My journey as a social entrepreneur began during my undergraduate degree at NYU—when I didn’t even know what entrepreneurship or an entrepreneurial mindset was. My father has been working as a bureaucrat in India for the past 30 years. He often brought his work home. Issues such as poverty, inequity and polarization were dinner table conversations. These conversations stuck with me even when I went to pursue my undergraduate degree at NYU, and I tried to find ways in which I could use the resources around me to give back to communities back home.

One such resource was the Reynolds Program for Social Entrepreneurship. There, I worked closely with faculty across NYU schools to develop a unique drama curriculum that could be used to teach English as a second language. I secured a grant at NYU to take this curriculum to schools in my city Pune where I eventually launched my first entrepreneurial venture – Jazz Hands Foundation. It has now been six years since we began teaching underprivileged children in the city English using drama. We have worked with more than 5,000 students and 2,000 youth volunteers. Jazz Hands solidified my desire to continue in my father’s footsteps and work in the public service sector, but it also exposed me to the then relatively new concept of social entrepreneurship.

My Entrepreneurship Journey at Fuqua

When I enrolled at Fuqua, I had a nascent venture idea and a LOT of accompanying fear about dedicating my time at business school to focus on it. That fear kept compounding as I saw everyone around me land incredible summer internships and as I read the abysmal stats about women founders receiving the capital and support they needed to succeed.

At Fuqua, I found that my courses and support from mentors helped me develop an entrepreneurial mindset. I immersed myself in coursework and opportunities that would help me create the institutional safety nets necessary to pursue a new venture. The New Ventures: Develop course taught by Professor Jamie Jones and Max Stern is one of the best hands-on courses a student founder can take at Duke. We spent two terms developing and testing assumptions that are critical to business success by conducting customer discovery and working on our ventures with a team of students across the university.

Arya Diwase, student at Duke University's Fuqua school of business, with professor Jamie Jones and Max Stern
Me (middle) with my New Ventures: Develop professors and mentors Jamie Jones (left) and Max Stern (right)

I found Professor Manuel Adelino’s Venture Capital & Entrepreneurial Finance class extremely valuable in terms of helping me think through ways to finance my venture and navigate the complex male-dominated VC landscape.

Institutionally, the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) and Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Duke I&E) have been pivotal in providing mentorship, resources, funding support and growth opportunities for me to take the next step in my entrepreneurial journey.

I now realize that entrepreneurship is not about a profession but rather a mindset. A mindset to recognize real challenges coupled with a desire to solve those challenges and create a systematic approach to deliver a solution. Team Fuqua has helped me achieve that environment. Not only will I continue developing my entrepreneurial mindset throughout the rest of my time at Duke University, but I am also looking forward to helping empower other student entrepreneurs like myself through CASE, the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club, and Duke I&E.