8 min read

💎 Scaling to $100k in One Year – Celebrating Everyone in My Startup and Personal Development Journey

💎 Scaling to $100k in One Year – Celebrating Everyone in My Startup and Personal Development Journey

Unconfident, Unassured, and Uncomfortable

Last year, I took a leap of faith – without any knowledge of where I would land.

Taking risks was against my nature. For the past six years, I’ve consistently encountered disappointment, shortcomings, and an inescapable sense of mediocrity.

Telling the story of how I helped launch this company would be incomplete without contextualizing how I overcame my limiting beliefs. It wouldn’t have been possible without the guidance, inspiration, and advice from those who refused to give up on me, even when I wanted to give up on myself.

Limiting Beliefs in Communication and Persuasion

Speech and debate was the first notable experience that nurtured my personal authenticity and risk-taking abilities.

Monotone voice, boring speaker, annoying and loud”

I received these comments when competing at my first national speech and debate competition. Hearing this as a young, impressionable 8th grader, this became a definitive label I attached to my capabilities. As the years went by and didn't reach my competitive goals, I felt like it didn't matter how many hours I would spend researching evidence, preparing nuanced arguments, or practicing my presentation in front of debaters more experienced than me. I sold myself on the idea that no drill, activity, or preparation would compensate for how I fundamentally sounded.

Discontent and disappointed with my voice, I sought to imitate the aggressive speaking styles of other successful debaters who consistently won national competitions. I found safety and assurance in blindly following communication styles that have worked for others while rejecting my own.

With enough practice, I was able to make elimination rounds, but I always fell short when measured against the top speakers at national competitions. Since I was imitating aggressive speaking styles, I continued to receive comments about how my voice was too “loud’, “aggressive”, or “unappealing”.

I was perplexed. It worked for other people – why not me?

If left alone, I would have quit this activity, stuck with the idea that I would never captivate and persuade an audience with my natural ability. Fortunately, I had a community of genuine mentors, coaches, peers, and friends who remained committed to my growth.

To this day, I’m still immensely appreciative for how much time my high school coaches, Keshav Raghu and Tanya Mahadwar, would invest in me: providing advice, inspiration, and feedback to discover my authentic speaking style. While I was competing, I had competitors on my team such as Divya Mehrotra who would always highlight something that went well or a life-long skill I was able to develop, even when I didn’t get the results I had anticipated. When I fell short of my competitive expectations, it was the smallest nudges of encouragement that made the biggest difference.

One person in particular went the extra mile to help me discover a more authentic, engaging, and conversational speaking style to align with my personality: Joseph Maucieri. I don’t know if you’re reading this but I seriously gave up on believing I would ever be good at speaking until you dissected my presentation habits down to a science. I’m aware didn’t perfect these skills since I learned them pretty late in my debate career, but I still apply your fluctuation techniques when pitching or selling to clients for my startup.

I’m beyond grateful to claim that there were so many people who played an instrumental role in my debate journey and strengthened my self-confidence. As such, here are some other notable names I would love to highlight: Divya Kukreja, Jay Kantamneni, Tyler Luu, Sean Allin, Charlie Gu, Aditya Chordiya, Andrew Sun, Pranav Garigipati, Gianluca Medigovic, Abhi Chundru, Jasmine Aggarwal, Anish Bathwal, Khushi Wadhwa, Kaushal Ramalingam, Arshia Mehta, Arjun Mazumdar, Rohit Jhawar, and more.

To everyone who lifted me up at my lowest moments, thank you for everything. You taught me to believe in what I can do, even when there isn’t a stack of trophies, accomplishments, or immediate results to show it. I learned how to defy the conventional norms of what a successful speaker looked like and decided to start betting on myself.

Although I learned this lesson at the very end of my debate career, it provided me with the stepping stones I needed to accelerate my entrepreneurial journey.

Empowered, Encouraged, and Energized: Opening New Doors in the Startup World

Meet my two cofounders: Ishaan Bansal and Jesse Lee.

The tale of two students, driven to become the architects of their own systems.

Before starting this company together, I witnessed their creative genius and ingenuity firsthand.

As Jesse’s next-door neighbor and life-long friend since elementary school, I would receive phone calls in the morning to join him at Peet’s Coffee to work on our personal projects. At 5:30 a.m., I was fascinated by his dedication to code impactful software projects, such as developing gun recognition technology for public schools with his friend Ishaan. The more time I spent with him, the more I learned about the other projects and startups the two of them have created in the past.

After numerous late-night walks with Jesse, I became curious why he chose me in particular to join him in his early morning and late endeavors.

I pondered over that idea for some time, until it became clearer to me during the summer of my senior year.

After college application decisions had concluded in May, I was shocked to hear that Jesse and Ishaan didn’t get accepted into their top schools of choice.

It seemed that no matter the input we put in, the output would always remain the same.

Unchanged. Indifferent. Apathetic to effort or dedication.

In school, there was always a schedule we had to follow, a specific textbook chapter to read, or a guaranteed answer to every math problem. However, speech and debate gave me the freedom to orchestrate my own thoughts and develop a distinct communication style. For Jesse and Ishaan, this autonomy was expressed through the systems, startups, and projects they heavily invested in throughout high school.

Yet, it felt that the external world didn’t recognize it at all.

If I’m being completely transparent, it wasn’t until I started reflecting on this today that I realized our life stories, struggles, and personal values have seemingly intersected in the same place. But that’s precisely why I believe we resonated with each other so well, even if it wasn’t explicit at the time.

We also heard other stories from our friends, young and driven students investing so much time in themselves and feeling that their efforts completely went to waste.

Even with all the college and academic counselors they had, all the advice they got was incredibly surface-level, cookie-cutter, and generic.

They never gave us advice, direction, or a solution to make our personal interests stand out, or what I would like to call, developing an “X” factor.

Maybe it’s because they couldn’t.

When was the last time some of these counselors competed in a debate competition, coded some software, or completed an engineering project? How were they supposed to help us craft a vision of ourselves that was specific, authentic, and nuanced if they didn’t even understand what these experiences meant to us?

We realized this was a symptom of a much larger issue, many young students are never taught how to articulate their value or align their interests to allow the world to recognize their capability.

With so much immense talent and potential that remains unnoticed in countless students, we decided to form a disruptive startup against traditional educational consulting– diving into the space with a peer-to-peer vision

In my upcoming newsletter post, I’ll go into more detail on how we built Collegiate from the ground up, gaining traction without raising any capital, and creating a product that was competitive against other consulting firms.

Cherishing my Communities

First and foremost, I would like to thank my family for remaining supportive of this startup while allowing me to pursue my educational aspirations. Oftentimes, many student entrepreneurs have to worry about sacrificing their education or business, but my parents have allowed me the privilege and opportunity to pursue both.

To my older brother, you’ve sent an incredible example for me to follow. The work ethic, discipline, and consistency you’ve demonstrated in both your undergrad and med school years have been outstanding. I’m proud to admit how great of a role model you’ve been for me.

To some of the incredible people I’ve encountered at AU, you all have provided me with tremendous value and insight. With every interaction I’ve had with my friend Caleb, I always feel heard, understood, and inspired. Your ability to effortlessly foster lasting connections with anyone is a gift I believe is truly unique to yourself, and is one that I aspire to develop myself. To Maryam, you showed me what discipline, bias to action, and a desire to create opportunity – rather than waiting for it to approach you – truly meant. Whatever your next medtech startup, research, or endeavor is, I’m sure it will continue to amaze me along with anyone else you encounter.

To my family friends, you all have been there with me, literally since the day I was born. We never fought or downplayed each other’s successes – everyone has been rooting for each other since the beginning. I would even like to highlight how Isha helped spread the word about this startup to get an incredibly valuable, aligned, and driven worker who has contributed to our company’s growth.

And finally, to my good friends and irreplaceable founders, Jesse and Ishaan. Quite frankly, I don’t know where I would be without you two. Jesse, you always challenged me to think bigger, dream higher, and travel uncharted territories. It would be difficult to believe in myself as an entrepreneur if you didn’t believe in me. To Ishaan, I appreciate your practical, grounded mindset when approaching any problem or situation. You’ve also kept things real with me and fostered an environment of accountability within our friendship and business environment. The fact that we’ve spent so much intensive time and effort into discussions, differing opinions, and perspectives while not having any personal conflicts is what I truly believe to be our most impressive accomplishment – without a doubt in my mind.

Finding Clarity in Confusion – Navigating Without A Guaranteed Path

If you are reading this, I hope at least a part of this post resonated with you. Especially for any students who feel lost or don’t have a clear idea of what they can contribute to the world, I’ve felt exactly the same. I tried to pour immense effort into debate and didn’t become the national champion. I did the same for basketball but I knew I couldn’t play professionally. I didn’t know if I was going to be good at anything, especially when the world didn’t instantly validate it.

However, the skills, people, insights, mindsets, and lessons I was learning from these experiences started to compound at an exponential rate. I realized anyone could be just one internship away from landing their dream job, one connection away from changing the trajectory of their career, one conversation away from changing their entire perspective.

Even if I don’t have all the answers figured out, one step in the right direction, with the right people, and the right community is all I need.

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