By Michaela Boneva |
In a brightly lit basement in Holmdel, students Sourish Jasti and Rahul Kavuru spend their school nights interviewing entrepreneurs over Skype and asking them about their “company roots.”
Sourish, a sophomore at Holmdel High School, is the founder and president of a blog called CompanyRoots that aims to share the stories of startups and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs. Sourish teamed up with Rahul, an eighth grader at Oak Hill Academy, and later their chief editor, Amit-Krishna Kallakuri, a freshman at Holmdel High School. Together, along with guest writers from Holmdel High School, they run their blog and tell the stories of the entrepreneurs they have interviewed.
Sourish and Rahul always start off their interview with the same question: “What are your company roots?” They hope to find out what brought the person to create their company, not just how they did it, but how they reached the point of wanting to do it. The beginnings of CompanyRoots is reflective of many of the answers they have received. Passion and personal inspiration are not only the driving forces behind the entrepreneurs they interview, but also behind Sourish and Rahul themselves.
Sourish and Rahul were initially inspired by Shark Tank and Sourish’s older sister. When Sourish was in sixth grade and his sister was in eighth grade, she was assigned a project called “how to make the world a better place” and for this assignment, she interviewed several doctors and pharmaceutical professionals. Meanwhile, from watching his sister, Sourish was developing an interest in interviewing others. While most sixth graders might not find this captivating, Soursih says that “for me, there was an allure in meeting people and talking to people, learning about their experiences.”
Sourish started CompanyRoots with the hope of becoming an entrepreneur and was joined by Rahul when he showed an interest after Sourish mentioned the company at tennis practice one afternoon.
Sourish and Rahul started reaching out to various companies via email in the hopes that some would respond. They estimate that they’ve sent about 400 emails so far in search of businesses to learn more about. They started with local businesses, like Dearborn Farms and Delicious Orchards. The pair had wanted to interview – and still have plans to interview – Salerno’s Pizzeria. They received more responses than they had expected and even found that the larger companies were often the ones that took the time to respond and help the younger generation.
Once they contact a company, Sourish and Rahul set up an interview, usually over Skype. They have found that their casual video interviews allow for a very personal conversation with the entrepreneur that helps them learn a lot about the business. The two set up their computer along with a desk light, microphone, and webcam and position their questions on the screen in front of them. Another unique aspect of their video interviews is their ability to give each other signals when they need something. For instance, if one of them wants the other to hold off on asking the next question so that he can ask a follow up, he might scratch the table. They have specific questions they ask each entrepreneur in order to learn about the patterns of businesses, but they also ask questions very specific to each par ticular company. During or after the interview, Sourish and Rahul will often try out the companies’ products, whether it be cof fee, energy drinks, creativity cards, or something else. Though they don’t get paid for this, and sometimes they even buy the merchandise themselves, they love trying out new and unique products. They are very open to learning about each individual and their work, and they strive to build connections with each business they interview. They even had a small party for one of the companies they interviewed that later went on the show “Shark Tank” with their product.
The team of students has learned a lot about entrepreneurship through their work with CompanyRoots, such as the importance of making connections in their field, which they’ve managed to do through networking with the various businesses they have interviewed. They also have learned how important it is to be passionate and to show a willingness to work without pay in order to learn more. The two students are not paid through CompanyRoots and both are planning to pursue internships to further their knowledge. They stress the importance of diversity within their work, in the businesses they interview, the questions they ask, and within their own company. “Diversity is key in everything,” Sourish explained.
Sourish and Rahul not only hope to learn more about entrepreneurship themselves, but they also want to give this ability to learn more to other young people who are interested in business. They’re working hard to pursue their passion and build their experience, truly showing that it’s never too early to do what you love. You can read about CompanyRoots and about the interviews they’ve conducted on www.companyroots.com.
This article first appeared in the Mar. 1-8, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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