On Friday, October 25, there was a Lunch-&-Learn Event hosted by Intinium, CEO, and the Coleman Foundation in Kaplan Institute. This event was part of a series of events for Women Entrepreneurship Week. The guest speaker for the event was Shaily Baranwal, who is the founder and CEO of Elevate K-12, a company that provides educational and technological help to school students. Along with her was Professor Nik Rokop from Illinois Tech. The topic of the event was “How to start and stick with your entrepreneurial journey while in school.”
The event began with a 15-minute fireside chat between Rokop and Baranwal. Baranwal talked about her past experiences, her venture startups, and the things she learned from them. Baranwal grew up in Mumbai, India and studied engineering and early childhood education in the U.S. She also earned her MBA from the University of Michigan-Ross School of Business.
Passion and love for what she does has been her motivating factor, and every idea that Baranwal had came from learning about different experiences. In Mumbai, she started a chain of restaurants and preschools, both of which involve giving other people experiences. Baranwal mentioned how she enjoyed seeing other people’s reaction and reception to her work. She said that when you love what you do, your work becomes not only easier, but also better, because you continuously are trying to improve it. Witnessing others experience her work was what kindled her passion for entrepreneurship.
For any entrepreneur, networking is a very important part of starting a business, if not the most important. You can never have too many connections because you never know how someone can help you out. Baranwal started her company, Elevate K-12, while she was a graduate student at the University of Michigan and within 6-8 months of landing in the USA from Mumbai. She started the company with grants and scholarship money while at the University of Michigan. This was made possible through building good connections and constantly maintaining and investing in them.
After the fireside chat, Baranwal gave a 15-minute presentation on what she called “gyanisms.” Baranwal made up the term from gyan, a Sanskrit word meaning “knowledge.” These gyanisms were Baranwal’s rules to start an entrepreneurial journey and stick with it.
The first gyanism is to dream, and to be able to dream big, because there is no successful person who is not ambitious with their work. Baranwal says that you should try to be a non-conformist: being different and going against the flow. Instead of changing your business to adapt to the market, you should try to change the market to adapt to your business. For example, Netflix and other streaming companies changed the way we watch TV and movies.
The second gyanism is to ask. While it is good to be independent, it is impossible to be successful all by yourself. Do not be afraid to seek help and ask others if you need help.
Gyanism #3 is to build and launch fast. In today’s world, changes are happening rapidly, whether it be in politics, economics, world events, etc. It is important to get your idea out there and quickly grab opportunities that come to you before someone else does.
The fourth gyanism is finding the right people. As mentioned earlier, success happens only with the help of others. When building your team, make sure you are being objective and recruiting the right people, and don’t let personal relationships affect your business.
Gyanism #5 is to scale. Many times, people forget to scale their company’s growth and thus end up either becoming overwhelmed and under-resourced, or they make little progress and fail. Being prepared for all possibilities is a huge part of running a company.
The sixth and final gyanism is to have determination and perseverance. If your business fails, do not give up. You must not fear failure, but learn from it and keep progressing. If you are passionate about achieving something, do not stop until you reach that goal.