Refurbishing Computers Turns from Side Hustle to Helping Hand
Dylan Zajac ’25 clearly remembers when his side hustle—taking broken computers, fixing them, and selling them at a cut-rate price—bloomed into a full-fledged charity.
“There was this dad that I was messaging with on Facebook. I was negotiating the price of this laptop with him, and he was telling me all about how his son needs it for school,” Zajac said.
“I started to feel bad. I realized I was making 200 percent profit on this computer, which is great for my business, but in terms of helping people, it just didn’t sit well with me.”
Zajac, now a rising sophomore at Babson College, decided he’d give it to his customer’s son for free.
“He’d never had a laptop before, and he still uses it today,” Zajac said. “That’s when I started realizing I could really do this. I’d be able to give these working computers away to people who really needed them.”
Zajac was a high school sophomore in Hoboken, New Jersey, when he started the nonprofit charity Computers 4 People. He has refurbished and donated more than 950 laptop and desktop computers, and he’ll soon be able to hand out 300 more laptops thanks to a contribution from Babson.
“Me and my girlfriend drove (to campus) in June and loaded them all up with the help of some volunteers,” Zajac said. “It was a long day, but now we have all of these amazing laptops that we’re giving to people who wouldn’t be able to access them otherwise.”
Starting With the Motherboard
Zajac’s family was key when it came to building his charity, and he was committed to creating an official nonprofit. His stepmother, an executive at a nonprofit in Brooklyn, helped him with the taxing process, which required applying for 501(c)(3) status. His mother spent weekends and evenings helping him deliver the computers to eager recipients.
Meanwhile, Zajac scoured the internet seeking donated computers, all the while juggling his school work during his junior and senior years.
“It didn’t really feel like work,” Zajac said of the charity. “It was tough, but I was so excited, especially when we started to grow.”
The charity, which started on Zajac’s bedroom floor, is currently renting an 800 square foot space in downtown Hoboken. Zajac has a full-time program director, three part-time employees, interns, and four daily volunteers.
Zajac’s donation process has also evolved. He originally worked with charitable organizations, donating a five-desktop computer station to The Jubilee Center in Hoboken, for example. The center is an after-school space for students from kindergarten through high school.
“I connected with nonprofits, and I’d just reach out to them and ask what they needed,” he said. “They’d tell me whether they needed desktops or laptops, and henceforth I worked to get more donations.”
Zajac now has a form on his website that allows anyone to apply for one of his computers, usually via a nonprofit or local library. Potential recipients must be earning no more than 150% of the Federal Poverty Index, explain why they need the laptop, and provide a recommendation from a nonprofit, school, or a place of worship.
“We got to work with this one organization in Queens called the Fortune Society, where most of the applicants are formerly incarcerated. They’ll say in their applications they’ve been in prison for over 25 years and they’ve never been able to use a computer before,” Zajac said.
“They came with these amazing recommendation letters about how these people are working to change their lives. It’s incredible to be a part of that.”
Bulk up Bandwidth
Zajac continues to make every computer delivery himself, even as his charity has grown and he is preparing to return to Babson classes this month.
“Giving people a tool that could potentially open opportunities and change their lives, and talking to them about their life … those exchanges are always the best,” he said.
Zajac has continued to keep an eye out for new organizations and people who can donate, which is why he reached out to Babson President Stephen Spinelli Jr. MBA’92, PhD during his freshman year.
“I’ve definitely made a lot of relationships with people here. I connected with President Spinelli, and he has introduced me to some key people. One of them donated 150 laptops,” Zajac said.
He’s also started an annual fundraiser to support Computers 4 People, and he’s holding the second annual fundraiser on Aug. 25 at the Wicked Wolf Tavern in Hoboken, New Jersey.
“Giving people a tool that could potentially open opportunities and change their lives, and talking to them about their life … those exchanges are always the best.”
Dylan Zajac ’25, founder and CEO of Computers 4 People
Meanwhile, basic classes in accounting and other financial basics have improved his business management tool kit.
“It’s made things much easier and I feel more confident, because I’d really been working with business people who are so much older than me so far,” Zajac said.
The future of Computers 4 People isn’t entirely clear, said Zajac, who continues to consider different options including working with Babson’s recently created Tariq Farid Franchise Institute.
“I’m working with the franchising institute to see if we can start another location, so we’re looking at local sourcing and funding,” Zajac said. “I want to grow Computers 4 People, but I also want to start other businesses, probably in the technology sector.”
Posted in Campus & Community, Entrepreneurship of All Kinds
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