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By Linda Nguyen
It’s not very often two 20-year-old students own a million-dollar company.
Waco junior Yaseen Waqar and Plano junior Rayyan Islam are the co-founders of www.LuxuryLites.com, an electronic cigarette and hookah site.
In the last seven months, their company has made $1.7 million in sales with a profit of more than $320,000.
“My uncle had severe lung problems, and we were trying to look for alternate methods for him to stop smoking because he needed to quit, but nothing worked,” Waqar said. “The nicotine patches, gum, nothing would work. He wasn’t just addicted to the nicotine, it was actually the movement of having a cigarette in his hand. We looked into this new thing called electronic cigarettes. He tried it out and he really liked it, but the quality was horrible. It only lasted about two weeks.”
The e-products are a safer alternative than the real things because they don’t contain tar or toxins, there is no secondhand smoke and the only byproduct is water vapor.
Waqar said they tried several brands of electronic cigarettes, but were disappointed every time.
“That’s when we were like, ‘OK, we can do this way better than what a lot of the competition, what the market provides,’” Islam said.
Waqar said his dad has always been involved in business, so they had connections with the distributors.
“We flew over to China where these were being manufactured and spoke to a manufacturer about getting our own design created,” Waqar said.
He said quality has always been the most important thing for them in their company.
“From A to Z, we hired several engineers,” Waqar said. “We worked with them day and night. We drafted a design where the quality would last compared to what was on the market already.”
Islam said after they began their company producing electronic cigarettes, they realized they needed to differentiate themselves from their competitors such as Starbuzz Shisha & Hookah Tobacco and Imperial Smoke.
“We realized there were a few companies out there that were trying something new called electronic hookah,” Islam said. “Hookah, as we know as college students, have become some what of a pop phenomena. College students on campuses all over the world have been going to hookah lounges and smoking it. It’s something that’s catered to a younger crowd and younger generation.”
Islam said experimenting with electronic hookah products was a big risk for them as a smaller business with limited funding.
“As soon as we brought out the product, we went to a trade show in Vegas,” Islam said. “We introduced it there, and it was a hit. We’ve never seen anything like it. Everyone just kept asking questions about this new product. Our flagship product is e-hookah.”
Islam said they have 11 different flavors of electronic hookah: Pomegranate Power, Very Berry, Tropical Punch, Pina Vino, Citrus Berry, Strawberry Daiquiri, Passion Punch, Cherry Limeade, Melon Slush, Mint Chocolate and Apple Cider.
They are hoping to grow and continue to make more flavors.
“What really sticks out about it is with any business, any entrepreneur, you have to differentiate yourself,” Islam said.
Islam and Waqar said the experience has been a whirlwind.
“The thing about being an entrepreneur, the greatest gratification is this huge gain,” Islam said. “It’s our baby. We want to protect it. We want it to grow. It’s motivation. My day starts at 6 a.m. and I don’t get done until 2 a.m.”
Waqar said he agreed with Islam about the excitement and the work it takes to run a business.
“We were there from the beginning when it was nothing,” Waqar said. “Seeing where it’s going now, makes you feel really happy. The first year, it was all a struggle trying to get names out there trying to get our brand out there.”
Islam said their products are available in more than 16 states and in Canada.
They are also growing into Europe.
“Canada is a big fan of our zero-nicotine cigarettes and hookah,” Islam said.
He said Baylor students can also find their products at the ExxonMobil next to Penland Hall as well as on their website.