The native of Guyana and former Marine carried balances on his credit cards, went out to dinner at least five times a week, and didn’t pay attention to the price of gas.
Today, Hariprashad, owner of Ena’s Driving School in Queens, N.Y., pays off his credit cards at the end of the month. He’s making extra payments on the mortgage for the house he shares with his parents and hopes to pay it off in about 10 years. He shops around for the cheapest gas he can find and pays with cash to get a discount.
Hariprashad, 34, says the recession forced him to change his ways. Business slowed because customers didn’t have as much money to spend on driving lessons. Faced with the threat of bankruptcy, he cut back on discretionary spending and used the money to pay off his credit cards. “Now, I have a clean slate,” he says.
Rajendra Hariprashad, owner of Ena’s Driving School in New York City, says poor study habits will often lead to a failed written test. He advises reading the state’s road rules manual cover to cover and taking numerous practice tests. (Check your state’s DMV.) Take time to learn the material — and wait until you are prepared before scheduling a test.
here are many things one can learn in theMarine Corps, but Rajendra Hariprashad relied on one unlikely skill when he was deployed: income tax preparation. After serving as a Marine for four years, Hariprashad used the tax knowledge he picked-up to start a preparation and planning business in his parents house, Ace Tax Services. But once tax season ended, he was out of work. Hariprashad got a job at a local driving school to make ends meet during the off-season and soon learned enough about that industry to launch his second entrepreneurial venture, Enas Driving School. It took the New Yorker some time to get his training school off the ground.
When I finally opened for business there was no business for a while, Hariprashad recalls in an email to FoxBusiness.com. On Fridays, my mom would come to pay my secretary because I didn’t make enough money. It was embarrassing. Today, he says, his companies are trucking along. Ace Tax Services and Enas Driving School each have two locations in New York City and attract clients within and beyond the big city limits.
When Rajendra Hariprashad, moved from Guyana to New York as a boy, he and his mom moved in with his grandparents. Now 34, Hariprashad lives in a four-bedroom home in Glen Oaks, N.Y., with his wife, 10-month-old son, parents, and his sister and brother-in-law and their two-year-old son. All of the adults in the house are employed, making it easier to afford the four-bedroom, three-bath house, which cost about $600,000. “But it’s more than a financial thing,” said Hariprashad. “Everyone thinks we should all have our own homes, but we’re so happy living together.” Hariprashad said he envisions his family always staying together, even as the younger generation expands. “We’ll just need to buy a bigger house,” he said. To top of page.
Rajendra Hariprashad was born in Guyana, South America in 1977 and moved with his parents to New York in 1989. At 21, Hariprashad walked into the Marine Corps recruiting office and asked for information. Soon he was in Parris Island, South Carolina. During his 4 year tour in North Carolina, 1 of the job description was being a tax preparer on Camp Lejeune. This was the foundation for Ace Tax Services, Inc. In his free time, Hariprashad taught marines to drive his 1998 Eclipse and took them to the Department of Motor Vehicles, where they all got their driver’s licenses. This was the beginning of Ena’s Driving School, named for Hariprashad’s mother.
1. Research The Item.
Before you put the company in your brain’s “Competition” folder, find out what they do. You might find that they’re not direct competitors. Jennifer Schaus, owner of Jennifer Schaus and Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based marketing and strategic planning consulting firm that helps companies sell to the U.S. government, competes with several nearby businesses on K Street in D.C. But she was able to work with a competitor when she discovered they each offered services the other did not. While he assists small businesses with SBA certification, she offers marketing and social media services. They’re able to send clients to each other and profit from their relationship.
2. Set yourself apart.
Find out what you’re able to do better than your competition. Schaus couldn’t charge hundreds of dollars per hour like some of her competitors, but she started hosting a monthly networking event for business-to-government professionals. She hosts it at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a prestigious venue in D.C., which helps project a professional image of her business. Eventually, her competitors started coming to the event as well. “At first I was irritated, but then I realized if more experienced businesses are coming to my events, I’m doing something right,” she says.
3. Spruce up your displays.
Consumers are attracted to clean and well-designed storefronts and spaces. Rajendra Hariprashad of Ena’s Driving School revamped his building after another driving school moved in directly across the street in the Queens borough of New York City. “I made our signs brighter with flashing strobe lights and the inside of our office cleaner,” he says. The changes brought in more business.
4. Keep it diplomatic.
Remember that your competitor is just another business that’s trying to make a profit. Welcome them to the neighborhood, and look at this as a chance to invest in your own business. Though Hariprashad spent some money fixing up his driving school, he made a bottom line profit of $100,000. “I thought, wow, this guy actually helped me,” he says.
Rajendra Hariprashad, president and owner of Ena’s Driving School in Hollis, Queens, signed up for Yext PowerListings for its two locations several months ago, agreeing to pay about $900 a year. He said that Yext successfully updated his listings on all 30 sites it promised. “My business did increase in sales, but I’m not sure how much it was from Yext,” he said. However, he was frustrated that when he tried relogging into Yext as if he were a new user—to employ a tool on Yext’s site to measure the visibility of his business online—he was told that there was more he could do and needed to hire Yext, even though he’d already done that. Mr. Lerman said the glitch happens on some browsers and that clearing them should correct the problem.
Our small business owners did tend to support the extension of the Bush tax cuts with Hariprashad being the exception; he prefers the focus be on using funds to create jobs, rebuild the roads and infrastructures.