Our guest blog post this week is from 23-year-old kiwi Sharndre Kushor. As the Co-founder of Crimson Education, Sharndre has led a small start-up into a global education company reportedly valued at over $200M NZD. With only 4.9% of VC Funding going to female entrepreneurs, and 0.2% of funding going to women of colour, Sharndre has defied the odds.
What would I do if I wasn’t afraid of failing?
That’s the question I ask myself whenever I’m stuck, or trying to work out what to do next - and it’s what I would encourage any young woman to ask herself when faced with a career or life decision. As there are so few female entrepreneurs of any age in any industry, I’m well aware I have a responsibility to the women who might be watching me and looking for guidance. I’m inspired and motivated to be the role model I wish that I’d had when I was growing up in New Zealand.
You have to be your own cheerleader, and be confident in your own perspective and the unique set of skills you bring to your role.
One of the great things about being a woman in the startup industry is that you’re regularly called upon to be as dynamic and decisive as you possibly can be - both in setting your goals and in delivering your actions. Working in a startup, you realise how lucky you can be to find yourself in a position where you’re creating and shaping something from scratch that’s yours. As a motivating factor, it’s extremely powerful - and one you can harness to make positive, meaningful differences to your organisation.
As a young female entrepreneur, I believe I have a responsibility to maintain visibility and to be generous in providing mentorship whenever the opportunities may arise. You have to use your position wisely. In my particular case, I do that my sharing my story and demonstrating the importance of diversity. As a woman from a minority background, I know that I bring a perspective that is both unique and significant. We’re all shaped by our personal experiences. Young women should be encouraged to know that what they have to say is important and worth hearing. That encouragement can be very liberating, and lead to innovation that makes a real impact.
Championing diversity is another responsibility I take very seriously. I’m pleased to say that half our executive board is female, and I’m proud that our working environment has diverse representation. I’m also inspired by the dynamic women I’m lucky to work with. Our Chief People Officer Penelope Barton, for example, not only manages People and Culture for Crimson’s global company of 185 staff, but she does so while also owning and running two successful restaurants in Auckland.
Crimson has always been very personal for me. I was a curious kid - passionate about learning - and spent a lot of time extending and developing myself with a variety of extracurricular and leadership activities. Even though I had all these wide-ranging interests, the only career pathways that were made aware to me were very vocational and traditional. Looking back on my schooltime with the benefit of hindsight, I realise that if I’d had access to the type of information and support that I have now, I would have made better and more informed decisions for myself around what I studied - and where.
For me, building Crimson was about addressing these roadblocks and helping talented students access these global education and career opportunities so that we can help to shape a generation of leaders who are inspired by what they do and are excited to make a big impact on the world around them.
Today, I’m really proud to be able to support younger students as they discover who they are, what they can achieve, and why their unique voice and contribution in their field of interest is important and valuable.