Students of all majors, faculty members and individuals from the community sat in Myers Auditorium Monday night to hear a presentation by Miki Agrawal, a renowned entrepreneur, as part of Millersville’s Innovators in Residence program. This program provides students with the opportunity to hear insight from entrepreneurial, creative thinkers. Created by Dr. Jane Hannigan and Dr. Kay Vandergrift, Innovators in Residence was built to help students explore and discuss innovative thinking. As part of her event, “Do Cool Sh*t,” Agrawal gave the crowd some insight on her business journey and how the audience can do just the same.
Her presentation gave students and aspiring entrepreneurs of all ages inspiration to pursue their dreams. She discussed where she came from—a first-generation Indian father and Japanese mother. She graduated from Cornell University and landed a job in investment banking, her workplace located near the World Trade Center. When 9/11 occurred, Agrawal just happened to sleep through her alarm. According to Agrawal, it was the first and only time she has ever slept through her alarm. After experiencing the destruction and loss of life 9/11 caused Agrawal, she realized life was short and shouldn’t be wasted.
Following 9/11, Agrawal wrote down three major goals she had for her life: playing soccer professionally, making movies and starting her own business. After going through complications with the first two goals, she started to think about what she wanted to change in the world. Agrawal didn’t want to just create a money-making business. She wanted to build something that would change and better society.
Agrawal, being a young 20-something, noticed that the food she had been eating at work was processed, unhealthy junk containing little nutritional value. The constant stomach aches caused from the junk food inspired Agrawal to start her first business. She opened a restaurant, Wild, in New York City. The menu contains nutritious, Italian cuisine customers can enjoy, such as pizza and pasta. However, the food is made with natural ingredients and strays away from processed additives.
After starting this business, Agrawal began noticing other issues within the developing world she aspired to fix. For example, she felt the amount of young girls in the developing world who miss school due to menstruation was too high. If a girl misses a week of school every month due to menstruation, it won’t be long before that student drops out of school. Missing a week’s worth of work will cause the student to fall behind very quickly.
In order to combat this, Agrawal created a pair of underwear that women can buy and wear during their time of the month that prevents menstrual accidents. The company’s name is called Thinx. Thinx partnered with AFRIpads in Uganda. Every time a pair of Thinx underwear is sold, funds are given to AFRIpads. This allows young women to learn how to create reuseable pads that are then able to be sold. In addition, young girls are able to buy these pads at an affordable price. Agrawal’s business model allows Ugandan business to grow and flourish, providing more jobs locally. In addition, young girls are able to go to school without the embarrassment of menstrual accidents.
This is not the last idea Agrawal has put to fruition to better the world. Agrawal’s latest innovation is called Tushy, an installable bidet for any toilet. Agrawal partnered Tushy with charity: water, an organization that helps provide clean water to individuals and provides individuals in developing countries with resources they need to “defecate with dignity.”
Agrawal finished the speech with five steps to starting your own business. These steps included finding something you want to change about the world and focusing on what you can do to help others, not what they can do for you. Agrawal wrote a book elaborating on her story, her current businesses, and her steps to success titled Do Cool Sh*t.
This past Tuesday, Millersville was lucky enough to have Miki Agrawal as a guest judge at Millersville’s 60 Second Pitch, a competition where student entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas. The winning pitches move on to the next round, the Shark Tank, where three of those finalists win funding for their entrepreneurial journey.
Bringing in guests like Miki Agrawal allows students and the community to become inspired by what they thought was impossible. Agrawal provided a positive model everyone can aspire to reach.