I founded a startup, AUKERA, that promotes access to opportunities and the empowerment of youth. We have designed a closed, social networking platform that facilitates both, academic and professional development, while also providing the option for students to connect with independent education consultants and counselors.
What is the most surprising thing about being a female entrepreneur?
The camaraderie. I’ve found female entrepreneurs to be extremely collaborative and supportive in nature- always trading advice and offering support whenever one’s in need. While we may lack the same intergenerational role models as men, it’s nice to know that I can look to my left and my right, and feel lifted up by my peers. That kind of support is rare and extremely powerful.
How did your past experiences help you get to where you are today?
I was a teenager that would have benefited from AUKERA. As a sophomore in high school I was told I had to dance - I was a professional ballet dancer - because my parents couldn’t afford college. However I was a strong student and had I applied to schools at 18, I would have gotten in based on merit and been awarded a discounted rate based on need. Now a Columbia alum and founder, it’s my goal to highlight these types of opportunities to students.
Do you think you want to start other businesses in the future or do you want to keep growing this one as long as possible? What is the dream?
For now, my focus is AUKERA and taking it from an early-stage startup to a sustainable company. However, my dream is broadly to build and invest in tech-based, business initiatives that promote resolutions to the opportunity gap; primarily those in edtech and recruiting/admissions technology.
Is it important to set goals or is it better to just “go with the flow”? What is your strategy?
You need a bit of both. It’s imperative to set goals and adhere to deadlines, however, you must be able to adapt. Sometimes - most times - things don’t work out the way you think they’re going to, but that doesn’t negate the fact that every turning point has value. My strategy is to take a moment; reflect, process the experience, then move on more informed. You are an amalgamation of your experiences and in some ways so is your business. Resilience and perseverance are key for any entrepreneur.
Why did you become a member of Dreamers // Doers? How has the D // D community contributed to the success of your entrepreneurial journey?
I met Gesche in July of 2015 and her energy and enthusiasm were contagious. While I joined as a member of the team, I decided to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams by starting AUKERA, much due to the inspiration of the community. I always say that life should be about stepping into yourself, not a role; and the Dreamers // Doers community gave me the support I needed to do just that: to be who I am and build the life I want.