Sloth Co. provides users with smart time management, organizational skills, and productivity tools. Rucha Mehendale and Lillian Hao founded Sloth in order to help users, specifically high school students, improve their study habits and overall work productivity.
I had the honor of interviewing Rucha Mehendale and Lillian Hao. Here is what they had to say about Sloth Co. and teen entrepreneurship.
What was the inspiration behind your business/organization?
As students who struggle with time management and procrastination ourselves, we wanted to help other students solve similar issues. Thus, we decided to develop a solution to encourage other students to adopt positive study habits and responsibilities.
How do you manage your business/organization with school, work, and other activities?
Lillian: As CEO, I balance my responsibilities at Sloth with schoolwork and extracurriculars through a continual organization with my online calendar and assignment planner. I was often busy with primarily schoolwork assignments because of the Honors/AP classes I took, as well as extracurriculars, including my role as President of Code For Change Club and Software Lead of MATE ROV (marine robotics). However, to overcome these challenges, I always aimed to finish school assignments as early as I could: when I had free time during the school day. This often helped me leave some time for study breaks or more free time later on.
Rucha: It was definitely difficult managing all my responsibilities, especially at the beginning of creating Sloth since I was the Captain of the Varsity Tennis team, part of several school clubs, and had multiple AP/Honor classes. I learned how important it is to manage your time wisely and prioritize activities or projects you really care about, but I learned this the hard way.
Also, I remember that at the beginning of the school year, I wanted to do it all and I really thought I could. I took several advanced courses on top of all my clubs and activities. It took me some time, but I realized that I could not take part in all of this because I would be sacrificing my mental health and physical wellbeing. Because of this realization, I dropped a couple of my advanced courses and I focused on the things that I was truly passionate about. Through this, I was able to manage my responsibilities in a healthy way.
How has running your business/organization affected you as an individual?
Lillian: Running Sloth has definitely made my weekly schedule busier, but it has also improved my management, communication, and organization skills. Through Sloth, I’ve learned to value hard work and perseverance more than ever, and managing Sloth has truly taught me the fundamentals of effective communication and valuable people skills. However, I’ve also connected with amazing people through my experience with Sloth: Rucha is an amazing co-founder and CMO, Sloth’s software and marketing teams are reliable and hardworking, and I’m always looking to recruit more skilled and passionate individuals!
Rucha: Running a startup with my Co-Founder has been an incredible experience. I have learned how important it is to not let failure stop you from pursuing your passions. There’s always going to be bumps on the way, but you need to be perseverant and push through to achieve your goals. I’ve also realized that as a leader, you need to take initiative, encourage others around you, have empathy and respect for others, and take tough decisions if you know that’s best for your team and business. This experience has definitely shaped me to be the person I am today, a resilient, hard-working, and compassionate entrepreneur.
What would you say are the essential skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Lillian: In my perspective, an entrepreneur’s essential skills are being able to apply problem-solving, logic, and creativity to real-world situations. Today, a lot of new businesses are based on customer-centric, innovative technologies/business models. Without the essential skills of problem-solving and creativity, it’s extremely difficult to accurately pinpoint and fulfill customer needs. Furthermore, entrepreneurs need to realize the importance of a strong team and how this factors into a business’s success. In the end, the team is the group of people that will make or break your business and evolve your business beyond monetary success.
Rucha: The skills I think are essential to becoming a successful entrepreneur are curiosity, time management, strategic thinking, and resilience. You need to be able to think outside-of-the-box and come up with different ways to solve a problem. In addition, you need to be able to prioritize your workload and delegate your tasks efficiently. Last but certainly not least, you need to be determined and push through failures to achieve your goals.
What keeps you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?
Lillian: Maintaining organization with all my digital and physical assignments as well as an updated schedule + reminders helps keep me focused and productive. Rucha: I have developed a drive in myself to be focused and productive. I always think about the goals I have for that day and then figure out ways to achieve them. I also try to limit my social media usage so that I don’t get distracted easily.
What challenges do you face as a teenager entrepreneur in your community?
Lillian: It’s difficult to balance school with an outside business, difficult to obtain the capital needed to start your business, difficult to develop truly groundbreaking new technology to implement into your products, and more. In summary, there are a lot of challenges for teen entrepreneurs! Work hard and smart with what you have, and you’ll have a much higher chance of succeeding.
Rucha: As teenage entrepreneurs, we, unfortunately, don’t have access to all of the resources that more experienced and older entrepreneurs would have. Lillian and I have tried to enter multiple pitch competitions and incubators; however, the minimum age requirement for most of them is 18 years.
If teens are confused about where to start, what piece of advice would you give them?
Lillian: Start now! The best part about business is that anyone can start one. You don’t need to take a formal class — although it might be helpful — to launch a successful business. It’s best to start a business about something you’re passionate about so that you’ll be intrinsically motivated to constantly innovate and work on your business. Make sure that you’re solving a problem that actually exists (you would be surprised to see how many businesses realize that the problem they’re trying to solve doesn’t actually warrant their “solution” or product), organize smart strategies for your go-to-market plan, and GOOD LUCK!
Rucha: Just go for it and don’t wait to “perfect” your idea because you’ll learn along the way. Make sure to surround yourself with people who support, encourage, and motivate you to be your best self. Also, try to find mentors in your community (a teacher, a coach, or even your parents) who can guide you in creating a business, app, or organization. If you plan on creating a business, I would recommend that you start by noting down problems in your daily lives and then brainstorm possible solutions you have for the specific problems. Work with friends and mentors to help you on your way.
It isn’t easy finding resources to start a non-profit organization, how did you manage the finance needed?
Sloth’s app is a software product, so the costs are minimal for our current level. However, we have also earned funding for our future costs through business pitch competitions with investment prizes (ex. National Youth Entrepreneurial Summit, you can find a lot of business competitions just online!) and through venture capitalist pitches. There’s also a lot of bootstrapping involved and reaching out to those around you (friends and family) for resources.
Any advice/information you would like to share
To all the aspiring entrepreneurs out there: feel free to reach out to any of us through email! We’d love to hear your ideas and give advice where we can 🙂