Modern entrepreneurship is a nuanced and multifaceted experience, especially in the digital age. From creating a minimum viable product to digital marketing, profit margins, and everything in between, it can be difficult to navigate this ever-changing landscape as a young individual. TKS student and young innovator Prerana Manoj is no stranger to this delicate balance and is speaking out about what she wishes she knew before we pitched her groundbreaking idea in CBC’s Dragon’s Den.
Prerana Manoj may look like our average Canadian student, but her astonishing and groundbreaking ideas won the hearts of Dragon’s Den investors and onlookers alike. In early 2021 Prerana Manoj decided to take the concept of Canadian water conservation into her own hands, and subsequently the hands of Canadians everywhere. She developed the concept of a ‘smart shower head’ that is focused on the three main pillars of sustainability in our world: economic, social, and environmental sustainability.
“We often don’t realize it, but we waste thousands of gallons of water every day, which could support hundreds of households in under-developed and developing countries all over the globe. As a country with access to an abundance of freshwater, we must do our best to be frugal with it and conserve it as much as possible. But I realized that bringing awareness is only a first step, if I wanted to make an impact and solve the problem, I should work towards that solution.”
At the young age of fourteen, Prerana Manoj developed the minimum viable product to display how Canadians can save water, contribute to protecting the environment, all while having a little bit of fun. She decided to apply for CBC’s Dragon’s Den on the off-chance they invite her for a pitch interview.
In March 2021, Prerana was shocked to receive an invitation to pitch her groundbreaking idea on Dragon’s Den to potentially gain visibility and investment opportunities for her product that would create lasting and impactful change. Uncertain of how the Dragon’s would view her idea, she decided to move forward with the pitching process, even if all of them denied the opportunity. After all, this was an experience of a lifetime.
“I walked into the Den, unconcerned about receiving a deal because, in the end, I just wanted the Dragons to hear about my cause, my idea, and my passion.”
To her surprise and excitement, the Dragon’s responses were overwhelming. Despite only holding a single-feature minimum viable product, Prerana received an offer from every Dragon on the panel. However, after receiving a deal for her smart shower head concept to conserve water, Prerana eventually defaulted to focusing all of her time and attention on school and her educational development instead of diving head-first into running a business.
In hindsight, Prerana wished she was a bit more prepared, not only for her pitch on the Dragon’s Den but in her entrepreneurial journey overall.
“I wished that I had received more constructive and high-standard feedback so my final Minimum Viable Product could have been presented in the best version possible. In the end, it turned out to be a single-feature MVP, but I had to learn many skills including Arduino circuits and a little bit of C programming.”
Now a student at TKS, Prerana is learning invaluable skills every day to fine-tune her craft, her confidence, and her mindset. TKS is committed to helping teens achieve their purpose-driven goals and equipping them with the tools they need to thrive amid an ever-changing societal and economical landscape. Despite receiving offers from all of the Dragons, Prerana believes that if she had been a student at TKS before her pitch, she could have created a more compelling MVP, presentation, and carried herself with a higher sense of confidence.
“I realized that I needed some training and some more exposure to soft skills, tech skills, presentation skills, and start-up founders to start my own someday. So I decided to be a part of The Knowledge Society (TKS) and master the basics of building machine learning models, and Artificial Intelligence.”
TKS was developed with CEOs and global leaders, modeled after curriculums from Stanford, Harvard, and MIT, and is designed to replicate the learning environment and culture of Silicon Valley. As a global incubator for the world’s next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and changemakers, there are four essential concepts that TKS teaches that act as a catalyst for incredible personal and professional growth: technical skills, interpersonal skills, insightful feedback sessions, entrepreneurial skills, and mindset.
Emerging technologies sit at the forefront of The Knowledge Society’s initiatives. By leveraging the power of emerging and advanced technologies, young innovators can effectively fuel their purpose-driven ideas to change the world. TKS walks hand in hand with each student to help them develop these tech-based skills and help them flourish by replicating groundbreaking projects.
“I’ve learned so much at TKS and I’m just midway through the journey. I participated in my first hackathon, built my first Artificial Intelligence replicate project (recreating an already existing project), and have had the opportunity to attend networking events. Some of the projects I’ve replicated include the MNIST number and clothing neural networks, linear regression for salary prediction as well as an image classification system using Keras datasets.”
It is no secret that it takes charisma, confidence, and certain calm-collectiveness to deliver a business pitch, but what happens after that? Business and entrepreneurship demand a certain level of interpersonal skills to thrive. From negotiations, presentations, demeanor, body language, and everything in between, TKS helps all of its students by practicing with real-world projects with global brands where students can practice their education by application.
While Prerana did take a step back to focus on her studies, these interpersonal skills would have revolutionized her pitch presentation and prepared her for the steps to come in her entrepreneurial journey.
TKS is a like-minded community determined to build each other up for the betterment of society. One of the ways this is accomplished is through providing insightful feedback sessions where students can collaborate and improve upon their skills, methods, and ideas. Had Prerana been a student at TKS before her pitch, she could have potentially presented a well-polished product, presentation, and business model through the help of her peers and superiors.
These sessions are essential as everyone, regardless of experience level, can get ‘too close’ to any project and create room for error from overlooking minor details. In the spirit of empowering students through strategic mentorship, TKS helps eliminate these errors and set each student on the path of least resistance to success.
“Having the amazing TKS community on your side no matter what is something that would’ve made a HUGE difference to my presentation. At TKS, all feedback is to make you better and constantly reach the best version of yourself and I wish this was an audience I had during my solo practice sessions.”
To be a successful entrepreneur it takes more than just a brilliant idea. It takes strategy, innovation, people skills, business insights, and leadership skills. At TKS students are provided with unique internship opportunities to learn from the world’s top entrepreneurs and innovators to fuel their personal and professional growth. This one-of-a-kind opportunity sets students apart from their peers and facilitates further opportunities to meet their goals and change the world.
Perhaps one of the most important skills an entrepreneur must possess is the power to shift their mindset to overcome challenges and adversity, realistically manage the impact of success, and control emotions to create a compelling presence or pitch. TKS trains its students on how to control their mindset and leverage the power of positive self-talk to create a better business outcome and ignite work ethic.
“Mindsets like boss mentality, stoicism could be intentional could have helped me during my preparation process. There were many times I’d react emotionally when stressed or be anxious in front of audiences, and I believe that it has only slowed down my progress and growth. With the help of these mindsets in constant practice, I believe that my preparation process would have gone much smoother and might have reflected a better outcome for my final pitch.”
Overall, Prerana did a fantastic job in her pitch meeting on Dragon’s Den. There is no doubt that she will go on to do amazing things by creating sustainable change to better our society and save our planet. As a current student at TKS, Prerana feels better equipped to manage a start-up once she concludes her educational career.