Houston, meet the young lady who’s about to take over the world. To describe Qudisah Muhammad as a force to be reckoned with is an understatement of gigantic proportions.
This soon-to-be college graduate has already founded two businesses, teaches middle and high school students, and has wisdom beyond her years. And did I mention, she has a heart for service?
The Defender was somehow able to catch up with this ever-busy entrepreneur/student and find out how she’s able to juggle so many tasks while also preparing for the next stage in her journey.
DEFENDER: So, you were born and raised in Houston. What schools, elementary, middle and high school, did you attend?
QUDISAH: I’ve only ever attended private schools. I started at Muhammad University of Islam, and was there until around five years old. Then I moved to The Elevated Places, which is where I graduated as valedictorian in 2021. From there, I went to the University of Houston, and I started taking college courses actually before I graduated from high school in January of 2021.
DEFENDER: What attracted you to the University of Houston?
QUDISAH: I wanted to stay close to home, being that I was 16. So, I looked at schools that were local that still had excellent research programs. I looked at University of Houston, Rice and St. Thomas. Then, I visited the University of Houston and it felt like home. I applied to all of them, but I ultimately decided to go with the University of Houston just because I felt like the environment really resonated with who I was, and who I am as a person.
DEFENDER: Why did you choose psychology as your major?
QUDISAH: It’s kind of funny because, I think around nine or 10, I decided that I wanted to be a medical doctor, like an OBGYN. So, I went to this program called Saturday Morning Science, and it’s about medicine, and you do things with the body and look at just everything dealing with medicine. And they put up a video of a surgery and my knee started shaking and locking and I wanted to run out of there. I felt nauseous and immediately I knew that that was not the right field for me. <laughs>. So, I started immediately thinking, “Okay, what’s next? If this is not what you want to do, you’ve been wanting to do this since you’re 10, you’re now 13, what’s the next step?” And immediately, counseling came to my mind, because I’ve always valued mental health.
I’ve always been the one in my friend group who’s like, “Talk to me. What’s going on? Let’s have a conversation about this.” And I always have really, really enjoyed just open and honest conversations about “What’s going on in your life? What’s impacting you? What’s causing this? Why are you acting like this?” And even just reflecting on myself in that same manner. So immediately, counseling came to my mind. So, I think from the age of 13, I’ve been committed to the field and just really interested in learning more about how the mind works, and why as humans do we do what we do.
DEFENDER: Tell us about your experience as a UH honor student.
QUDISAH: It can be a lot. But it’s all about time management. I think in order to be an honor student, you have to be taking 12 hours, which is four classes, and have to make all A’s, I want to say. And then, in order to be magna cum laude, which is what I’m shooting for, you have to have at least a 3.8. So that means that you have to literally be on your P’s and Q’s with everything. But I think being a dual credit student and having taken college classes at the same time that I took high school classes taught me a lot about time management, because didn’t I want to neglect one. I wanted to excel at both.
So, I had to learn how to manage my time. I had to learn how to apply myself to both, almost equally so that I could get the result that I was looking for. So now, taking four classes at UH while I’m running a business, it’s some of the same principles that I learned early on, just applying it to a new environment. So, it can be a lot. It can be hectic. But at the same time, once you practice the skill of time management and effectively utilizing your time, it becomes a lot easier.
DEFENDER: So, how are you able to manage the class time with starting a business?
QUDISAH: I have to be very organized. So, I have a Google calendar that has “8a.m. to 10a.m. work on this, 10a.m. to 12p.m. work on this,” with a little time for a break and then I’m rolling onto the next thing. So, organization is key. I have literally everything written out, everything blocked off so that it’s dedicated to a specific thing. When I have a lot of moving parts in my life, I can become very overwhelmed very quickly. So, it’s important for me to literally write everything down and allot a time period for it and put myself on a schedule, especially since I don’t have a job where I clock in.
With school, most of my classes are asynchronous (online with no specific class time), so I have a deadline, but there’s no teacher standing over you telling you to get this done. So, there has to be a lot of self-motivation and structure that I’m placing on myself, otherwise it won’t get done. I know it may seem rigid and kind of restricting, but in a way, it allows me to organize things. That way, I know when I’m free. I know what time I have to dedicate to this. That way, I’m not becoming completely burdened by all of the things I have going on. I have to organize everything down to the tea. It may not work for a lot of people, but it really works for me.
DEFENDER: Where did the inspiration for the business come from?
QUDISAH: I started my first business at 16 called Q Assist. It was a virtual assistant business where I worked with busy business owners to help them remove tasks from their plate. I worked from home and it grew really quickly, and I was bringing in approximately multi-four figures every month and continuing to grow. But more than that, I just love being in business. I loved generating that business idea. I loved working the steps, even throughout all the hardship. I loved working the steps to actually build a business. Ever since then, I’ve been interested in helping other people to do the same.
But I love working with children, as well. So, I decided, “Hey, it is summertime. Let me go ahead and launch this program where I can help youth start their own businesses, work the steps, start from the beginning and work until they have something that they can really be proud of.” Business builds self-esteem. It builds responsibility. It creates self-motivation, all of these qualities that you have to have as a human being. But in addition to that, you’re also creating something from your own hands that is literally your baby, it’s your child. So, I just think there are so many great reasons to go into business.
DEFENDER: What are your post-graduation plans?
QUDISAH: One of my biggest passions is writing. That’s why I’m getting my minor in English, because I love to write, as well. I actually teach middle school and high school students writing at my alma mater, The Elevated Places. I absolutely love to write. So, the plan is once I graduate, I’m going to apply to a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program to attain my master’s degree in creative writing. So, in addition to entrepreneurship, I’ll also be pursuing my master’s degree.
DEFENDER: What kind of writing do you do?
QUDISAH: Mainly fiction. It has been a challenge because a lot of my experience has been, of course, in academic writing—hundreds of essays written. So, it’s been kind of interesting pivoting to a more creative field and writing fiction. That’s one of the reasons why I love UH because I attended a Beginning Creative Writing course, which was one of the requirements for my minor. Of course, when you have a required class, it’s a required class. You’re not thinking much of it. You’re just going in to get your credits and get out. This class changed my life. Number one, I developed a great relationship with the professor who really helped to cultivate me and who I know is really going to assist me in taking me to the next stage, which is the master’s program.
But also, I came alive creatively. Being so academically invested, it can be easy to stifle yourself creatively. But this class awoke me in ways that I hadn’t even realized that I was yearning to be involved in. So, ever since then, I was like, “Yeah, this is what I need to be doing.” And even throughout all the challenges, like wanting to throw my computer across the room and rip out all my keyboards, I love it. And it is something that I keep coming back to. So, I’m excited for the next stage.
DEFENDER: So, every writer I know loves to read. Who is your favorite fiction author?
QUDISAH: I’m kind of a huge nerd if you can tell already, but I love sci-fi. I love things dealing with the underworld and angels and demons and stuff. So, I read a lot of that. So, the book that really got me started was called “The Mortal Instruments” by Cassandra Claire. And it was like six or seven books, all about this thick (signals a huge book). And I would read them in like three days and be moving on to the next one. I think I would have to pin her as my favorite simply because she’s the one who kind of opened the flood gates for me and got me started.
DEFENDER: What do you do to stay grounded?
QUDISAH: I’m very social. I always maintain a relationship with my friends, even if I have 20 essays due this week. And you know, a, a lot of things on my plate. I always make sure I take time to call my friends. If they ask to go out, I always try to find a way to make it happen simply because you can hit a wall and reach a point where you’re going and going and going and going and not even realize that you haven’t taken time for yourself. You haven’t spoken to anyone in X amount of time. And that’s the easiest way to reach burnout. And I feel like I’m just at the beginning of my journey, so I can’t get burnt out now. I have to remain fueled. I have to remain, actually just even interested in going down this path. And when you’re going and going and going, that’s the easiest way to feel like “I’m done.”
I have to take time to step away and just be present, whether that be with other people, be present, where I’m just watching a show and not thinking about anything else. A popular misconception is that the academically advanced, we’re just like this all the time constantly working. I love my friends. I constantly am going out, making sure that I’m hanging out, talking with them on the phone, taking trips, whatever that looks like. I have to make sure that I am investing in myself socially, investing in myself with self-care, personally, whatever that calls for—whether that be taking a day off, two days off, a week off, I will do it.
Because I’ve been burnt out. I’ve been at that point where I don’t feel like I can keep going. And the common denominator has just been ignoring myself, neglecting myself so that I can take care of what seems to be the most pressing thing. And it’s not healthy. And it’s the quickest recipe for a disaster. So, I’ve learned that I have to make sure that I’m stepping away. I have to spend time with friends, have to spend time with family and take time off.
DEFENDER: Do you have any advice for future college students?
QUDISAH: Yes. Take a deep breath. First off, the application process for college when you’re a senior and you’re applying, is already very stressful. It’s a lot of anxiety trying to figure out where you’re going to go next. What’s going to happen next. How are you going to pay for it? Being away from your family, if you are going to be living on campus. It’s a lot of anxiety surrounding that process. So, once you are about to move to that next step, slow down, take a deep breath and keep repeating to yourself “It’s all going to work out. It’s all going to be okay.” Because I can remember being at that point and not knowing how it was going to be paid for, where I was going to go, if they were going to accept my credits, who’s going to do my recommendation letters. Like, it’s so much to think about, so much to factor in. But two years later, none of that even matters anymore and everything ultimately worked out.
So, take a deep breath and know that everything is going to work out the way it needs to. Also, don’t be so serious. If you’re like me, then you’re very serious about your future and “I’m going to go in here and dominate.” Chill out, all right. Be serious and take your education seriously, but also just chill <laughs>. Take your time. Move through the process. Do your work. Do a great job. Be excellent. Excel. But also, once again, take a deep breath, chill out. It’s okay not to be just this super producer 24/7. I think that’s really important, especially for students who are very academically inclined and want to just be amazing. Chill out.
DEFENDER: Any advice for future entrepreneurs?
QUDISAH: For business, you have to be strong. You have to be willing to take a lot of hits for just that one drop of success. It’s going to be a lot of “No’s.” It’s going to be a lot of things that should be easy, that become 20 times more difficult for whatever reason. There’s going to be a lot of times where you are just not getting the results that you’re looking for at the speed that you think you should be. You’re going to feel down. You might feel very depressed at certain moments, very anxious. There are a lot of emotions that come into business. It’s not just, “Hey, I started this business, now bring me the money.” It’s a lot of ups and downs. You can be two, three years into business and still feel like it’s your first month.
You’ve got to be strong and resilient, especially to know that everything is going to work out. It does it at its own time. We’re not the Creators. We’re not the All-Knowing. We’re not the ones who are controlling everything. So, you can’t always control when things happen, how things happen and the way that they should happen. But you have to keep getting back up every single day, believing in your vision to keep going. Especially if you believe in your product, if you believe in your service, keep going, no matter what. Even if every person you go to says “This product is absolute crap,” wake up the next day and push your product again.
ABOUT QUDISAH MUHAMMAD
Social Media: @disah_miftah
High School: The Elevated Places, graduated in 2021 as valedictorian
College: Senior at the University of Houston, will graduate December 2022
Major and Minor: Psychology and English
Other: Owner of Young Entrepreneurs Academy, a program geared toward helping youth to start their businesses completely from scratch, moving from initial idea phase to the fully launched business phase
Favorite Food: Alfredo.
Favorite Place to Eat: Olive Garden.
Favorite Musical Genre: R&B
Favorite Artists: Ooh, pass <laughs>. I have too many.
Favorite Spot in Houston: It would probably be the Meyerland area.
Favorite of most impactful movie: My favorite movie is a Disney movie called “Another Cinderella Story.” It’s not impactful. Don’t include that as the impactful one. It’s just my favorite <laughs>.
Ultimate professional and personal aspirations: My ultimate professional aspiration would be to be a published author and have it to where my day job is literally where I sit and write and publish. My personal aspiration is to trust myself so much to where I can be confident in my decisions, and be okay with who I am a hundred percent.