One of the greatest aspects of being a part of the YWiB team is meeting amazing women, thriving in their careers. However, it isn’t often that I have the opportunity to meet young girls, especially ones as driven and ambitious as Kiran Kumar. Kiran is a fifteen year old high school student, making waves for the future of women and non-profit organizations. While still in high school, Kiran has already become the founder and CEO of Crossbow Miles Canada, a non-profit organization focused on improving the health and well-being of women and girls in India through workshops on digital & financial literacy, health, hygiene and gender sensitization. She and her team have already thrown fundraising events, held an art wall and are now taking on their biggest project yet: Women’s One World Walk, on June 1st. I recently sat down with Kiran to discuss what she sees for the future of Crossbow Miles Canada, and the future of women in business.
How did you get involved in Crossbow Miles and volunteering for the organization?
It’s actually really interesting because I’m going begin by confessing that it all started with building a resume. It sounds harsh because nobody says it out loud, but it’s always there. I want to go to Harvard and I remember reading this article saying Harvard isn’t looking for well-rounded students and I was the definition of a well-rounded student. They’re looking for someone who’s really good in one thing, and has mastered that one thing, because it shows that there is a chance that they will be successful in that field. I used to think ‘oh my goodness I’m so screwed’ because I was a jack of all trades, not a master of one. Later, I started to observe that a lot of students were doing this thing where they would work with a movement, go to a third world country, put some bricks on a wall and put it in their resume. So, it all started with ‘okay, why not’. I so happened to get in contact with Crossbow; I’m so happy they were the ones I reached out to. I started to fundraise by selling samosas in my high school foyer; they were 80 cents and we sold them for $2. We made quite a lot of money, but at the same time I started to attend events in Toronto on personal branding. It was a whole new world for me because this was the first time I was learning outside of the classroom. It was genuine, raw and what I like to call uncensored learning.
I had started to do that simultaneously, which was to develop my character, develop my personality and sort of develop a passion for this. While that was happening in the background, I started realizing what a great movement Crossbow really is. Not only because of the cause; I was always passionate about empowering women in that part of the world. I always had that on my mind, it just didn’t really hit me what was being held back from women until I started meeting empowering women myself at these networking events. I used to go up to a woman and say ‘I’m sorry, I just adore you so much’ because I was so empowered. You actually feel that inspiration and that ‘oh my goodness I love you so much’, that awe inspiring moment when you see a woman who has really done something with her life. It was just depressing for me to see the situation that a lot of women with this potential not getting the education they need.
That's when I started to really implement that knowledge I was getting from these events into the movement. I started to form a committee, I filed for incorporation single-handedly, I read all the fine print. I started to introduce myself by saying ‘Hi, my name is Kiran Kumar and I work with Crossbow Canada’, and eventually they made me the Canadian head. That’s when I started to recruit committee members in and other high school students like me. I started to individually go with them to Toronto and inspire them like I was inspired, and they really started to feel the energy that I felt myself.
We held a few fundraisers, had an art wall and eventually we held our first small event. That’s really when it got kick-started, we had our social media pages up and now on June 1st we’re holding our big event WOWW – Women’s One World Walk. It was supposed to be our big finish. But now, just a week ago we got a message saying ‘you’ve been incorporated, start forming your board of directors’. So now this end event has sort of become a launch. We are planning to expand and not run like a non-profit but run like a business with different departments. High school students have so many talents which we can provide as services. We have different departments, different categories to expand and hopefully in the end people won’t think of us as someone you give donations to, but they’ll get something back from it because we have a responsibility to women here too. So hopefully our service and our products will help women here and the funds will help women over there. That’s really our, my vision for the movement, I haven’t really told the committee just yet. It all starts at this event, that’s when everyone is going to be there, we’re going have our celebration, announce our incorporation and the women that are going to be speaking are just extraordinary. Their journey and their triumphs are just really moving. I’m looking forward to having that event and of course the celebration after is going to be fun.
Who are the women that inspire you personally?
Huda Alvi, she is an entrepreneur and an influencer. I connected to her through LinkedIn She is just extraordinary, when I saw her Instagram, I discovered the meaning of empowerment. I don’t even know what it was specifically, because I’ve seen woman with confidence before. But when I saw her profile picture I got a rush of adrenaline, I couldn’t sit still. She actually responded to my email when I contacted her, and we started to connect! She will be my personal mentor in our event WOWW. I’ve never been happier to have met a woman in my life! She’s really transformed my way of thinking.
The second would be my mother, I was always teasing people saying ‘my mother” on television, but now I realize she’s just extraordinary in the sense that she’s so supportive. When my health went down the drain for 2-3 weeks in December I was just miserable. I was horrible to be around. She was always there, and being a business woman, that’s a difficult thing to do. I’m telling anyone that’s reading this: be nice to your mom. You must be nice to your mother and whenever you face success you’ll realize that the one person you’ll want to thank is your mom.
Where do you see Crossbow Canada in the future?
I see it as a business. I know business can be seen as a bad word especially in Canada because it’s all about profit. Whenever I say to someone I’m running a business when I’m running this non-profit they always say ‘well you’re not making any profit’ and I tell them I am making a profit, it’s just going somewhere else. I want it to be like an exchange. I like the idea of providing something to someone; it’s such a good feeling. I was actually inspired by Disney; let’s take a few steps back. They have Disney World, they have Disney stores, not to mention their monopoly in the film industry. They’re everywhere. That’s what I want for Crossbow. I want us to be everywhere, because they are experts in every category and if we can expand and get different services in different areas with different products, I think that would be a great way to get our name out there and see what works, see what doesn’t.
How do you see women in business changing in the future?
Oh, boys should watch out! When I see women, when I see the people in my classroom, when I see the women walking down the halls of my school there are so many women who I can definitely say are going to make it big. I know a lot of people go with: ‘if you have good grades then you’ll definitely be successful’ but when it comes to business, I think because the school system is so structured, look out for those people who maybe don’t try that hard in academics. Maybe they don’t join extracurriculars, but the people who are super social, because socializing is work! It’s fun for some, not fun for others. Academics is fun for some and not fun for others. Those women aren’t thinking about their future right now, because the system isn’t for them, it wasn’t made for them. In a few years, if they start a business, they’ll be unstoppable; I think that's something to really look out for. Those women with an aptitude for business, they will definitely make it somewhere so you’ll see a large amount of women in business.
For more on the organization and to see ways you can help visit: Crossbow Miles
For information and tickets to Women’s One World Walk visit: http://wowwevent.eventbrite.ca/