The Girls in Aerospace Foundation is a Seattle-based nonprofit dedicated to providing young women with aerospace and STEM opportunities to lessen the gender gap within the aviation industry. It focuses on providing role models and resources for girls worldwide, creating a future in which the next generation of aerospace leaders will be females.
Interview with Karolina Dubiel.
What was the inspiration behind your business/organization?
Many young girls aren’t seeing women in aerospace and aviation fields, which often causes them to disregard it as a career path. In the United States, only 7% of pilots are women, and less than 150 Black women have any sort of pilot’s license. Considering the pilot shortage, there is a clear connection between these two dilemmas. As a certified Student Pilot, I decided to share my love of aviation with my friends and family, who encouraged me to broaden my audience and start a nonprofit.
How do you manage your business/organization with school, work, and other activities?
Admittedly, it was very difficult to juggle the work of my organization and school. I was very overwhelmed with the amount of effort that both required, but I found it easiest to always have a flexible but thorough plan. I would plan out our next projects, outreach programs, social media posts, etc. to make me feel more organized. Keeping a planner with all schoolwork, sports information, extracurricular schedules, and non-profit timelines was also extremely helpful.
How has running your business/organization affected you as an individual?
Running an organization has definitely affected me, but mostly in a positive way. Although it is sometimes stressful to manage a working business, it has been very rewarding and an incredible experience. More than anything, it has taught me that I have to always speak up for myself and display confidence. Starting an organization is a great way to practice skills like social media management, cold emailing, etc., which all require a great level of confidence and determination.
What would you say are the essential skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
The most important skills as an entrepreneur are confidence and patience. Confidence is absolutely crucial when marketing yourself, particularly online. As long as you seem confident and sure of your idea, other people will naturally follow. Maintaining a professional stance requires a level of courage, and with that comes a lot of patience. Trusting the process of growth that your business will take is very important. Especially at the beginning, I often had to remind myself that I would not find success overnight and that I had to be patient and determined if I wanted Girls in Aerospace to succeed.
What keeps you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?
I have been extremely lucky to be surrounded by an incredibly inspiring group of individuals and friends. Their supportive words and encouragement have been very helpful. Additionally, the idea that this business is my responsibility is very motivating. I feel that I am helping out an entire community by staying active in my work – that is enough to keep me productive with my efforts.
What challenges do you face as a teenager entrepreneur in your community?
Often, people think that teen entrepreneurs are doing it for a college application, or simply for show. It is hard to convince people of your commitment, as some people assume that teenagers are undecided and unable to stick with a true hobby or passion. Additionally, many things require parent signatures and permissions when under the age of 18.
Teens are confused about where to start, what piece of advice would you give them?
Use the internet as a precious resource. There are countless people out there who have started similar organizations to yours, and many teen entrepreneurs who are eager to help. One big takeaway that I had was that most people are very kind and willing to provide guidance. I found myself emailing fighter pilots, STEM Youtubers, hackathon organizers, and all kinds of different people, and they all provided help and advice. The internet can get you in touch with incredible individuals, and I highly recommend taking advantage of that. You never know what you might be able to learn from a person’s experiences.
It isn’t easy finding resources to start a non-profit organization, how did you manage the finance needed?
I found my information primarily through Google searches! I was definitely confused at first and blindly went into the whole process. I started by just founding an Instagram page and posting periodically. I devised a short plan to catapult the organization into place and reached out to some of my friends for help. The process of registering and financing a nonprofit can be very difficult, so I recommend crowdfunding or finding a sponsor to help with registration and memberships. Remember that there is always a community of people with similar interests and passions who are willing to help!
Any advice/information you would like to share.
Make opportunities for yourself! Cold email professors, contact organizations, and call businesses. Taking the initiative will always get you far. Don’t be upset when you receive “no” for an answer, other opportunities will always arise if you create them.
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