He was only 10 years old, peddling newspapers and magazines in the busy streets of Mumbai, India, for mere rupees.
“20 to 30 rupees in the morning would’ve been a good day,” says Salman Sayyed, now a candidate of Westminster College’s MBA program.
It wasn’t until Sayyed began to sell books that he begun to show interest in reading and writing.
“I had learned to read and sound out the alphabet, but I had no idea what anything meant,” he says.
Unlike most kids his age, Sayyed didn’t really attend school, choosing to instead focus his time on selling books, newspapers and magazines. When he was 16, however, Sayyed had a chance encounter with Caroline Nagar, a teacher at a school that taught students to read and write the English language.
Nagar offered Sayyed a spot at the Akanksha school, an exclusive school supported by the non-profit Akanksha Foundation.
“I tried [going] but I just felt like ‘this isn’t really my thing,’” says Sayyed.
Sayyed gave it another try a year later, and this time, it stuck. After Akanksha, he pursued a bachelor’s degree and began working a regular job.
It wasn’t enough, however, according to Sayyed.
“A friend of mine from Akanksha was working at Magic Tours, and I said, ‘Wow! That’s really cool,’” says Sayyed. And nobody knew the streets of Mumbai quite like Sayyed.
By 2014, Sayyed interviewed with Magic Tours and found himself giving guided tours to groups in Mumbai. He kept this up for five years, with the exception of a gap year, where he traveled to Houston and attended a local community college.
Now, Sayyed was certain he wanted to move, at least temporarily, to the U.S.
In 2018, Sayyed was a guide for Salt Lake Community College’s India study abroad program. Also attending the trip was Beth Colosimo, the executive director of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative.
“We were stuck in [Mumbai] traffic just talking about life,” says Sayyed.
As the conversation progressed, Colosimo mentioned to Sayyed that there were some colleges and universities in Salt Lake that he might be interested in looking at. While Colosimo didn’t intend for Sayyed to room with her and her family, a short year later he was in Salt Lake City, accepted to Westminster College’s MBA program.
“A lot of people questioned whether I was making the right decision,” says Sayyed, “but I always follow instinct and see where that takes me.”
Despite having an intriguing and a remarkable past, traveling to the U.S. and finally living here has taught Sayyed about himself and how he chooses to go about life.
“I learned a lot about myself the last few years,” says Sayyed.
With a budding interest in photography, videography and technology, Sayyed says he never had the opportunity to really try these things out. However, following what feels viscerally right for him is what he will continue to do.
“I didn’t know [what I was doing] when I was young, and I don’t know what I’m doing now,” says Sayyed. “I just know that, whatever I do, life will take me where I need to go.”