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Two UMass Lowell grads are all business

Jennifer Ho, 24, a UMass Lowell senior

Stephanie Francis

Jennifer Ho, 24, a UMass Lowell senior

Just weeks after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Lowell on Saturday, Jennifer Ho intends to open a specialty shop where she will introduce the city to a Taiwanese treat.

Ho, 24, got the idea for a shaved-snow place she’ll call Snowdaes — which will be located at 1075 Westford St. in Lowell — after a trip to California to visit family and friends. The dessert is served in many parts of Asia and gaining popularity in the United States.

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“I fell in love with it, ate it countless times before I had to come back here,” said Ho, a Lowell resident. “Once I got back, there wasn’t anything that compared to it.”

Hoping to expand Snowdaes into a franchise, Ho believes that leadership is tied in with her ambition.

“I intend to be involved in every aspect of [the business],” she said. “I want to be hands-on with it. I don’t just want to set it up and manage it from the back room. I want to be at the counter serving the people and interacting with the customers and getting to know who my clientele are.”

“There’s more opportunity in business,” said Ho. “You’re a lot more able to express yourself.”

Ho’s plan and other local places to eat inspired another soon-to-be UMass Lowell graduate, Aldo Beqiraj, to start a website that caters to the online restaurant search. When looking for somewhere to take his date for dinner, Beqiraj, 22, quickly became overwhelmed by all the websites he had to visit to get the restaurant’s information.

‘There’s more opportunity in business. You’re a lot more able to express yourself.’

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“I was on Groupon and I bought a deal there and I found a cool place. “I had to go on Yelp and look at reviews for that place, and then I had to go to opentable.com to make the reservations,” said Beqiraj. “And then I had to go to All Menu to look at the menu. Then I realized that I didn’t want to go there anymore so the whole process started over.”

Aldo Beqiraj

Aldo Beqiraj

The extensive search gave Beqiraj the idea to create a website that had all the services in one place. He’s up and running with Grab a Bite.

These two young entrepreneurs will be among the 3,169 UMass Lowell graduates on Saturday, but their readiness right out of college separates them from their peers. Ho, a business major, will open Snowdaes on June 15. Beqiraj, a Danvers High graduate who majored in electrical engineering, has a few job opportunities when he graduates, but is open to working for himself and growing the Grab a Bite site.

Beqiraj got in contact with Steven Tello, 54, associate vice chancellor for Entrepreneurship & Economic Development, last September, who encouraged him to enter UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge.

Beqiraj’s team was one of the nine winning groups out of the 45 that entered the challenge. Through UMass Lowell’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, students were invited to design creative and innovative solutions to issues that affect their region. From the beginning of the challenge, Tello was confident Grab a Bite was a winner.

“It was clear that Aldo has been working on this plan in his mind,” said Tello. “He was advanced in his thinking in terms of business opportunities.”

Boston native Stephanie Francis, who would like to travel the world with National Geographic, is a junior at Gordon College in Wenham. She can be reached at stephanie.francis@gordon.edu.
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