Plannr Consulting is a teen-led nonprofit organization striving to spread mental health awareness, educate on different mental illnesses, and break the stigma around the discussion of mental health. They offer free peer services in test prep, tutoring, college admissions, and mental health/lifestyle, while also running a blog, a Discord community with one of their partners, and regular awareness campaigns through social media.

In the future, Plannr hopes to expand through an ambassador program, chapter development program, workshops and events, and developing curriculum for K-12 to learn more about mental illnesses, and find support in peer mentorship.

I had the honor of interviewing Srilekha Cherukuvada, the Founder and Executive Director of Plannr Consulting.

What was the inspiration behind your business/organization? 

My own experiences with mental health, as well as my family, were my inspiration behind this organization. However, in general, I’ve always felt as though mental health education was always missing. I didn’t learn what depression was until I was at least 13, much less how to be mindful of my self-care. This, paired with the intense stigma around mental health is not only India, where my parents are from, but also around the world, sparked a fire in me to do something, anything, to help other youth from never feeling the same way I did a couple of years back.

How do you manage your business/organization with school, work, and other activities? 

Scheduling is one of my most favorite things in the world. I love time management; Google Calendar is my best friend, along with Notion. Productivity apps keep me sane. Typically, without Corona, it would be at least one to two hours of work in the night time coupled with homework and a few extracurriculars. After Corona hit, I knew since I was a natural workaholic (I still am), I needed to find more things to do. Now, in the mornings, I typically go to work, online of course, and then spend the afternoon in meetings. In the evenings, I spend time writing. 🙂

How has running your business/organization affected you as an individual?

Running my organization has honestly brought me so much personal growth. I don’t think I would be the same person I was a year ago if I hadn’t started this initiative. First off, I learned a ton about marketing. Digital marketing is so incredibly important, not only because of COVID-19 but also in general when starting a youth-led international nonprofit. We’ve made mistakes along the way, but we’ve also had successes. And within each step, I’ve found something to learn.

What would you say are the essential skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

People skills. Period. I could say marketing, or finance, or literally any other business skill in the world, but all of them are worthless if you can’t talk to people as an entrepreneur. Being a successful entrepreneur means building an organization, a product, a service, or a business up from the ground. Managing customers and staffers, negotiating with partners, and so much more is at play here. Relationships are at the foundation of any business, and that’s the most important thing to keep in mind.

What keeps you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule? 

My vision for my organization. One day, I would love to be a more full-rounded versatile organization spreading across several sectors of mental health. Even when I don’t have the motivation to work, I know that that vision will only come true if I sit up and start working.

What challenges do you face as a teenager entrepreneur in your community?

The biggest challenge that I’d say I face is people telling me what to do and what not do. The people judging me for trying to do something good in the world scare me, and those who are unsupportive want to make me just give up already. However, when those people get to you, they win. I learned that I have to stand my ground if I want to create any change in the world, no matter what someone is saying behind my back.

Teens are confused about where to start, what piece of advice would you give them?

Find your passion. It doesn’t have to be a social good or helping society in some way. Don’t look for just a spark; look for a fire. Don’t hesitate, and just do it. Nike got it right in some ways, I guess.

It isn’t easy finding resources to start a non-profit organization, how did you manage the finance needed?

We decided not to get certified and instead enter into a nonbinding fiscal sponsorship. However, after we do get enough funds to certify, we will do so as soon as possible.

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