Gauri Mishra joined IncubatorEDU entering her junior year. Together, her team researched competitors, found information about the trending sharing economy industry, and created a company, Traverse Marketplace LLC, that brought unique value to the market. Gauri had envisioned a skilled team and herself, a young entrepreneur, taking metro rides downtown for events, shaking hands with potential investors, and flying out to Chicago for the national pitch competition. But of course, they did not live those experiences–those incentives. Everything her team accomplished was done 100% virtually, over Zoom, or asynchronously. Despite the lack of connection they experienced, they were still able to compete at Nationals and were named as one of the Top 5 National Finalists out of 250 IncubatorEDU programs. The reason they were able to make it that far was because they loved what they were doing. They were not driven by external motivations or opportunities. Of course, the hard work and sacrifices that they made rewarded them with praise and validation; but more importantly, they had genuine passion. It did not take a second of hesitation to prioritize our business, Traverse Marketplace, over almost every other academic obligation–because we knew that Traverse was not just a school project, it was an idea that could truly change lives. The very idea of a peer-to-peer rental marketplace designed for users to easily rent and lend virtually anything to anyone around them motivated them because it included the vision of a sustainable future, both fiscally and environmentally, for all US metropolitan regions.
Where did the idea for Traverse Marketplace come from?
During the summer before our junior year, my teammate, Cesar, was tasked with cleaning the outside of the 2nd floor windows of his house. He asked his mom if they could buy a longer ladder since he was having trouble reaching the windows, and she replied, “It doesn’t make sense to buy something expensive if you’re only gonna use it once a year.” He then considered asking his neighbors if any of them had a ladder in their garage that met his needs, but he quickly determined that it was a very long and tedious approach that could potentially take him hours and hours of going door to door and talking to strangers. “I wish there was an app for this,” he thought. I think that’s how most great startup ideas strike us. He started drawing out his idea, and when our team was formed in the fall of 2020, we got right to work on making it a reality.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
In my opinion, the key to remaining productive is maintaining a strong sense of motivation. Many will say that discipline is more powerful than passion, but as an emotionally-driven human being, I offer an alternative perspective. Of course, there is truth in the statement that discipline keeps us on track and boosts our productivity. However, this is only true when the source of motivation remains clear and the end goal remains in sight. Mental health is also something to really pay attention to and put effort towards improving. Some people struggle more with this than others, and I’m with those people. Incorporating self care in your routine, taking breaks,
and learning how to prioritize your well-being over your accomplishments are all ways to prevent burnout and depression. These things can increase long-term productivity and improve your ability to pick up skills and perform at your best.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Step 1: Write down your ideas.
Step 2: Create an organizational system.
Step 3: Create a list of what resources you need to get started.
Step 4: Start looking for those resources.
Step 5: Build a team.
Step 6: Find a mentor.
Step 7: Overcome obstacles as you grow your business.
What’s one trend that excites you?
As a member of Gen Z, I believe the eruption of short form video content as a way for people and businesses to market themselves or their products is only the start of a transformation in social media marketing channels and practices. I love social media, and I’m excited to continue to keep up with how online trends evolve, spread, and inspire new trends.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I shower every morning, the second that I wake up. I know that daily showers, let alone morning showers, are not everyone’s cup of tea. I actually used to feel the same way. Morning showers used to seem stressful and unnecessary, but once I actually incorporated them into my daily routine, it changed everything. Starting each day fresh helps me stimulate my mind, practice creativity, and boost overall productivity.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t feel embarrassed for having big ideas, for being loud, or for taking up space. Girls have just as much right to be creative, ambitious, and strong as boys do. Take your big ideas seriously and don’t allow yourself to be disrespected and dismissed. Fight to be heard!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
South Asians do NOT have an advantage in the workplace or academically.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I encourage other entrepreneurs to keep the end goal in mind. This is something that I, as an entrepreneur, have found myself practicing over and over again and it has directly impacted my productivity and motivation levels.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Networking is the most basic and essential skill all business people should master. It’s something that I’m still working on as a student, obviously, but I’m proud of the progress that I’ve made throughout high school. My AcceleratorEDU class had a field trip recently to watch the
startup pitches at SXSWEDU. While walking through the exhibition halls, my teammate Insha and I exchanged elevator pitches with over 15 startup founders within an hour. We had some really enriching conversations, got free merch, and even got featured on Magma Math’s instagram story. It was a really good way to practice networking at a real-life business event and starting conversations with strangers. Networking in person has helped Traverse gain instagram followers, early invite signups, and even helped us find and connect with your BETA development team.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
My failures as an entrepreneur have been a series of small failures, and I’ve overcome them by, like I mentioned, keeping the end goal in mind. What choices can I make that align with my values and the goals that my team has set? How can I set a good example for other people like me? Of course, I’ve made mistakes and poor decisions in my life. Part of growing up is learning how to take accountability, apologize, and solve problems. I’m thankful to have learned these lessons now, while in high school, rather than out there in the real world. The resources I needed to pick myself up were more easily accessible to me.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The key to developing a killer idea is to focus on finding your target market before finding problems or solutions. For example, let’s say you want to create a startup that benefits the visually impaired and you want to focus on being eco-friendly. Next, you’d consider what problems this particular market may encounter that could need solving. For example, most brands of contact lenses create large amounts of plastic waste, and they also come in a single-use plastic packaging that is disposed of as well. Next, you’d need to find a solution for that identified problem. Maybe biodegradable contact lenses that come in biodegradable packaging could solve this problem. Of course, I’m not a scientist so I am unaware of how realistic or possible this idea is, but that is something for you to learn about as you develop and research your business ideas.
I also encourage young entrepreneurs to experiment with the peer-to-peer model, whether it be lending and renting, buying and selling, or trading goods/services, I think there’s a lot of potential for this model to expand a variety of already-growing markets.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I recently paid my freshman student orientation fee for the University of Texas at Austin. I’m incredibly excited to meet new people and explore campus!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Trello is my holy grail for keeping up with tasks and tracking goals. I have ADHD, so the format of building lists and being able to easily reorganize things when I need a change of scenery is especially helpful. I mostly use it for personal things, such as daily household tasks, assignments from my teachers/professors, one-on-one meetings with mentors, and even hangouts with friends. I also use it in a business context by managing the SCRUM Trello for Traverse. Basically, every time we begin a new Sprint, I import all the tasks to Trello, and our team updates each other on progress from there.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams
In this book, Stacey Abrams talks about how to lead a group if you are an outsider: someone who is a minority and often not taken seriously. Oftentimes, the black sheep of the herd actually makes a very strong leader, because they have a greater understanding of how the herd mentality works and what can be done to build a diverse group of people.
What is your favorite quote?
“I hope our daughters, our granddaughters will start to walk into boardrooms where the majority of people in there will look just like them.” – Kendra Scott
- How to keep the end goal in mind
- How business women now pave the way for business women in the future
- Leadership as an outsider
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.