Rather than taking on an internship, I will be tackling a new challenge in India this summer. I am launching the pilot for my venture Himayat, a digital employment benefits platform. While working at Jazz Hands, my first entrepreneurial venture, I often met the parents of the students we were serving, many of whom would be domestic workers. My two other co-founders and I wanted to create a safety net for informal workers. Despite being the main source of income for their families, these workers have little to no access to employment benefits.
To launch Himayat, I will use funding won during Fuqua Fast Pitch, a celebration of entrepreneurship on Duke’s campus. The competition is a unique chance for student founders to pitch their ventures to the Duke community and even secure startup funding! With three awards and $15,000 up for grabs, I was excited but also extremely nervous about sharing my company with the world.
My Fuqua Fast Pitch Experience
By participating in Fuqua Fast Pitch, I had the opportunity to work one-on-one with mentors like Erin Worsham from the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) to solidify our business plan and eventually pitch to a group of 10 judges. For the final event, I had an incredible opportunity to pitch my venture to the larger Duke community. I couldn’t believe my luck when Himayat won ALL three of the awards, taking home not only the grand prize and the audience choice award, but also the Dean Yep, Jr. Prize, awarded in honor of a beloved member of the Fuqua community who passed away in 2016. In the end, I was so thankful for this chance to share Himayat’s mission.
I was also selected as the recipient of the CASE Launch Pad Prize. The annual award provides $10,000 and other resources to Fuqua students with an impact enterprise idea. This funding, along with funding earned through Fuqua Fast Pitch, is giving me the opportunity to bring that vision to life. And in another show of Team Fuqua support, my New Ventures: Develop classmate Monica Macheca is traveling to India this summer to help with the launch.
Gaining Confidence as an Entrepreneur
People were often surprised when they heard about my undergraduate majors in journalism and environmental studies and my family’s background, which is not remotely related to business. My father is a policymaker, and my mother is a professor and author. This surprise would seep into my own thought process, and I too would second guess my competency for attempting to pursue an entrepreneurial venture. However, after engaging with Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship (Duke I&E) for over two years during my dual MPP/MBA degree at Duke, my internal definition of what it means to be an entrepreneur has transformed.
To be an entrepreneur is to completely change your way of thinking—to be dedicated to solving problems. There were several moments when I considered pivoting and pressing a pause on my entrepreneurial journey. I am SO grateful to Team Fuqua and the incredible people who kept pushing me and created the support system I (and so many student entrepreneurs) needed to succeed.