At the UCI ANTrepreneur Center, we are excited to highlight student entrepreneurs and share their personal experiences, achievements, and brilliant insights. We invite you to join us as we celebrate these ANTrepreneurs and get inspired by their stories.
Since graduating with UCI’s Class of 2022 with a degree in Psychology, Mohammad Khorgamphar has been running full steam ahead. Between working at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center as a Patient Care Assistant and taking pre-med courses in preparation for medical school, Mohammad is also launching his own business, Home of the Brave Services (HBS).
In June 2022, Mohammad was one of a few select entrepreneurs invited to attend the Plug and Play Silicon Valley Summit in Sunnyvale, California. This event invited innovators and business leaders from around the world to come together, discuss the latest industry trends, and share their expert insights. As an up-and-coming entrepreneur, attending the Summit offered Mohammad the opportunity to learn from other startups, meet with more established business owners, and share his ideas for HBS.
To learn more about HBS’s mission, his experience at the Plug and Play Summit, and his advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Ryan Foland, Interim Director of the ANTrepreneur Center, connected with Mohammad for more information.
Ryan: Thanks for sitting down with us! To get started, can you tell us a little bit about your business?
Mohammad: Sure, the name of my company is Home of the Brave Services or HBS for short. HBS is a non-profit committed to serving the homeless population and connecting them with different governmental and non-governmental services that they may not know about or have access to on their own. For instance, we leverage available housing and food services to provide for and support this underprivileged population.
HBS not only helps homeless individuals; it also reduces food waste and supports environmental sustainability. Last year in the U.S., 35% of the 229 million tons of food went unsold or uneaten—that’s $408 billion worth of food, according to ReFED, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending food loss and waste. Despite all these available resources, we still have people who struggle to feed themselves and their loved ones. HBS will connect people struggling with food and housing insecurity with partners in the food industry that are willing to sell their leftover products at a low cost. In this way, HBS addresses issues of food instability within the homeless population while simultaneously helping to eliminate food waste. This also benefits the businesses, as they are still able to make a profit instead of simply throwing their products away.
Right now we’re working on our business model and are starting to work with the community. We’re also conducting research to evaluate the effectiveness of HBS’s services to see how we can improve them. I’m also working on a collaboration with another company based in New York that offers life educational courses and support to homeless people.
Ryan: That sounds like a really great idea, how did you come up with it?
Mohammad: During the peak of COVID-19, I would work 8 to 12 hours a day and then actually sleep in my car or on cold benches in the locker room at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center because I wanted to protect my family from exposure. Every day, I saw homeless people in the emergency room or sleeping on the streets and witnessed their suffering. Their stories reminded me of my life and the challenges I faced.
I came to America about six years ago when I was just 17 years old to pursue my passion of becoming a doctor, and I’ve faced many challenges that shaped who I am today. Throughout these hardships, I met so many amazing people who supported me and gave me a chance to prove myself. Thanks to these opportunities, I was able to graduate from one of the best universities in California and pursue my goals. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I wasn’t given a chance by others who cared for and believed in me.
I am passionate about the mission of HBS because I want to give homeless people another chance to build their life. Homelessness isn’t a crime; it’s something that can happen to anyone. I want to break the cycle of homelessness and be the reason behind their success. We live in one of the best countries in the world and, with our access to so many resources and new technologies, no one should have to search for food in dumpsters or struggle to find a safe place to sleep.
At first, I only planned to conduct research on homelessness. I never really thought to become an entrepreneur and create an organization to address homelessness in a more direct way. I had always listened to entrepreneurs and read books about them, but I never saw myself as someone who could start their own company until I learned about the UCI ANTrepreneur Center. After participating in several ANTrepreneur Center events, I decided to use my research and establish HBS. As I continued working on my company, I had the opportunity to work with other students and learn from them. All of these resources helped me with developing and creating HBS, and I have to say that I’m so grateful for them.
Ryan: Since you’re in a place to reach out and build up a client base, did getting invited to the Plug and Play Summit help you get some traction for HBS?
Mohammad: Yes, at the event I was able to network and connect with other entrepreneurs and people who had founded their own businesses. I talked about HBS and my goals for the company and got a lot of positive feedback. There was a lot of interest in my idea since HBS is a non-profit organization that aims to help others. With COVID-19 and economic inflation, addressing the needs of the homeless population is more critical than ever. Connecting with so many innovative individuals from all over the world also gave me the opportunity to learn about their ideas and experiences. They also offered advice on using resources and connecting with other organizations, which definitely gave me some things to think about moving forward.
I also really enjoyed attending the event about sustainability. I chose this panel because I strongly believe that we need to take action to build a sustainable future for everyone. Climate change is serious and if we don’t address it, it could lead to many issues such as environmental crises or biological diseases. I’m passionate about preserving our environment, so this panel really aligned with HBS’s goal of reducing food waste and promoting sustainable business practices.
Ryan: Sounds like you got a lot out of the event! With all the networking and business promotion, I’m sure that required some preparation. What did you do to get ready for the event?
Mohammad: Working with the talented team at ANTrepreneur Center helped me prepare for the event. They’re always welcoming and supportive, and they’ve really helped me develop my idea for HBS. Not only did they teach me about different business models I could try, but they also helped me with pitching my idea and professionally expressing my thoughts to others.
As a psychology major who was passionate about medicine and public health, I never had the opportunity to learn about business or the economy while I was an undergraduate. But the ANTrepreneur Center helped me fill this gap and gave me access to their helpful network of UCI faculty, staff, students, and local businesses and organizations. They also connected me with resources like UCI Beall Applied Innovation. Also, the ANTrepreneur Center’s Student Startup Fund was how I was able to afford to go on my trip to the Plug and Play event.
Ryan: I’m happy that you were able to get so much support, especially because pursuing entrepreneurship can seem like such an overwhelming journey. What advice would you give to students who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own companies?
Mohammad: Through my journey, I’ve learned that trusting yourself is the key to success. The moment you realize that your voice matters and that you are here for a reason, you become so eager that nothing can stop you from pursuing your passion. But it’s also important to remember that you are not alone in your journey. Definitely make sure to work with other people and use the resources available to you. Sometimes you might feel frustrated or lonely, but remember that the fruits of your hard work are the sweetest.
A website for HBS is in the works, so stay tuned for more information. For more information about the UCI ANTrepreneur Center and how it can support your entrepreneurial journey, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.