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The Insider Look at FUR: Ahmed Shah, Manager of One of D.C.’s Hottest Nightclubs

On the surface, Ahmed Shah’s workweek can look like a wild and glamorous ride.
 
There are performances and encounters with Tiesto, Jay-Z, P. Diddy, Armin Van Buren and other top artists. There are constant calls from promoters, VIPs and embassy officials looking to book secluded lounges or entire nightclubs for elite events.
 
Shah, the general manager of Fur Nightclub, acknowledges that the public portion of his work exudes glamour. You can spot Shah, 27, in a sea of district party goers any night, his bald head reflecting the nightclub’s “intelligent lighting” system, cigar in mouth, Patron in hand, standing 5-foot-2 tall.
 
Recently, Fur Nightclub has been the venue of choice for many Maryland students, as it is one of the only places that regularly hosts international DJs and Shah does his best to do what he can to keep students having fun.

 
“Ahmed has a really genuine positive attitude,” said junior finance major Helena Horn. “He has a great outlook on life and always has a huge smile on his face; he always tries to brighten people's days. He was a UMD student so he really focuses on giving back to us now that he is an alumni.”
 
 As a student at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Md., Shah was already the life of the party. His father, born in Pakistan, bought foreclosed property in the Montgomery County area and rented them out, a few occasionally remaining vacant. Young Shah spotted a business opportunity. Delegated by his father to upkeep the properties, he would throw parties in the empty houses. He charged cover at the door and made money off of organizing the events.

 
College came, and so did more partying. Shah attended the University of Maryland as a marketing major and continued doing what he did best: throwing huge parties. He started organizing events in DC, where he met Michael Romeo, the owner of a club called Insomnia. At the age of 18, Shah started interning for Romeo, who offered to pay for his school tuition and loans if he worked for him.
 
In 2004 Romeo had risky plans to open a 26,000-square-foot club on 33 Patterson Street in a drug-infested neighborhood devoid of other retail establishments. Renovating the building cost millions as Romeo created a dance floor beneath a 30-foot-high ceiling, outfitted posh private lounges and sparkling VIP skybox suites.
 
Romeo made sure Shah learned the business inside and out. Shah worked the coat check, bartended, ran errands, shuttled supplies and started building a network of customers.
Shah graduated in the summer of 2007 and continued working for Romeo. Over seven years Shah worked his way up from intern to marketer to general manger of Fur.

 
“Most people at the age of 24 are still trying to figure out what they want to do with their life and I was just offered to be general manager,” said Shah.  According to Washington SmartCEO Magazine, in keeping with Romeo’s practice of giving a portion of the company to long-time employees, Shah now owns 12 percent of Fur.  
Shah’s contact list now exceeds 4,000 people and is meticulously divided in his BlackBerry into lists of clients who like different music genres and different types of events. Shah keeps notebooks on clients, artists and regulars with notes about their likes and interests. Armed with those details, Shah personally calls 300 to 400 customers a week to pitch upcoming events of special interest to them.
 
In keeping with tradition of giving back, Shah gives internships to Maryland students, currently employing five students and a handful of alum. He also works with student promoters to bring students to the clubs. “Every weekend there is a DJ at Fur, and you can count on multiple buses from Maryland showing up, sometimes just because Ahmed called,” Horn said.
 
Jason Fidel, a senior psychology major, organizes transportation and table service for Maryland students and has worked directly with Shah for three years. “He makes everyone feel like VIP,” Fidel said. “He is easy to work with, always answers his phone and is all about making sure everyone is having a great time.”
 
A typical day for Shah starts at noon, checking voicemails, e-mails and micromanaging 88 employees. From eyes open to door closing, Shah is networking with clients and talent agencies, and booking artists. “It is the only place where a large college crowd goes that hosts international DJs,” Jesse Tomares, a recent graduate from Georgetown University said. “There is no competition.”
 
Running the biggest nightclub in DC might be fun for now, but Shah says he has dreams to start his own marketing consulting firm so he doesn’t have to be in the nightclubs late hours.
“Getting texts the next morning telling me it was the best night of their life, that it was so much fun is priceless to me,” Shah said while bearing his contagious smile. “I get to hook up my friends and get paid for partying, what is better than that?”

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