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How This Ambitious 19-Year-Old Female CEO Started At 16

How This Ambitious 19-Year-Old Female CEO Started At 16

Yesterday was one of those days I felt entirely too old. I became acquainted with a female CEO who started her entrepreneurial journey at only 16 years old — while she was still in high school! Today, she’s someone whose successes are bound to inspire many others.

The CEO of SavyDisha Shidham, is an ambitious 19-year-old with many dreams. One of her dreams gave way to Savy, a tool that democratizes your online shopping experience. Savy lets you name your price for any item you love and emails you when your item hits your desired price.

Savy was founded on the tagline: “your style, your price”. They now have 200+ retail partners you can shop from. If you love an item, but it is too expensive simply enter a price you’re willing to pay and your email. As soon as your item hits your price, you’ll be emailed.

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Savy aims to cultivate relationships between businesses and site visitors who are “window shopping” or just browsing. Since price is such an important aspect for both businesses and customers, it seems fitting to get the customer’s input.

An Extract from the Young Female CEO’s Interview

Disha is an inspiration for every aspiring entrepreneur. Her story is not just a success story, but also an enlightening one. I took the time to learn from her and to understand how she leveraged various resources as a young entrepreneur.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Disha! So tell me, when did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

You are so welcome Saheed, thank you for having me!

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When I was 16, so back in the summer of 2014, I participated in the MIT Launch Summer Program, which is a 4-week entrepreneurship program specifically for high schoolers. Those 4 weeks were truly my introduction to entrepreneurship (my high school didn’t offer classes or any entrepreneurship clubs) and I absolutely loved the idea of building something with your sweat and tears and watching it add value to peoples’ lives. Entrepreneurship was a perfect fit for who I was and who I wanted to be in the future.

What are some resources you came across as a young entrepreneur?

So the MIT Launch Program is obviously one, it gave me a taste of the startup world. My advice to any young entrepreneur would be definitely to start there. After MIT Launch, I decided I wanted to continue with the idea I had developed, so I participated in Catapult Ideas — an incubator for high school startups, which helped hone my startup idea, then called TacBoard, into an actionable and monetizable business.

I would also advise young entrepreneurs, or really any entrepreneurs in general, to reach out to their community. For me specifically, one example of when I did this — I reached out to State Representative Stephanie Kunze, who is part of the Ohio House, and she invited me to the first ever Empower Women Entrepreneurial Event.

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From there, I was able to gain contacts to further my startup. I was even able to speak to  Ohio’s Speaker of the House, Cliff Rosenberger, and the Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, Mary Taylor, about TacBoard and the issue of increasing diversity in business.

What are the obstacles you had to overcome as a young entrepreneur?

In the beginning, it was difficult to overcome that “young entrepreneur” label — many would just dismiss my company as not really being a serious startup. But in the end, if your company is gaining traction and if you know your market, your naysayers will quickly be proven wrong.

Truly, the most important question, which I’m sure countless entrepreneurs have mentioned, is “do your customers love your product?” It takes a lot of work to get to a place where your customers are raving about your product — but once you get there, no one will be able to dismiss you or your company.

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You mentioned to me that you’ve decided to take time before going to college. What made you take the leap?

During my senior year of high school, I was juggling school and my business (which was then called TacBoard) and I often felt like my work was compromised when either school or my business became particularly busy. I hated that feeling of producing subpar work (I’m a perfectionist if you can’t tell already). I knew that the opportunity of school would always be available to me but in a startup, it’s either grow or stagnate, so I knew I couldn’t put my business on hold.

Also, I ended up doing really well in a few programs I participated in: Catapult (which I mentioned earlier) and Draper University (a six-week entrepreneurship program in Silicon Valley run by eclectic billionaire Tim Draper, an investor in Tesla, SpaceX, Skype, and Hotmail). I won Catapult’s Demo Day and placed 5th out of 70 other startups at DraperU’s Demo Day so that validation really strengthened my resolve to take time and not go to college.

Wow, so you’ve pitched in front of a billionaire? How was that experience?

Really nerve-racking. I never considered myself to be a particularly strong public speaker. But ever since that pitch, whenever I’m speaking in front of a crowd I remind myself that I’ve presented in front of a billionaire VC and that he thought I spoke well. It’s all about positive thinking

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    Chloe Chong

    Chloe is a social media expert and shares lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Published on November 12, 2020

    5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

    5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

    What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

    Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

    Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

    While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

    Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

    1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

    When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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    Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

    In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

    • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
    • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
    • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

    While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

    2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

    Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

    Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

    Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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    However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

    3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

    Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

    But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

    It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

    4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

    Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

    Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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    5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

    Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

    For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

    How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

    The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

    If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

    Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

    It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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    Final Thoughts

    If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

    If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

    It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

    More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

    Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

    Reference

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