubted my capacity big time. I wanted to quit almost every step of the competition, but somehow my lifelong habit of not quitting on anything so easily, helped me survive. One of the reasons was that people like Minhaz was very supportive and encouraging and there were mentors who encouraged and inspired me a lot, said Nilufer.

Nilufer has already started the production and selling at a small scale. She has three different types of mushroom packaged in very beautiful bottles of two sizes. Right now she is selling mushroom to her own network, friends and small stores. Few days back I got a chance to taste her mushroom: it tastes divine! Months back, she also raised a small angel fund, to start up her business. However, before expansion she wants to experiment the plan at small scale to attract the market.

The Roadblocks

I know about mushroom and plants very well, but I know very little about sales and marketing and business at large Nilufer told me. My partnership with ADCOMM has built confidence in me.While planning my business ahead, I’m also looking for a stronger multifarious plan to attract all circles of the community.With the final designing, manufacturing setup, the supply chain and the completion of the regulations, I hope to build my market countrywide.

Nilufer’s Journey was not as smooth as it sounds though. She had her own part of struggle and hardship. One of the challenges was my own perception about myself that whether I could do it or not. I doubted my capacity big time. I wanted to quit almost every step of the competition, but somehow my lifelong habit of not quitting on anything so easily, helped me survive. One of the reasons was that people like Minhaz was very supportive and encouraging and there were mentors who encouraged and inspired me a lot, said Nilufer.

Lessons

Nilufer has learnt from the dynamic tasks done during her career in Go, NGO and private sector. With a PHD and post Doc in agriculture and having served the government for a long time,to start a business at this phase is unusual for anyone. I was myself surprised to see the level of energy and dedication Nilufer has. She is a very honest and hard working person and once she gets involved in something she takes it very seriously. I asked her about her secret of such level of energy and passion at this age: she replied I love to do and learn things.

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Once I asked what she would advise if a young person come to her and ask for her advice. She replied with rather a very apparent and growing problem for this generation. "People nowadays are very impatient", Nilufer said, and "we are not sharing how to attain balance and equilibrium. You need to balance play and work and you need to understand that things do not happen overnight." She said this generation of young people has a fatal mentality of switching back and forth and instability. But if you want to make something really extraordinary you also need to be consistent. The key to long term success is balance+consistency. Drawing example from her previous profession Nilufer said “we struggled a lot. There was resource shortage, bureaucracy, stagnation, but we kept pushing with hard rock passion. That paid off later”.

Our ability to learn and explore regardless of our age is an extraordinary act of courage and inspiration. Nilufer’s story teaches us that we can take initiative, no matter how young or old we are, we can solve a problem we are passionate about and we can make a ruckus if we have the passion and courage and dedication. We have only one life, what else matters if we don’t live it fullest.

"People nowadays are very impatient", Nilufer said, and "we are not sharing how to attain balance and equilibrium. You need to balance play and work and you need to understand that things do not happen overnight." She said this generation of young people has a fatal mentality of switching back and forth. But if you want to make something really extraordinary you also need to be consistent. The key to long term success is balance+consistency. Drawing example from her previous profession Nilufer said “we struggled a lot. There was resource shortage, bureaucracy, stagnation, but we kept pushing with hard rock passion. That paid off later”.


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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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