Sramana Mitra: What happened the first time you showed up and saw that you’re a young kid. Do they mind?
Azim Makanojiya: I was a little afraid that they would mind. I had a professional attitude from the start. I wouldn’t go in wearing jeans and a shirt but would be properly dressed in khaki pants and a polo shirt. I was trying to grow a business that I just started. I think I always had that business mentality because of my dad. He started his business here and I was involved with him as well.
Sramana Mitra: As long as you were delivering what you were supposed to deliver, they didn’t really pay attention. You were putting enough of a professional adult front that they didn’t suspect that you were underage.
Azim Makanojiya: At the end of the day, it’s about the work.
Sramana Mitra: That’s the beauty of technology. If you know how to do what you’re supposed to do, it doesn’t really matter who you are, where you are. Who cares? You could be 102 years old. If you could deliver, then it’s fine.
Azim Makanojiya: I’ve done help calls too. People would talk about it and would get fascinated by my age. At the end of the day, it’s about service. If you can provide what they need, they would care less about your age.
Sramana Mitra: With the reputation you created on this services platform where you were promoting your credentials, how much of a business were you able to generate there?
Azim Makanojiya: When you create your profile, you don’t have good credentials so you have to go with these small gigs. On OnForce, they were contracted by HP, Lenovo, and all these other small local companies. They were subcontracted by other companies. What they would do was run a national branding technical company. They would source out all their technical work through this platform. I would get help calls to go and fix some HP laptop at someone’s house. Those are small gigs. You don’t get paid much but it was a start to build your credibility and rating. That’s how I initially started off.
I’ve probably done about 300 to 400 of them. You get rated for each of them. I did about 300 to 400 of them before I landed a contract with the Bank of New York and Tech Force. Then there was a roll out with Walmart for their new cash registers. To do these national roll outs, people used this platform to find technicians. This platform was perfect. It helped find credible people. At the end of the day, I had a thousand plus in rating with a five-star rating.
Sramana Mitra: You, however, went to college while doing this work. What year did you finish college?
Azim Makanojiya: Around 2010.
Sramana Mitra: What decision making did you do at that point?
Azim Makanojia: Around 2009 to 2010, we started Wrist-Band.com. At that time, it was just a startup. I still had to maintain my original business, which was a pretty good chunk of my family income. My family was not financially well and they relied on my income. That was a little dilemma right there. Should I focus more on the startup or on what I was currently doing?
I think I was quite a hardworker. I had my mind set on the right path that I had to support my family and I had to look out for my future as well. When you’re young, you just got that drive to do it and stay up late. I would stay up late until five or six in the morning and then sleep five to six hours. I had the service contract to do and this new website that I was bootstrapping.
Sramana Mitra: What was the concept of the startup that you were toying with?
Azim Makanojia: It was a very niche product around that time. You probably know the Livestrong bands. They were becoming a fashion statement. We came up with the idea of customizing those bands. None of us knew anything about sourcing from China, the promotional market industry, or online web development. We had to do our own research and build from there. The concept was to take Livestrong bands, bring it into the hands of consumers where they can customize it to anything that they like, and deliver that product to them. It was as simple as that.