Me pitching Threading Twine for the 2nd time to over 70 people at Catapult, a startup incubator for high schoolers
As teenagers, we ask ourselves an abundance of questions. We attempt to find ourselves while being inundated by people telling us who we should be, we question our identity the most at the times we feel they should be most established, and we ask ourselves what society wants to see from us, not who we want to be in society. I’ve been asking myself these questions lately, and I’ve found one question lingers consistently in my mind while I try to define myself.
What does it take to be valued?
I ask myself this question as the founder of Threading Twine. I ask myself this question as an activist, an artist, a creator. And I ask myself this question as a typical teenager trying to understand popular culture. But most importantly, I ask myself this question as a female entrepreneur.
Starting a company isn’t easy. Starting a company as a 16 year old definitely isn’t any easier. I struggle daily with issues involving identity, self-confidence, and stress. My mind is constantly abuzz with thoughts like “Where will I be in 5 years?” “What will I be doing?” and “Who am I?” The first thing I learned as an entrepreneur is to not focus on the effects my company would have on my identity, but rather every small aspect of running a startup that requires meticulous attention. So how did I put that all these identity questions aside when becoming an entrepreneur? Answer is, I didn’t. I let, and will continue to let my growth as a person contribute to my growing as an entrepreneur and businesswoman. However, in the midst of finding myself and allowing that affect my goals for Threading Twine, the realistic side of me knew that my ideas needed to be more solidified and developed in order to continue my aspirations of growing this media company and social organization.
So this, is the story of my journey to finding self confidence as a female entrepreneur. Threading Twine has been launched as an online platform for just three months, and our team and I continue to grow and learn new business strategies every day. With every new creator contacted and ambassador recruited, Threading Twine’s support system consisting of other youth never fails to amaze me; it brings me back to when the idea for this company was just in its infancy. The encouragement our team has received motivates the us as a whole, and personally makes me feel enough support and value to write this piece, sharing my journey so far as a female entrepreneur.
So, what does it take to be valued? It takes hard work. It takes dedication, determination, and drive. But these are widely known concepts that can be found in any self help article or entrepreneurship book. There are two distinct traits (one cliche, the other more practical) that I believe are aspects that will make a person value themselves and be valued by others.
To start off with the more cliche, self-value is a prerequisite to being valued by anyone else. Being able to find value within yourself to implement an unexpected idea you’ve had, join a new community, or make a risky decision, is a crucial step for others to see value in you. The night I thought of starting Threading Twine was probably the first time I felt a substantial amount of self value. That amount was enough for me to pitch my idea to others.
The first three individuals I introduced Threading Twine to were our very first creators: Janice, Lisa, and Chinmaya. The amount of support I received from these three extremely passionate youth creators continued to inspire me to implement my original vision for this company. The process of pitching Threading Twine to them resulted in many raw and open conversations, leaving me vulnerable in receiving any feedback. I had not been so authentic to anyone before, and being truly genuine helped others accept my passion for starting this company. As a result, I automatically became more comfortable with executing my idea.
However, the most discouraging situations are, at times, the ones that contribute the most to my journey in finding self-confidence. It’s the times when others laugh and dismiss Threading Twine, saying activism is pointless, and the times when I overhear sexist remarks about my status as a woman entrepreneur that give me the strength and courage to continue carrying out my visions for Threading Twine.
One of the first times I felt confidence and self-value while explaining the full story of Threading Twine to 6 other entrepreneurs over breakfast at Catapult (Draper University)
Ellie, Sanjana, and I (3/7 of our phenomenal team) doing customer interviews at Catapult in Chicago
It’s been just over six months since I came up with the idea of creating a network for youth storytellers. However, self-value can only get me so far. Within the last few weeks, I have come to learn the second aspect of what it takes for others to value me: following through with my ideas.
I have followed through with Threading Twine in numerous ways: first, creating a website; second, reaching out to youth creators for content; and third, getting accepted to participate in a startup incubator, which led to the formation of Threading Twine’s current team. From following through, I have come to learn that people love a finished product. As humans, we love the satisfied feeling when the outcome of an implemented idea is complete. I remember the first time I told Janice about Threading Twine and how overwhelmed I felt to have a friend so supportive of my idea. However, this feeling does not even compare to a few weeks ago when she reflected upon how Threading Twine has grown from a simple thought to a solidified company. Her feedback left me humbly grinning ear to ear. Following through with my visions for Threading Twine and receiving feedback like Janice’s, despite the pressing situations I continue to face, is how I have come to understand follow through is one of the most important aspects I need in order to be valued by others.
The incredible Threading Twine team (minus Olivia and Sebastian) in Silicon Valley during the second session of Catapult
Although Threading Twine has just gotten off the ground, I have complete faith that with the team, mentor, and advisor Threading Twine has, we will empower youth globally, achieving the mission that powers this company. As a team, we are discovering new and improved techniques to further company operations, and we don’t see this “Build, Test, Learn” process ending soon.
Reflecting over these past six months through writing this piece has been the most revolutionizing step thus far, allowing myself to feel bold and comfortable in solidifying this statement:
My name is Aarushi Machavarapu, and I am a confident 16 year old female entrepreneur, storyteller, and activist.
Although I describe only two aspects of what it takes to be valued, there are many, many more. I found these two to be the most impactful for my journey so far, and I believe they will be most meaningful towards other teenagers with large aspirations as well. However, there is no one answer to the question I posed. Finding value in yourself should be a natural, subjective process of discovery, not one that is confined by formulas and rules.
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