YEA! Course (Young Entrepreneurs Academy)

“Young Entrepreneurs Academy” was a course based on teaching entrepreneurship to young minds through practical implementation of the theories taught. The course was held in Mumbai on every Saturday for 6 months from July 2019 till January 2020. In this course, we had to develop an idea–could be a product or service– and turn it into a profitable business in the process of learning about entrepreneurship in the span of 6 months. At the end of the course, we had 3 esteemed investors to whom we had to pitch our business idea for them to invest. Overall it was an unremarkable experience. Travelling alone every Saturday, managing timings of the trains, booking the tickets, meeting like-minded peers from Mumbai, and developing a product along with a business plan to pitch at the end. I worked in a pair and the business idea that we came up with was ‘Plovr, a sustainable toothbrush’. My partner and I wanted to come up with a solution of single-use plastic products and hence, we tried to inculcate the idea of sustainability in a toothbrush. The product toothbrush was taken since the only part that is expected to be replaced in a brush are the bristles of the brush and not the whole body. All in all, this CAS experience was out of the ordinary; developed me holistically and taught me things which will be rejoiced forever.

This CAS experience helped me understand myself in a much deeper and authentic way. Travelling every Saturday for 6 hours–up and down– made me realize my interest in reading, made it compulsory for me to reflect upon things and spend thoughtful time with myself. I became aware of my strengths for example, communication. I realized that I could easily talk with strangers, be it my course mates, mentors, guest speakers or the ticket collector. Other strengths that surfaced was the ability to understand how business works, deal with stakeholders for example, in our product we had to meet with product designers and silicon based manufacturers. I could easily work with them and explain them our requirements and get the work done. Moreover, I also realized that I had overcome my stage fear. For the first time, I was not scared of going up on the stage and pitch our idea.

A few areas of growth that surfaced through this experience was the fear of losing and rejection. It became clear to me that I could not hear “no”. Our idea was rejected by almost 4-5 product designers until the 6th designer said yes. Similarly, our business idea did not get through with the investment which was another form of rejection, it hurt a lot. A lot of hard work and determination was put behind the whole business idea and it did not win which was heartbreaking. Hence, this experience taught me the importance of accepting rejection and ‘no’ since it is not possible to live a ‘fairy tale’ my whole life.

The biggest challenge for me during this whole CAS experience was persistence. The commitment to attend almost all the sessions meant that I had to give up on many events such as Monsoon Musings, Basketball tournaments, and a lot of parties or friend meet-ups. This taught me how things had to be compromised in order to achieve something greater in life. It also made me feel a bit left-out and out-of-the-place since my friends started spending time without me more. However, looking at this from the positive side, I realized who my ‘true-friends’ were. The other challenge that was taken up was the development of an idea which was not in the scope of my abilities. The whole toothbrush mechanism was solely based on science especially physics. This area was not ‘my-cup-of-tea’ and hence, I had to put more efforts, take an extra mile, do some more research in order to create the best product we could. This meant that I had to spend extra hours which was immensely difficult considering the other commitments I had, be it basketball training, or organizing events in school or attending competitions in addition to the school work and submissions. I learnt self-management where making timetables, schedules and sticking to them was significantly helpful.

Working with others has usually been easy for me, I consider myself a ‘people-person’ and being part of the school’s basketball team since the past 6 years has helped me develop a lot of my teamwork skills. Since, working collaboratively usually comes easy for me, this experience was no different. However, the only issue I faced working with this particular partner was to get him equally enthusiastic and determined behind the business idea. Both of us did not have similar energy for the business idea which made it difficult to get my partner to do the work. To deal with this, I managed to divide our tasks clearly and had reminders and calls to check up on the work done. The constant meetings and reiteration of the work to do made my partner and I realize the pace at which we were working and what needed to be changed.

Working for an idea that made an environmental impact; decreasing the use of plastic by using the toothbrush for longer time showed the engagement of issues of global significance. The generation of this idea came from the opinion on working for something to give back to the community in some way or the other. Though the toothbrush was not further manufactured in bulk and sold, the designing of this product was a step towards the willingness to work for environment. The whole brush was designed and even a prototype was made to ensure that the brush was usable and feasible.

In this process, I realised that even small and insignificant decisions that we make are sometimes unethical and we should take a stand for ourselves to even follow rules that are generally accepted in the society to be broken. For example, while travelling inter-city, from the station to the classes or restaurants to the local trains, we broke the signals if there were no cars coming. After a few classes, it became clear to me that even small ethical actions matter. I made a decision to not break small rules too, from being 95% honest I tired to become 100% honest. I did not break any of the signals, or paid for the fine when I accidentally sat in the first-class local train seat while having a second-class ticket. Though these actions did not make a significant difference in the society and probably I did even break a few unintentionally, I believe the recognition and consideration of my ethical choices and actions made a huge impact in my life. Being constantly present to all my actions made me realise the extent to which so many rules or choices we make contrast to our ethics and values. I believe that becoming aware is one step towards a change and I think this practice of trying to become 100% ethical has continued even after the whole course.

To conclude, this experience was very versatile in teaching me things expansively. I developed various learner profile attributes such as being a communicator, a thinker, a risk-taker, and an open-minded as already explained. On a lighter note, the highlights of this experience would be that I started travelling alone, understood how local trains work in Mumbai and learnt how to book tickets online. In a nutshell, this was one of the best experience out of all the CAS experiences


Link to the presentation:

Link to the video of the pitch made in front of the investors:

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