Future of the Business World is a monthly podcast from the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Inspired by the Program’s online course of the same name, Future of the Business World features teen entrepreneurs from around the world who are launching startups and products, and learning so much about business along the way. Each month, we will introduce you to a new teen innovator, discussing innovations, inspirations and the themes that define his or her entrepreneurship journey.
Future of the Business World: Moniola Odunsi Fights for Racial Justice
Moniola Odunsi, 16, is a junior at The Madeira School just outside of Washington, D.C. She and her teammates, Sora Shirai, a 15-year-old innovator from New Hampshire, and Sualeha Irshad, a 16-year-old innovator from Texas, recently won first place in the Moody’s Foundation Peace and Justice Challenge, a part of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship World Series of Innovation, which challenges students to solve the world’s problems. Their project, Equally, is a software platform that uses artificial intelligence and natural language processing to identify implicit bias.
On this episode of Future of the Business World, Moniola discusses the software platform she and her teammates are developing, as well as her passion for racial justice issues and her belief that “passive activism is not going to produce change.”
Wharton Global Youth Program: Hello Everyone and Welcome to Future of the Business World, the podcast featuring teen entrepreneurs and innovators from across the globe.
I’m Diana Drake with the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. At Wharton Global Youth, we introduce business and finance education to high school students in ways that provoke curiosity and thoughtfulness—and help empower the next generation of business leaders.
Our guests on FBW [and in our online course of the same name] are aspiring leaders and innovators. They’ve thought deeply about the problems facing our planet and are working toward finding solutions.
Today’s focus is racial injustice, an issue that has quite literally spilled out onto the streets in the U.S. this past year following the death of George Floyd and repeated violence against people of color. The fight for justice and equality is also strong in the business world with the spotlight on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
Moniola Odunsi, a high school student in Virginia, is part of a team that recently took first place in the Moody’s Foundation Peace and Justice Challenge, a part of the NFTE World Series of Innovation. The team’s winning idea, Equally, identifies implicit bias in text and promotes progress toward equal justice.
Moniola, welcome to Future of the Business World!
Moniola Odunsi: Hi everyone. Thank you so much, Diana, for having me on the podcast. I’m so honored to be here to talk about myself; Equally, which I developed with my teammates Sora Shirai, a 15-year-old innovator from New Hampshire, and Sualeha Irshad, a 16-year-old innovator from Texas; and talk more about peace and justice as a whole. Thanks so much for having me.
Wharton Global Youth: We’re off to a great start. First, tell me a little more about yourself.
Moniola: As you all now know my name is Moniola Odunsi and I’m a 16-year-old innovator from Maryland. I go to school in Virginia. And I’m passionate about changing the world. From a young age, I’ve always been drawn to the business and innovation field. While my friends were watching Disney Channel, I was a kid watching Shark Tank with my dad. I actually love the autonomy of the business field and that you are your own boss and you get to make your own decisions. Even more than that, you can create long-lasting change in the business field. It can be immediate change or it can be change that happens in five or 10 years, but you can have such a big impact on other people’s lives with your own creativity and your own mind. I’ve always loved that aspect of the business field and I still love that aspect, which is why I desire to be in it today.
Wharton Global Youth: What drew you to innovate around peace and justice? Were you already tuned into this idea of building societies that provi...
Future of the Business World: Two Innovators Take Us Inside the Entrepreneurship Journey
A few months back, Sruthi Rayaprolu and Ujjayi Pamidigantam, two high school seniors living on opposite sides of the United States, reached out to let us know about their book for young entrepreneurs: “How to Catapult Your Business: A Step-by-Step Guide.” Turns out, both of them are entrepreneurs in their own right, who embrace innovation and forward-thinking in different aspects of their lives. Wharton Global Youth invited Sruthi and Ujjayi to join our monthly Future of the Business World podcast and share some of their experiences and insights about business, STEM, and the value of documenting your entrepreneurship journey as a way to reflect on the process and learn from its many facets.
Wharton Global Youth Program: Welcome to Future of the Business World! The podcast that features conversations with Gen Z about innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, and the latest youth-led business trends.
I’m Diana Drake with the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. At Wharton Global Youth, we design dynamic programs, competitions and content to help high school students discover all the ways that business touches their lives.
Our guests are always on the cutting edge of design thinking and global change. And today is certainly no exception. I’m happy to have the opportunity to speak with two enterprising high school seniors who met at an entrepreneurship program in 2019 and have since co-authored the book: “How to Catapult Your Business: A Step-by-Step Guide.”
I’d like to welcome Sruthi Rayaprolu from the San Francisco Bay Area in California and Ujjayi Pamidigantam from New Jersey. Thank you both for joining us on Future of the Business World.
It’s great to have two of you. This is the first time I’ve actually interviewed two people on the podcast, so it should be a lot of fun.
Ujjayi, I only recently found out that you are an incoming freshman this fall in the Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management otherwise known as LSM. This is an undergraduate dual-degree program administered jointly between Penn's College of Arts & Sciences and the Wharton School. Congratulations to you on being accepted to that distinguished program!
And Sruthi, you too hope to be Wharton-bound. I look forward to seeing both of you on campus someday soon.
Until then, let’s talk about all your entrepreneurial energy – and there is a lot of it.
Ujjayi, let’s start with you. You describe yourself as someone who applies “ingenuity to solve everyday problems with a global impact.” Tell us about your startup Wayfarer Diagnostics.
Ujjayi Pamidigantam: Wayfarer Diagnostics came from a concept I developed during my time at the entrepreneur summer program LaunchX, which is actually where I met Sruthi. So the idea was to provide a reliable portable and low-cost malaria diagnosis kit for limited regions across the globe. The product definitely has some distinguishing characteristics, but the real ingenuity comes from end-to-end of the distribution model.
Wharton Global Youth: Sruthi, you also founded a company called Spade to provide clean and reliable water to people in India. Can you tell us more about this venture?
Sruthi Rayaprolu: Spade is a student-led startup that also started from LaunchX, and it was originally aimed toward water-delivery issues and that’s what we focused on in terms of the water filter we developed at the program. And then later on we pivoted our business to a more pressing need, which was emergency-use water filters that come during high flood seasons and monsoons. We partnered with the MIT research department for the natural filtration capabilities of xylem blood, and we worked with Professor Rohit Karnik and his PhD student Krithika. From there, we worked toward developing a business strategy to incorporate their research into our
Future of the Business World: A Girl Scout Advocates for Redefining Success
Naomi Porter, our March 2021 Future of the Business World podcast guest, embraced entrepreneurship when she was only 11 years old with her first venture, Spice It Up. Now 16 and a high school junior in California, Naomi is using her business experience and Girl Scouts of the USA platform to empower students, research youth challenges, and advocate for change. In this multi-faceted episode, she touches on everything from the travel blogger who helped save her spice business, to her dreams of becoming the U.S. Secretary of Education. Says Naomi: "Instead of asking: What do you want to be when you grow up? Let’s ask kids: How do you want to use your passions and talents to make the world a better place?"
Wharton Global Youth Program: Hey, everybody! Welcome to Future of the Business World. Each month, we bring you new conversations with Gen Z about innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, and all kinds of youth-led business trends.
I’m Diana Drake with the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. At Wharton Global Youth, we design programs, competitions and content introducing high school students to different areas of business education.
We’ve had some fascinating podcast conversations so far this year, exploring everything from procrastination and 3-D-printed limbs, to civic engagement, coding, and group innovation. I encourage everyone to check out our previous podcast episodes.
Today’s guest – Naomi Porter -- is a high school junior from Los Angeles, California in the U.S. Naomi has been a proud entrepreneur since the age of 11 and, now 16, is passionate about expanding entrepreneurial education for younger students.
Naomi, thank you for joining us on Future of the Business World!
We have so much to talk about, including the Girl Scouts, which holds a special place in my heart as a former Girl Scout Leader.
First, let’s talk about your first business, Spice It Up, which has been going strong for the past five years. One of the reasons I love this is because you started the company to actually make money! While mission-based entrepreneurship is so incredible, lots of people also start businesses to generate income and profits.
So, tell us about Spice It Up: what is the business model and how and why did it start?
Naomi Porter: I started Spice It Up when I was 11 years old after realizing there was really no affordable alternative for students who were looking to go camping, exploring and just in the great outdoors and take spices affordably and compactly. That’s what entrepreneurs do. Whether or not you’re looking to make money or just make change, it’s about looking at your community and figuring out how you can make your world more efficient. How can you make your world more environmentally friendly? And you start asking yourself these questions about how you can create these micro-efficiencies.
I realized when I was hiking and camping in Girl Scouts that there was no way to carry travel spices. If you’re like me and you’re an avid hiker and backpacker, you know that camp food can sometimes be a little bit bland – and so you need to “spice it up,” which is where I got the name from. And so I decided to create a product that was TSA (Transportation Security Administration)-approved, waterproof, super lightweight and perfect for all sorts of traveling and all kinds of adventuring. As the target consumer myself, I realized that there was a need for this to not only be environmentally friendly, but also affordable for that target consumers. This is a for-profit business. And that’s when I began to develop an entrepreneurial mindset, which is continuing to look in your community and figure out different ways to innovate and different ways to adapt. For me, that was creating Spice It Up when I was 11 years old.
Wharton Global Youth: Has Spice It Up
Future of the Business World: Adventures in Group Innovation and E-Learning
On this month’s episode of Future of the Business World, Rylan Robb, a high school student from Mozambique, Africa, shares his experience of launching an entrepreneurial idea as part of a team. While attending the Wharton Global Youth Program’s Future of the Business World online course, Rylan and his co-founders launched Zenarc, an online learning platform for their peers. While it’s still a work in progress, Rylan talks about how he hopes that Zenarc will make education more accessible for teens around the world.
Wharton Global Youth Program: Hello, everyone! Welcome to Future of the Business World, where we get to spend time with exceptional high school entrepreneurs.
I’m Diana Drake with the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. At Wharton Global Youth, we design programs, competitions and content that introduce students to all areas of business education while they’re in high school.
One of the things I love about our programs is how global they are. We meet students from all corners of the world and get to learn from their unique cultures and ideas.
Today’s guest is a great example of that macro perspective. Rylan Robb is a high school student from Mozambique, Africa, who joined us last summer for our Future of the Business World online course.
It was there that Rylan’s latest entrepreneurial venture, known as Zenarc, was born. We’re going to catch up today on its progress -- and so much more.
Rylan, thanks for joining us on Future of the Business World.
Rylan Robb: Thank you for having me.
Wharton Global Youth: Entrepreneurship aside, you have had a fascinating journey in the past year. What have you been up to during the pandemic?
Robb: What a year 2020 was. And when I reflect on the past year, I can’t help but think just how different everyone’s experience was. The world precedent changed, but so did everyone’s life and therefore everyone’s life story.
My year started out pretty great. I had a school trip to the Netherlands at the end of January . School was very calm. In Mozambique in particular, things were quite calm with COVID. No one really was freaking out. But toward the end of March our school decided before any cases were in-country to start the transition to online learning, which was inevitable. I remember being in science class when that email got sent out and the atmosphere in that class was very joyful, almost like we were being rewarded. Little did I know that would be the last time for the next nine months that I would see any of my friends in person. And that was tough. About a week after school closed, I left on an embassy repatriation flight in the middle of the night. One suitcase, back to Houston [Texas], where I had previously lived. Over the next months, I spent living out of suitcases, rental homes, it was quite tough. Finally, in the summer something I had looked forward to for a very long time – I attended [Wharton's online summer course] Future of the Business World, Session I. And there I met a lot of great people and started Zenarc, which to this day has given me something grounded, something constant that I’ve been able to work on.
After the course, we worked on building it up and most of us started our 11th Grade year of high school. Being in the U.S. away from my school, my friends was tough. Due to time zones and other unchangeable forces, I ended up attending school from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. virtually. Going to bed at 5 p.m., getting up at 1:30 for class at 2 a.m. That was kind of how my life went for a while. Some people may have felt sorry for me or thought my situation was bad, but the change and adaptation is ingrained in me. I’ve lived abroad, moved abroad,
Future of the Business World: Building an App for the Scoliosis Community
In the past year, Christine Sinn, our guest on this month's Future of the Business World podcast, took to heart some recent advice about thinking like an entrepreneur in times of crisis. In an article on that topic, Wharton professor Lori Rosenkopf told us: “Being confined during the pandemic is a great time to practice empathy. How are others feeling? If you can put yourself in their shoes, understand how they are feeling and think about their needs, then it’s only a short step to figuring out how you can help them.”
Christine has done just that, using her months at home to learn coding and create a new app for scoliosis patients. In this podcast episode, Christine discusses her deepening connection to technology and to the health care-related community she hopes to empower and serve when her app launches in January 2021.
Wharton Global Youth Program: Hey, everybody! Welcome to Future of the Business World. Where we get to spend time with exceptional high school entrepreneurs from around the world.
I’m Diana Drake with the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. At Wharton Global Youth… we design programs, competitions and content that introduce students to all areas of business education while they’re in high school.
For me, business starts with people. Whether you’re exploring data analytics or investment banking, people are the unifying thread – the personalities and skills of the leaders that drive profits and change.
Our Wharton Global Youth team has met some interesting and innovative teen entrepreneurs…and we want to introduce them to you.
Today’s guest, Christine Sinn, is a high school sophomore from Virginia in the U.S. Christine is about to launch her first app, ScolioBend, to help maximize the treatment process of young scoliosis patients.
Christine, Thanks for joining us on Future of the Business World.
Christine Sinn: Thanks so much for having me.
Wharton Global Youth: I’m very interested to learn more about the community you’re building, but first…what is scoliosis and can you talk about your personal connection to this condition?
Sinn: Scoliosis is an idiopathic curvature of the spine. This means that doctors don’t know why people have scoliosis. The most common types of curvatures are S curves or C curves, where your back is shaped to look like an S or a C. In 6th grade I was going to my pediatrician for my usual annual checkup and my doctor noticed that one side of my back was higher than the other. So, I got an x-ray and was diagnosed with S curve high-to-moderate scoliosis. It was certainly unexpected and it resulted in a lot of large changes in my life. I was playing tennis pre-professionally and I wanted to be a professional tennis player. With scoliosis, I wasn’t able to play tennis anymore. Little did I know that having scoliosis actually set me on a very different path for my future. It set me on a path to entrepreneurship and to where I am today.
Wharton Global Youth: Wow, you were actually going to be a professional tennis player?
Sinn: Yes, I was training a lot; two or three times a week with a retired tennis coach. I had big plans, but now I have even bigger plans.
Wharton Global Youth: Was it disappointing to have to change course?
Sinn: It was very disappointing at first because I invested a lot of my time and energy into tennis. But also I think having scoliosis opened my perspective to everything beyond tennis. I was really focused on tennis only, but now I’m able to explore all my interests beyond tennis, so I think that having scoliosis is a blessing.
Wharton Global Youth: You began to think about starting a business this past summer when you enrolled in our Future of the Business World online course.
Future of the Business World: A Lemonade Stand Inspires a Finance Project in Colombia
In our fourth Future of the Business World podcast episode, we travel to Bogota, Colombia by way of Florida. High school student Camilo Saiz, who has a passion for finance, moved to the U.S. from Colombia when he was 12, and yet he never lost his connection to and compassion for the country that shaped him. At a time of year when many consider ways to make a lasting social impact, Camilo shares his experiences of entrepreneurship and giving through education, and why he believes that “helping others is contagious.”
Wharton Global Youth: Hey, Everybody. Welcome to the Future of the Business World podcast. I’m Diana Drake, managing editor of Knowledge@Wharton High School, the only online business journal for high school students. We’re part of the Wharton Global Youth Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. The mission of this podcast is to explore the future of the business world through the eyes of teen entrepreneurs and innovators. As the world constantly changes and evolves, young trailblazers are embracing the entrepreneurial mindset and finding ways to solve problems and understand emerging trends. They are identifying market needs, creating products, providing critical services and designing innovative projects. We have met some amazing future business leaders and we want to introduce them and their ideas to you.
Camilo Saiz is 17 and a junior at The Benjamin School in Palm Beach, Florida. Hi Camilo, welcome to Future of the Business World.
Camilo Saiz: Hi Mrs. Drake. Thank you for having me here. It’s a pleasure.
Camilo has crossed paths with us before. He came to Wharton in Philadelphia for our summer program in finance and more recently took part in our two-week online course known as none other than ‘Future of the Business World.’
Wharton Global Youth: Are you ready to tackle the world of business and finance after spending time at Wharton?
Camilo: Yes, I’ve had some awesome opportunities and adventures at Wharton. Last summer I did the finance program and I learned a lot about financial literacy and it really motivated me to further pursue my educational goals.
Wharton Global Youth: Camilo’s story is less about the education he’s getting and more about his goals as an educator, which reach into his home of Bogota, Colombia. The beginning is always a great place to start, so can you tell us about growing up in Colombia, Camilo. What was it like and do you feel it exposed you to a unique perspective on the world?
Camilo: First of all, I’d like to say that I believe that Bogota, Colombia is one of the most beautiful places in the world and that it a country that is very often misunderstood. It’s filled with beautiful culture and the people of Colombia are absolutely beautiful in every way -- their hearts, they’re just amazing people.
Diving into what it’s like to grow up there, it’s definitely very different than growing up in America. I definitely had a very different childhood than a lot of my friends and peers in a sense that I was exposed to different aspects of the world. Growing up in Colombia, I remember taking the bus to school every morning and we would drive through some impoverished parts of the city in which we would just see people in the streets begging for money and people struggling to get to school. We were so lucky to have a bus; so blessed. The greatest difference was seeing these people every single morning and feeling so blessed for everything we had. When it comes to the social aspect of growing up in Colombia, there is certainly a wall that divides the different classes. With that being said, there is a great emphasis on many different levels of giving back to the community. I believe that it’s through projects I was involved in with my family, with friends,