College student Hasif Othman turned his love of french fries into a lucrative full-time gig

Quick notes

  • 70 percent of college students today worry about having enough money to make ends meet

  • RMIT student Hasif Othman came up with a creative solution for paying the bills — and now he’s set to make it big

  • Othman suggests that other people just “take the leap” and follow their dreams

Many people are looking for ways to make more money — whether it’s a new career or a profitable side hustle. And while individuals from all walks of life can struggle with the cost of living, it can be especially tough for college students. One study from Ohio State University found that 70 percent of students feel stressed about their finances. Sixty percent said they worry about having enough money to pay for school, while half are concerned about paying monthly expenses.

Perhaps those struggling students can learn a thing or two from the example of 26-year-old Hasif Othman — a college student himself. Like many other young adults, Hasif had always dreamed of owning his own business. After a lot of brainstorming, and some trial and error, he came up with an idea that turned out to be a huge money-maker. Othman is one student that probably won’t be worrying about paying off college loans in the future!

 Who is Hasif Othman?

According to Asia One, Hasif Othman was born and raised in Singapore before moving on to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), where he is majoring in economics and finance. During his interview with the periodical, Othman confessed that he’s always wanted to start his own business, but wasn’t really sure what direction to take.

[pexels]\[pexels] via pixabay
After a casual brainstorming session with his best friend Shybree, he came up with a brilliant idea: french fries. After all, “Who doesn’t like potatoes, right?” he asked. (He makes a good point: The average American eats over 30 pounds of fries a year!) Despite having zero experience in (and almost no knowledge of) the food industry, he decided to move ahead with the idea.

Katoshka was born

When Othman was tasked with finding a name for his new french fry business, he decided that he wanted something that sounded “international.” Ultimately, he went with “Katoshka,” a play on “Kartoshka,” the Russian word for potato. In a truly risky move, he then took $10,000 of his own money out of savings to finance the business — a gamble that would end up paying off big time.

“And who doesn’t like potatoes, right?”

Othman told Asia One, “A lot of R&D was done. We had to decide first what would be on the menu, and from there, we sourced for the ingredients; then we got our family and friends to conduct taste tests.” The business model was influenced by Amsterdam’s method of serving thinly-sliced fries in cones. All of the fries are handmade from scratch, using premium-grade Russet potatoes, cut and double-fried to crispy perfection.

Making up to $2,000 a day

Hasif debuted Katoshka at the 2016 Geylang Ramadan Bazaar in Singapore. The bazaar, which features around 500 different vendors, typically offers an assortment of traditional Malay food — though offerings have been taking more a “hipster” lean in recent years. As a first-time vendor, he started with some operational issues, but business picked up by the second week thanks to media coverage and word of mouth.

[Stephen Marc]\[eyeImage] via pixabay
Today, Katoshka still only operates at pop-up events and festivals, like the Laloolalang Festival in Singapore, but that hasn’t held them back. Othman says Katoshka sells roughly 300 cups of fries per working day, which nets between $1,500 and $2,000 in revenue. Even better? The business broke even in just two months’ time.

The future of Katoshka

Othman has decided to expand the menu to better compete with other food businesses in Singapore. As such, he tries to come up with new flavors every month, and Katoshka will now be offering drinks like home-brewed peach and blueberry teas. Othman believes that his team (mostly made up of undergrads) help him cater to the interests of young millennials and stay in tune with the latest food trends.

The young entrepreneur says that Katoshka will continue to primarily service events for now, though there will hopefully be a retail location in the future. His advice for other budding business owners? “Just start; you’ll learn along the way. Regardless of the outcome, the experience will only shape you to be a better version of yourself.”

A deeper dive — Related reading on the 101:

Entrepreneurs may not be saving enough for retirement.

If you’re looking for some ways to earn extra cash, a side hustle can be key.