Meet An Ambitious 19-year-old Female CEO Who 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.

Related Article: 3 Great Lessons from Steve Jobs’s Lifestyle

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!

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.

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.

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 🙂

What was your experience in Silicon Valley like?

My time in Silicon Valley really expanded my horizon as an entrepreneur. I was able to hear esteemed veterans of the startup world bestow their wisdom and describe the same struggles I was encountering. Those six weeks at Draper University served to remind me that I wasn’t alone.

So how has working on your startup full-time been this past year?

This past year has definitely had its ups and downs just as any startup’s story does. I pivoted my business from TacBoard (a Pintrest-esque shopping site) to Savy (a dynamic pricing tool that provides the willingness to pay data to businesses).

Specifically, I think this year has really helped me learn that succeeding in the startup space requires flexibility and a certain tolerance for uncertainty. I’ve gained a plethora of real-world experience, from learning how to manage a team to learning how to code and building Savy from scratch. It’s been especially validating to hear how Savy is impacting my retail partners and their customers.

Every day I hear how Savy cultivates relationships between customers and business owners, how businesses are increasing conversions and in turn increasing revenues, and how customers are happy to have a say in how much they pay. That feedback from my customers is truly what gets me through the difficult days.

Related Article: An interview with Yomi Adegboye discussing his entrepreneurial journey

Final Thought on the Young Female CEO’s Success Story

Here’s a list of Disha’s resources for anyone looking to expand their entrepreneurial knowledge:

http://www.draperuniversity.com/

https://mitlaunch.com/

http://www.catapultideas.com/

http://thielfellowship.org

http://stemplusplus.org/

https://girlswhocode.com/

If you have any other question for Disha, ask in the comments section below, she’ll be here to answer. To get in touch with her, either visit https://staysavy.com and fill out their contact form or email Disha directly at [email protected].

Use the share button(s) to motivate someone else out there, and don’t forget — stop wishing, start doing!

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