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Computer science major launches his own virtual business and is now a student and CEO.  

Most undergraduates view their college experience as the bridge to a career, but sometimes professional life doesn’t wait for commencement.

Computer science major Yassine Jouichate is four classes shy of earning his bachelor’s degree, but he has already founded and become CEO of his own company, Surplus Hands, which provides virtual office assistant services, web design, and digital marketing. Jouichate was born with a head for business.

His father, who is self-employed in architecture, pointed to an early family computer, when Jouichate was just a kid. “He said, ‘See this box right here? You can make money out of this,’” said Jouichate, whose family immigrated to the Philadelphia area from Morocco when he was eight. “It stuck with me.”

A graduate of Sun Valley High School in Aston, Pa., he chose Widener because it was close to home and family, it offered scholarship assistance, and it had an impressive computer science program – one he had heard good things about in the community. “It hit all the marks,” Jouichate said. “It was an ideal school for what I was looking for.”

He has seen business acumen in his fellow students too, noting other computer science majors have the potential to develop gaming businesses or computer programming outfits. “I can tell they have that entrepreneurial spirit as well, especially in computer science. They are the innovators of today,” he said.

“Widener is a place that celebrates and encourages innovation in the classroom, so it makes sense that we have students like Yassine, who is so eager to pursue his dreams while he earns his degree,” said Peter Hornberger, assistant director of the Widener Small Business Development Center, which provides consulting services and educational programming in support of new and existing businesses in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Hornberger and the SBDC assisted Jouichate with industry research and small business counseling. His computer science classes helped Jouichate learn coding that was useful in building his website. “Obviously Widener has had an effect on me that has allowed me to do it,” he said.

The culture at Widener supports entrepreneurship. Students get out into the business world as students, through co-ops that allow them to gain up to 12 months of compensated, hands-on work experience and still graduate within four years. Graduate students are on staff at the Small Business Development Center, counseling clients and helping them bring their dreams to life.

Today, Jouichate has a diverse staff of virtual assistants who all work “almost full time” from around the United States, helping businesses become more productive. He rolled out the company in late 2015 and said there are only a few others that provide the variety of services as his company.

“A lot of people tell me to slow down, take it easy, you’re young,” he said. “I just can’t take it slow. It’s not in me.”