Idle is definitely not a word you would use to describe Charles Dumrique. The fourth-year statistics and economics major hasn’t taken a summer vacation since he started his five-year program.
In addition to taking students on horseback riding and treetop trekking trips as part of U of T Scarborough's Athletics & Recreation department, he works part-time at the UTSC Library and it the Founder and CEO of Charlie Bites, a Filipino-style dessert brand.
“We had a similar chocolate snack in the Philippines where my family and I come from. When we got to Canada we couldn’t find any similar kind. So we tried to make it ourselves,” says Dumrique.
Along with his two brothers, he founded the dessert business in 2012 during his first year at UTSC. Since they were making the chocolate-covered cornflakes themselves, working out the most efficient way to make the desserts and package them was an early challenge and Dumrique notes it took much trial and error.
From humble beginnings the business began to grow. At first, Charlie Bites were being sold to friends at Singles for Christ, a worldwide Catholic youth group with a local chapter. Because of their encouragement, Dumrique decided to introduce the snacks to the UTSC campus community.
“I learned about the UTSC Farmers' Market here in school and I pounced on that.”
He started giving out samples to his classmates, a business card soon followed and now there is a website where customers can place orders. The business operates out of a commercial kitchen and the next step is to get Charlie Bites into supermarkets and boutique shops. Currently, the flavours range from three types of chocolate to matcha green tea, Oreo, Reese's Peanut Butter and even fruit flavours like mango and strawberry.
Dumrique says none of this would be possible without the relationships he's built at UTSC.
“Most of my customers now are from UTSC, especially my friends since first year. They keep buying Charlie Bites. It grew because of them,” he says.
Through this venture, Dumrique was able to apply what he was learning in lectures in real life—and in real time. He also learned things that he would not have been able to pick up simply by reading a textbook.
“I grew as a person. Besides managing my own time, I learned how to communicate better and promote the brand and myself.”
Dumrique’s advice for aspiring student entrepreneurs? Dive in and be fearless.
“Most of us have a lot of ideas, and those ideas just stay as ideas,” he says. “Just start your business and everything will flow from there.”