Eat a slice of gourmet pizza and help build wells in Africa sounds like a great deal; slice that pie right here in the Baltimore Metro area.
Born in Columbia, Haris Qudsi, a 22 year old Ellicott City man found himself unable to pay for another year at the University of Maryland Baltimore Campus (UMBC). He decided to work and save money instead of taking student loans. And when you follow Allah’s path then Allah's help comes.
A young imam moved into town and his local masjid started a seminary. Just around this time a pizza store owner down the street from his home, where he lives with his family, was looking for a buyer.
Haris served in the Army reserves for three years and has a tech background; he approached his father and they both decided to invest their respective savings and take up the challenge. The man who owned the store was a friend of the family and offered a generous zero-interest monthly payment plan. Today Qudsi is a student at the Al Rahmah seminary in the morning and works at his new business after classes, ZumZum Pizzeria in Ellicott City, MD.
Families in this city get to enjoy living in a community with a diverse population, reasonable housing costs, terrific schools, in one of the richest county in country. “Ellicott City has a different crowd, you have to focus on quality,” says Qudsi. Ellicott City is high end- homely and friendly says Qudsi. “In terms of food they are looking for solid quality ingredient, a clean atmosphere and a regular place to come to.”
More than price, a restaurateur has to focus on quality of the dining experience and the food even in a pizza joint, says Qudsi. “I want that [my customers] enjoy their meal one hundred percent; they decided to put their money in our hands,” delivers the young entrepreneur, who used to think that running a pizza shop was a piece of cake.
Fully Zabiha halal, Qudsi had planned some changes to the former Pizza & Wings; he is going to replace a counter to create more room for seating. The restaurant was originally a Pizza Hut. He has extended the shop timings by closing later and opening earlier. “I like to make it better than people expect,” comments Qudsi.
ZumZum offers a pizza made with Sorrento all natural fresh mozzarella, zabiha meat products, whole tomatoes and fresh vegetables that ‘you can taste in the pie’. “We aren’t buying the cheapest kind of things,” mentions Qudsi.
ZumZum also offers a Gyro product and is the only pizza place which delivers paninis in the area.
“People get the idea that a pizza shop is easy money-that you just have to be at the store for a little bit. There is so much more to it from menu design to finding good employees; find the right people for the job,” says Qudsi.
Running a business is time-consuming; this Ravens fan had to give away tickets to a big game and sacrifice attending a friend’s wedding; he hopes to hire a manager some time in the future.
The shop is close to UMBC. Qudsi who was the Vice President of the UMBC Muslim Student’s Association maintains ties with the local MSAs. As he plans on becoming an imam, and is thinking of pursuing a counseling degree to assist in the family dynamics of his future congregation- especially their marital and parenting issues.
The social initiative also appeals to the his clientele; the well project inspired the name change of the pizzeria. Along with the name change came the new simplified menu and signage. Qudsi hopes to build two wells in different countries and a percentage of the total tab is donated towards that goal. He plans to increase the percentage during Ramadan and other Islamic celebrations. “My goal to push it hard and make it a huge focal point- donating to help other people.” He fits right into the national trend- an Ernst and Young study reports that 70 percent of young entrepreneurs choose to give back while building their businesses and they give more than twice what big businesses give in the US.
He looks at Pizza Roma as a great model of giving back to the community.
ZumZum Pizzeria recently catered the College Park campus United Muslim Relief non-musical benefit concert and hopes to support MIST. Islamic Society of Baltimore members get a special discount.
Qudsi is putting in a lot to make his dough the right way, and he's finding this is no pie in the sky.