Demo Day is less than a two weeks away, and we can’t wait to introduce you to all of the startups working towards the grand prizes of $150,000! While some of our startups are trying to solve problems across the world, some are focusing on issues right here in New York.
I sat down with Enrich, a competitor in the Standard Chartered Women+Tech4NYC track, to discuss how their app that helps parents find, rate, and book after school programs for their children, and why entrepreneurship is so exciting to them. The Enrich team is made up of Khadeeja Din, who graduated this past December from CCNY with a degree in computer science; Leila Hessam, a senior studying Applied Psychology & Economics; and Nafisa Nasher, a junior Psychology and Business Management major. On top of that, they’re a group of strong women ready to make their mark on the world–and ready to be a model for future generations of girls.
Zahn Innovation Center: I’m so happy to get to sit down with you all, especially during this hectic time right before Demo Day. Can you believe it’s less than two weeks away?
Leila Hessam: It’s really surreal. It wasn’t that long ago that we were applying for the Zahn Center!
ZC: I know, right? This semester has flown by. Speaking of your application…what made you apply to the Zahn Center in the first place?
Khadeeja Din: Professor Grossberg led me to Zahn. I took his class in my final semester, where we were told to create a meaningful app that could solve a problem for someone. For the first time, I felt like I wasn’t just creating something to get a grade, but I was creating something to solve an issue. When I thought of how difficult it is for parents to find enrichment programs for their children, I came up with Enrich.
LH: I also discovered Zahn through a professor, Karen Langsam. At first I didn’t have an idea to share, but I wanted to join a team to build my leadership skills. I made it my goal to do the Zahn Competition to better myself. I met Khadeeja and got so excited about the idea.
Nafisa Nasher: For me, entrepreneurship runs in the family. My dad’s an entrepreneur, and I always pictured myself becoming my own boss, just like him. When Khadeeja told me about Enrich, I related to it and just wanted to get involved.
ZC: Do you have a personal experience with this problem?
NN: Definitely. I work at Kumon, and I see how afterschool programs can change a child’s life. It truly upsets me to know that many kids don’t get to experience these programs that will help them later on in life. I just want to make these more accessible.
LH: I think it’s the same for me. I used to tutor, and I’m passionate about educating youth.
KD: Same. I used to work with the NYC Urban Debate League, where middle school students travel to take place in debates. These kids were SO GOOD at public speaking–a skill that most of us lack–and I just started to think, all kids need something like this. But for the three years I was there, it was always just the same kids participating. I started to wonder why other kids weren’t joining. Did they just not know about it?
ZC: Is that what you found out from talking to customers?
LH: We’ve been talking to parents here in the city, and a lot of them tell us that if they knew about these programs, they’d enroll their kids. The current resources out there–pamphlets, lengthy internet searches–aren’t convenient for parents. They have to spend so much time searching for these programs, time they don’t have.
NN: We’ve especially found that immigrant families are missing out at a higher rate. It’s a combination things, like being new to the area and having a language barrier. They may need a resource that could translate information about these programs to them.
LH: Psychologically, enrichment programs benefit children tremendously. But research shows that these programs are even more beneficial to children in lower income families. Typically, parents of lower income families work longer hours, and their children miss out on some of the extra learning that happens at home. They need afterschool or weekend programs.
ZC: Are you looking to specifically bring these programs to lower income families?
LH: We definitely want to reach everyone, but right now the African American and Hispanic families in our immediate area are our target market because we’re finding that these parents especially don’t have the support they need to find these programs.
ZC: And where do you see Enrich in the long term?
KD: If it’s needed, we hope to expand across the globe. But right now it’s scary to picture ourselves on our own, outside of the Zahn Center.
LH: Hahaha yeah, it’s really easy to get comfortable here because everyone around us is so supportive.
NN: Being in a cohort with other startups is great. We’re a big family that supports each other and gives each other feedback. The idea of entrepreneurship can be intimidating, you’re starting something from scratch. But once you step out of your comfort zone–for us it was going to talk to potential customers–you start to grow and see the potential.
KD: Entrepreneurship is work that doesn’t feel like work. It feels like more, because we’re pursuing our passions. Everything, even the little things like putting together a pitch deck, feels more rewarding because there’s some true purpose.
LH: We’re building a business incorporating so many different subjects and skills we’ve developed our entire lives. I feel like I’m a psych student, but I still have a place in entrepreneurship. As a woman in business, I feel like there’s especially so much to prove.
ZC: Do you feel more pressure?
LH: I feel like it’s bigger than us. I look at all the women I’ve looked up to, all the role models out there, and I think that someday we’ll be role models for others. There’s a little pressure that comes with that, but it makes you work extra hard.
KD: It was hard for me pursuing computer science, because there weren’t many females in my field. I definitely want to change that. I want to be a role model for other girls. I never want a young girl to think that she doesn’t belong, that she can’t reach her full potential.
ZC: I just realized that you’re the only team at the Zahn Center made up solely of women. Wow! What you do you think about that?
KD: Hahaha yeah we realized that recently too. We’ve been thinking about growing our team, but we’ve been working so well together for now.
LH: We always said we’d look for a guy because diversity is important–it creates different thoughts–but we’ll see!
NN: It’s definitely important to have a well-rounded team…but it’s pretty cool that we’re an all-women team. I kind of want to keep it that way, at least for now!
ZC: Do you think it gives you a competitive edge for Demo Day?
LH: I think the fact that we’re students–or recent grads–gives us all the competitive edge we need. We’re fresh. We’re excited. And we have nothing to lose.
Check out Enrich’s prototype at Demo Day, May 1st outside of the NAC from 12-2pm. You can vote for them as your favorite for an Audience Choice award worth $1,000!