As Hassan Shaheed tells me, one of the most important things he learned from his time with Helius — and as a small business owner — is that perseverance is important to an entrepreneur. The way he puts it, “when you feel like letting go, hold on just a bit more and see what happens.”

Shaheed, 28, is the proud owner of 716er’s Food, a small business specializing in Buffalo-style food, namely chicken wings, hoagies and pastelitos.

He started the business in January 2019 with his main inspirations for starting the business being two-fold.

As a transplant from Buffalo, New York, Shaheed missed the food he had grown up around and enjoyed, and saw a viable market in Durham to bring that food with him. Starting his business also allowed him to employ his father, who had been a chef earlier in his life. These two things, coupled with Shaheed’s own strong passion for cooking, led him to begin 716er’s Food.

However, despite Shaheed’s passion, one of his main stumbling blocks early in 716er’s life was his inexperience in starting and operating a business.

“I didn’t know anyone who had a business or had started a business seriously before,” Shaheed said. “I didn’t know the logistics of running a business.”

It was searching for opportunities to learn as an entrepreneur and build as a small business that Shaheed found Helius. Despite being initially denied by the program, Shaheed nonetheless persisted until being accepted into the program where he said he benefited greatly from the meetings.

Helius’ program is 10 weeks, with a meeting once a week and homework in-between each meeting. Like “business group therapy,” Helius’ program is meant to help small business owners think through their businesses critically, and to critique themselves and one another’s marketing strategies and logistics methods in community together. Talking through their strategies together, however, isn’t the only benefit of Helius’ program, as this 10-week exchange also allows business owners to network and potentially collaborate with one another in the long term.

To Shaheed, being able to meet with other small business owners from a diverse pool of backgrounds and perspectives was a great source of feedback — feedback he was able to put back into his own business as he thought through his business plan and marketing strategies.

“It taught me to think like a big corporation, even though you’re a small business,” he said. Although 716er’s Food isn’t Shaheed’s full-time job, this mindset has enabled him to put in the steps to make it so. “As I continue to grow as an entrepreneur, I’m still thirsty for knowledge.”

In a way, for Shaheed, this is the same as his call for entrepreneur’s to be persistent. For small business owners, especially those without exposure to entrepreneurship or an informed network to advise them, the search for knowledge can be a task to struggle through, something that calls for great persistence and dedication.

For Shaheed, his journey as a small business owner and his time with Helius speak to the importance of both of these truths.

The Helius Foundation provides small businesses and necessity-driven entrepreneurs with free business training and coaching, and access to low-interest microloans.