Nebeyou Esayas is a high school senior at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland and an entrepreneur. Nebeyou was one of eighteen students in the first Launch Academy program. Launch Academy, founded and run by Shahab Kaviani, is an afterschool program that uses an Quest Forward Learning-based curriculum to enable high school students to learn the basics of entrepreneurship and guide them through the process of creating their first start-up.
As part of Launch Academy, Nebeyou launched SimpleServe.co in May 2016, a website where students can digitally submit to their schools the required forms used to track service learning hours. In addition to juggling swim practice, IB classes and college applications, Nebeyou recently launched SimpleServe at his high school. Not only does he hope for acceptance to a great university, but he also wants to grow his website and see SimpleServe used throughout Montgomery County, MD and beyond.
I recently sat down with Neb to talk about Launch Academy, SimpleServe and his plans for the future.
CM: What kind of problems did you have with service learning forms that led to SimpleServe?
Neb: “I was frustrated about it, but not as much as some other kids. Some kid lost 250 hours because his form got misplaced, or when they were typing it in, someone typed it incorrectly. Me, personally 8 or 9. Not a lot, but still frustrating. It’s so much work to take a form, carry it while you’re volunteering, have somebody sign it, take it back to school and go turn it in. We do everything else on our phone. Why can’t that be on our phone? …[SimpleServe] is easy. And free. It takes just three minutes to start a form and submit a form from there.”
CM: What schools are using it? Are you making money with it?
Neb: “Just our school, Richard Montgomery High School, is using it…I got to the CFO, the Chief Financial Officer of Montgomery County Public Schools. Richard Montgomery said we could do it… But the county is slower to act and they can’t necessarily do business with students because it’s a conflict of interest, which I do understand, but it’s a little disappointing. So we’re not making money yet, but it has the potential to work in private schools and our county public schools…When I say ‘we’ I mean the school and me.
CM: So that’s the site, but what’s the story that came before it?
Neb: “Ever since I was five, I’ve always wanted to build something or own something or do my own thing, so I’ve always been coming up with ideas for potential business ventures. Small things here and there, like mowing people’s lawns, the quintessential kid activities. In my sophomore year, I joined a business club where I met Shahab Kaviani and he mentioned Launch Academy.”
CM: Tell me about the program and how it supported you.
Neb: “I think it was a mixture of both Shahab and the quests. The quests are different because they require you to think deeper. You actually have to do activities and I ended up spending a few hours every week researching and learning more. But then also Shahab, his personality, the way he teaches was very motivational and was always pushing you to do better. Even after the program, a year later, I still email him.”
CM: What do you hope the future has in store for you and for SimpleServe?
Neb: “First, I’m definitely going to college for at least 4 years. I want to get my MBA. I don’t know where yet. Hopefully Michigan, Columbia or Cornell. I’m still waiting to hear back from Columbia and Cornell.
For SimpleServe, June 8th is when I’m graduating, so I’ll come back and say “let’s do this. I have all summer to work on it.” I’m also going to take it to other schools in our county, private schools as well.
But from the quests and from Shahab, I understand now that there really isn’t a bad idea [for a business]. I actually have a notebook of ideas now. I’ll definitely continue to try and do this in college. One of the biggest aspects of the schools I chose was whether they had support for entrepreneurship. People have this idea that they can’t do something until they actually start doing it and see it’s not easy, but it’s not hard. I think it’s fun. Calling people, emailing people, talking – once you start doing something, it becomes easier and more enjoyable. The whole quest platform, Shahab, Launch Academy thing said ‘Try it. If you don’t like it, then stop. But if you do like it, you have something to work on and you can continue to do it.’”