A dollar here, a dollar there, it isn’t much, really. To one man that little amount over the long haul was enough to build a life, support a family and live out his lifelong dream of being his own boss.
Rezaul Karim has carved out his slice of the American Dream with a dollar store in Hamtramck. The heavily immigrant area has responded well to the one-or-two dollar inventory at his Everyday Super Discounts store currently located at 11327 Conant St.
The response has been so good he is moving his store to a bigger location in the same neighborhood at 3501 Canif St. because the 3,000 sq. ft. he has isn’t enough.
Table covers are the items most responsible for his success because the ethnic communities in Hamtramck like to put a covering over their table, Karim says. They are his highest seller.
It is small things that can be provided cheaply and can serve the community that made Karim a success.
He chose the dollar store model because he himself had been frequenting them, and it seemed like a business he could learn and make successful.
You see, Karim’s real joy comes from being his own boss.
“I have liberty owning my own business,” he says. “From my boyhood I never liked working for someone.”
How that dream came true starts in Bangladesh in the 1990s.
In his native country he didn’t work at a shop. He had a degree in economics and a position as a bank officer.
He left for the same reason many immigrants come to America – to make a better life, for him, his wife and daughters.
There first stop was New York, arriving in 1996. However, the cost of living was too high and he decided to move to Detroit.
A friend who already lived here got him a job at a factory. However, not having been previously trained in it, he found it difficult and discovered the work just wasn’t for him.
Eventually, he moved up back to Bangladesh. He didn’t stay long. He had become too used living in America.
“When you live in one station, it is hard to go back again,” says Karim.
There were plenty of reasons to come back, but the major one was his wife and kids, who missed the schools his daughters had attended.
He came back to Detroit after spending a little over half a year in his native land. This time, however, he had a new plan.
Karim took a job at a Dunkin Donuts and enrolled in school, first to master English. Then he was off to study technology at Wayne County Community College District.
In January 2000, he had an IT job at a company in Highland Park lined up before he even graduated where he worked on the database printing invoices. It was a good life, but it still wasn’t right. He still yearned to be his own boss.
While working at the IT job he started an online business buying and selling items through eBay, which led to a home-based wholesale business. That business became a dollar store he opened in 2008 in Clinton Township. It did not go well and by 2012 it was closed.
Karim didn’t give up and opened a new store in Hamtramck where he found success. Wanting to spread his success around, he hired mostly immigrants just like him.
While he did want to help them jump start their American Dream, there is a bit more to it. Entrepreneur that he is, Karim knows they are also able to anticipate what the largely immigrant customers may need.
That’s part of his strong dedication to customer service and is his biggest point of pride.
When someone needs him to get something, he does his level best to get it to them and is always honest with his cliental.
“They appreciate my honesty,” says Karim, “It is good to be honest. I try to be honest all the time.”
The desire to be one’s own boss seems to be a family trait in Karim’s family. Three of his four daughters have already started down that path.
His oldest daughter, who is currently in India, plans to come back to the U.S. in December to open her jewelry business.
The second daughter has become well known for her make-up work in the community at Jhobby in Pleasant Ridge … where customers need a reservation to see her.
Daughter number three is studying to become an ophthalmologist and is already planning to open her own practice.
Finally, the fourth daughter is still trying to figure things out. The law of averages suggests that when she makes up her mind, it won’t be on someone else’s payroll.
Likely, it goes to something Karim had told his daughters many times, “Do you have a skill? Use it for yourself.”
That mantra has certainly worked for Karim.
Karim will receive the Community Entrepreneur Award from Global Detroit on Thursday, September 20 when the organization hosts its third annual fundraiser at the N’namdi Gallery in Midtown to celebrate eight years of Immigrant Innovation.
For more information on the fundraiser, please go to www.globaldetroit.com/celebration.
Editor’s Note: This small business feature is sponsored by Bank of America. To learn more about Bank of America’s many programs and resources for small business owners visit: https://www.bankofamerica.com/smallbusiness/business-financing.go.