Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Anika Chabra, Co-Founder of Root & Seed Inc., located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Root & Seed's mission is to end the loss of tradition. We harness the power of storytelling to invite those from marginalized communities to share their stories loudly & proudly after years of being taught to play small. Root & Seed is a tech platform that inspires people to reclaim their unique cultural stories and identities. It uses technology to help them document it for reflection with their families.
Culture and heritage can be lost in a generation. Everyone has rituals, recipes, and heirlooms worth documenting, but especially those from 2nd generation immigrant families who are a step away from their cultures of origin, AND with an aging first-generation population, the permanent loss of tradition is a real and present risk.
Tell us about yourself
We have two decades of experience working in the corporate world before leaving to start the platform. Compelled by different reasons, we connected over a strong desire to better understand our family heritage, cultures, and unique stories. Anika experienced the sudden loss of her mom. Jenn is the product of assimilation and sought to define her complex identity as of mixed race, religion and citizenship. We searched for tools to help but discovered that most of the platforms out there were focused on end-of-life and felt very Anglo in nature. And nothing could quite capture the cultural uniqueness of our backgrounds and the collectivist approach of our diverse heritages.
Research revealed that while people had the desire to document, they didn't know where to start and often were overwhelmed. Current ways of collecting are haphazard, and filling gaps is met with a sense of overwhelm. For the average North American (who isn't a genealogist or historian), there didn't exist an easy or systematic way to tackle the first barrier in collecting family stories…." What to ask," and so we got to work and developed an online tool that provided the prompts for more meaningful conversations. Our MVP Conversation Tool (capture.rootandseed.com) allows users to record audio, text, and images and create a private family library. This Fall, we are releasing a physical card deck to complement the online tool, inspiring more ways and occasions to collect precious stories.
We often say that we get to wake up every single day and instill a sense of pride in one's unique stories, inspire more storytelling by having people see themselves in each other's stories, and get to build empathy in families, schools, and the workplace amongst those from different backgrounds. If that's not enough reason to get up every morning, ready to tackle the day, we don't know what is!
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
In our 12 months in business, we have been fortunate to be featured on national media outlets like the CBC, received inbounds from long-term care, schools and businesses, and hired an incredible team of experts to round out our big ambitions for the platform. But for us, the biggest satisfaction comes from hearing the diverse stories of our diverse community. Sometimes this is done privately on the web app….one user then reflects on the generational healing that occurs through breaking down barriers on certain tougher subjects... all the way to hearing someone's entire story about the peaks and valleys of navigating culture on our podcast. No matter how small or grand, each story builds a kaleidoscope of unique narratives, building pride on the individual level and empathy amongst communities on the societal level.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
You will fail more than you think... Sometimes every week. Accept failures as part of the journey.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Take action (a lot). This seems obvious, but it's true. Get something out into the world, test, learn, and optimize. Nothing is going to happen in decks, wireframes, and focus groups.
- Write (a lot). You are constantly being asked to explain what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. Sometimes you need to be strategic and high-level; sometimes, you need to get into the nitty-gritty. Consistently write your story and shape it daily.
- Accept feedback and help when offered, always. This doesn't mean you will agree with it or act upon it. As Brene Brown says, "If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback.", But we argue that the sheer practice of hearing the opinions of others will make you stronger, and more aware of the possibilities. Then you can sift and sort and then decide what you are going to let in.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
We are constantly looking for collaborators and unique stories to feature. If you are open to it, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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