Shreya Bhargava. Founder & Co-Director.District Mugs. EnrichHER

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Shreya Bhargava . Founder & Co-Director . District Mugs . Brown University

District Mugs is a nonprofit volunteer group that introduces entrepreneurship to the homeless in DC by teaching them how to paint, market, and sell coffee mugs.

EnrichHER 2018 Spark Conference held last March 14 at Atlanta Technology Village. EnrichHER, founded by Dr. Roshawnna Novellus are local initiatives designed to help entrepreneurs with coaching, capital, and connections.  In business, the saying is “it’s not what you know, but who you know.”  EnrichHER Spark allows entrepreneurs to advance their businesses by making meaningful face-to-face connections with local leaders, investors, business coaches, and like-minded entrepreneurs.  

According to Dr. Novellus, one of the biggest issues that women-led businesses face is access to capital. For this reason, InrichHer program presented an entrepreneur showcase that included a grant to a lucky entrepreneur with shared resources that will increase success of gaining capital.

Meet the EnrichHER 2018 Spark Conference Finalist

What was your first job ever?  Math Tutor

Who are your mentors and icons that have influenced you the most and why? I have been lucky to have found mentors in every opportunity that I have pursued. However, most influential person in my life are my parents. Their hard-work has truly taught me the value of perseverance and enabled me to develop an attitude of never giving up. They are both consistently positive and always willing to go out of the way to help people around them. They have inspired me to set high goals for myself and work hard to reach them.

When did you first realize that you were born to be an entrepreneur / business leader and what course of action did you take in terms of following that passion? After moving to D.C., I began volunteering at a homeless shelter and extensively interacted with the homeless individuals at the shelter, listening to their stories firsthand. These interactions compelled me to do something more fundamental that could enrich their lives and eventually help them out of homelessness. So, over a year ago, I started District Mugs (DM), a nonprofit volunteer group that introduces entrepreneurship primarily to the homeless in DC. By teaching business fundamentals through the painting, marketing, and selling of their own coffee mugs, DM has helped homeless participants earn a small income while instilling in them a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and pride.

Being an entrepreneur is a gift and a curse. We have to work 20 times harder and learn to sacrifice a lot to arrive to our destination. What advice would you impart to future entrepreneurs and to strong business leaders? First, start with the end in mind. Think about what your immediate and long-term goals are. From there, work backwards to the present in building a business plan with well-defined milestones and benchmarks that systematically lead to the ideal version of your future business.
Second, life is nothing but a pursuit of an ever-moving target. So, define your priorities. As an entrepreneur, every day means facing new unanticipated hurdles and setting your priorities right is very important and beneficial.

Leading a successful group is a challenge. How do you consistently inspire and motivate the team to extract the most optimized version of themselves to bring to the table? My top priority when managing people is to identify their strengths and to help them use those strengths to their best advantage. When someone does good work, I make it a point to give a shoutout to them in our team meetings or team email - that really serves as a confidence booster and motivates them to work harder!

When you have to put out a fire, what process do you have that's proven to be effective? In starting and managing District Mugs, I have faced many unanticipated hurdles. But, what has worked best for me is thinking hard about solving the problems. Getting caught up in pitying yourself or wondering why you have to face the problems does nothing to help you.

How do you decompress in order to keep that balance? Outside of my work, my top priority is spending quality time with my family and friends - even if it is just chatting with them on Facetime. It prevents me from burning out my passion for my work.

What's been the most gratifying business or personal role that you had that led you to be where you are now? Founding and managing District Mugs, has certainly required a lot of work, but the joy of making a difference makes up for it. Nothing brings me more gratitude than helping others elevate themselves and I am excited to do this on a larger scale by expanding District Mugs. Through my experiences at District Mugs, I have realized that I can make a meaningful difference, yet there is a lot more that I can do.

Life lessons learned that you carry with you to keep the fire alive to stay on top of your game? No matter what I do, I need to be confident and at the same time humble.

How do you define success? I draw my definition of success from famous author Deepak Chopra - "Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals."

What's next for you? My goal in the next 3-5 years is to scale up District Mugs, a nonprofit I founded, to be able to help at least 20% (approx. 1,700 individuals) of the homeless population in D.C., become financially stable and make District Mugs a sustainable venture.
My long-term goal is to expand District Mugs to other parts of the world such as Asia and Africa, which are facing extreme homelessness and poverty, by collaborating with global nonprofit organizations such as the Gates Foundation and UNESCO.

Originally Published on WireTap Media Interviewed by Maryan Aiken. Publisher. PaperGlass Media. CityBox Media.  WireTap Media.

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