Anika Chabra (She/Her) & Jennifer Siripong Mandel (She/Her), Co-Founders of Root & Seed
We had the privilege of interviewing Anika & Jennifer (founders of Root & Seed: a safe community space for the discovery of family stories, as well as, a movement to protect the richness of your heritage by connecting your family’s past, present, and future). We appreciate their business insights, and hope some of their journey may resonate with you!
What inspired you to start your business?
Anika lost her mom suddenly, and Jenn is a product of assimilation - both of us with reasons to want to rediscover our cultural roots and document our family stories, and like many, we were willing to pay a service to help alleviate this burden. But, there was nothing out there that would help us pass our heritage to our children in a meaningful way. Especially since what’s out there is very anglo (and either focused on end-of-life or baby stories).
It has been 18 months since we identified our mutual desire to help others on their cultural rediscovery journeys. We had the opportunity to work together for 5 years in advertising before we started Root & Seed. So we know we partner well, and our complementary skills (Anika in business, Jenn in technology) meant that we are the right team to execute this business plan
What are some unique challenges you have felt as women founders along your entrepreneurial journey?
We have been pretty fortunate to have been mentored and guided by some incredible people in the startup community. Everyone seems to want to help and if you ask, generally people are willing to give their time.
A number of the challenges we face come down to being taken seriously as a viable business versus only social good. We believe that the two need to co-exist in our new world and a binary attitude is no longer valid.
We recognize that we are trying to create a new category, one that we know is important and globally relevant, and that we will have ‘revenue moments” associated with it. Having mentors who are willing to go on this journey with us, give us critical and actionable advice is so important. Any mentor can help perfect a pitch story, but it’s business mentorship and partnership that we are striving for.
How did it feel participating in our Pitch Event? What were some highlights?
The whole experience was easy, inviting and most of all considerate of the fact that we are trying to run and grow a business at the same time. The initial entry form was straightforward, the shortlist announcement was fun and celebratory and guidance from our mentor was so useful.
A special shout out to our mentor, Rachel from Making Lemonade, having her as a sounding board for our pitch was essential to get it right for the audience of judges and with the time limit of 3 minutes!
What were your thoughts when your business was announced as a funding recipient?
We felt an immediate sense of validation that all our hard work was seen and recognized; and, with champagne already popped, we celebrated immediately! We knew we were up against some incredibly intelligent and capable founders with impactful businesses and it was an honour just to be in their ranks.
How will this funding impact your business?
Our raise goals are ambitious and we know that every single dollar is helpful to support us in achieving our roadmap milestones. This funding will directly help us run user testing to build out additional features and functionality, allowing us to strengthen our value exchange and monetization strategy. This will be incredibly impactful for us at our juncture.
What advice do you have for other founders who are early in their entrepreneurial journey?
Take action. Nothing will be perfect, including your technology solutions. Launch it into the world and then iterate and optimize!