An IT entrepreneur treasures Verizon Small Business Digital Ready’s diverse, supportive community

May 31, 2024 8:00 AM ET


Growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, Syeda Ahmed and her older sister Darakshan Ahmed had a special appreciation for the value of education. Their mother had not gone to school as her family didn’t believe that it was necessary for girls to attend school. Both sisters, however, not only attended school but were also taught at home by peer tutors. Thanks in part to her parents' efforts, Syeda developed a passion for making learning accessible for all.

In 2020, this passion drove Syeda and Darakhshan to found Tutorsloop, a platform for affordable private tutoring. The venture, which matches high school students with college students, is based on the peer-tutoring model they grew up with in Pakistan. “Back home, getting this private support is easy. It’s available everywhere,” Syeda says. Yet in the Chicago area, where her family immigrated when she was a teenager, Syeda noticed that many people in her community struggled to find affordable options to augment their children’s education.

The sisters assumed that once they built the platform, the business would take off. The duo soon realized, however, that they needed significant funding to cover costs that they, as business novices, hadn’t foreseen. “We did not know all the business aspects, including financing, and so pretty soon, we ran out of savings,” Syeda says.

One business becomes two

Through Sunshine Enterprises, a Chicago nonprofit that supports local entrepreneurs, Syeda and Darakhshan learned about Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, which opened up a new world of resources and opportunities. As they began to connect with more entrepreneurs through the program and other venues, they noticed that many small businesses were looking for web development and social media solutions. “They wanted to get their website developed, but did not know who to contact,” Syeda explains. With both sisters having a background in IT software development, the answer was clear.

In 2023, Syeda and Darakhshan launched a second business: TL IT Solutions. “We work with clients from scratch,” Syeda explains. “We guide them on where to start and provide them with affordable solutions.” Today, they have 10 to 15 clients, all found through their network. With the steady revenue from the second business to back them, the sisters hope to work on their tutoring business again.

‘You get real-time help’

Syeda has taken nearly a dozen self-paced classes or live coaching events on the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready platform — some of them multiple times. When a client recently had questions about SEO, for example, Syeda revisited the Basics of Search Engine Optimization: Get Discovered course to refresh her knowledge. She was able to offer her client strategies to boost the business’s visibility online.

As a woman entrepreneur, Syeda appreciates that the courses are often taught by other women business owners, who may share first-hand experiences. “They know what they’re talking about. They have been there,” Syeda says. “That’s inspiring to me. I feel like I’m not alone.”

The financial literacy courses have been a game-changer for Syeda. She learned to use accounting apps for invoicing and receiving payments, and to set up business accounts separate from her personal finances, amongst other financial strategies. With her newfound skills, “I’m more confident,” Syeda says.

For networking, Syeda found the Strategic Networking to Unlock New Opportunities course particularly helpful. In addition to providing actionable strategies to build connections, “the course taught me the importance of both seeking help and being helpful within my network,” she says.

These days, Syeda checks in daily on the Slack channel for Verizon Small Business Digital Ready, where she has access to a network of 3,000 businesses. “You have a question, you put it out there and get a response,” she says. “Everybody shares their journey, what they do. You get real-time help if you need it.”

“I learn something new every day,” she adds.

Syeda also scored a prospective client, when someone posted that they needed a developer for their website and Syeda followed-up with a direct message.

In her father’s footsteps

For Syeda, the people-oriented service aspect of her web development business is personally gratifying. “I enjoy this work so much because I learn about other businesses and the life stories of our clients, who are coming from underprivileged communities. They have some touching and inspirational stories,” she says.

As she continues her entrepreneurial journey, Syeda hopes to follow the example of her father, also an entrepreneur, who died suddenly when she was nine years old. “He loved to help people, too,” Syeda says.

She recalls observing him in his business life and all that he accomplished — from creative endeavors to being adept at money management — and reflects, “I think that is in me, too. I feel him every day.”

The Digital Ready initiative is part of Verizon’s goal to support 1M small businesses by 2030 with the resources to thrive in the digital economy as part of its responsible business plan, Citizen Verizon. Visit to learn more about the company’s responsible business efforts. An individual user's experience may vary and results are not guaranteed.