Big Ideas Mentor and Innovation Ambassador: Breaking Down Barriers for Social Entrepreneurs

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Parul Wadhwa

New media professional and Big Ideas Mentor and Innovation Ambassador, Parul Wadhwa, hopes to make social innovation more accessible for marginalized communities.

As a new media professional, working with emerging technologies and Big Ideas Mentor and Innovation Ambassador, Parul Wadhwa says social innovation can improve the lives of marginalized communities. She thinks pursuing social entrepreneurship, however, continues to pose barriers for the student, women, and minority innovators who can make the biggest impact. 

Big Ideas sat down with Wadhwa to learn more about her interests in social entrepreneurship, the impacts of virtual reality as a new media platform, and how she dedicates her career to breaking down these barriers in order to make entrepreneurship more accessible for minority groups.

Why is social entrepreneurship important?

Social entrepreneurship solves important problems by creative innovations, but it also keeps in mind the kind of people who are affected or benefiting from it. There are a lot of interesting innovations that are taking place in the world right now and a lot of people, especially our marginalized innovators, get left behind. Social entrepreneurship makes space for all kinds of people.

Wadhwa works with emerging technologies, AR/VR/XR, which she believes can create empathy for social causes.

Why do you think it’s important for students to have access to resources and leadership when pursuing a new venture?

There is a difference between having an idea and seeing it come to fruition, whether that's in the form of a company or in the form of an innovation, a product, or service. We all have great ideas, but how these ideas can be beneficial, speak a universal language, and impact a larger audience is a totally different equation. As a Big Ideas Innovation Ambassador, it was very interesting to reach out to undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz and the larger UC community to tell them how a platform like Big Ideas can be instrumental in shaping impactful companies. Students have a lot of interesting ideas and they are very enthusiastic about creating change in the world. I think that platforms, like Big Ideas, tap into that very enthusiastic energy and make sure that those ideas come into fruition.

What are some changes to the entrepreneurial field you think are necessary in order to make it more accessible for women, students, and minorities?

There’s a lot of gatekeeping that happens in entrepreneurship and you see a lot of people keeping different kinds of people outside. There need to be a lot more training programs, there need to be incubators, there needs to be a lot of accelerators that are specifically focused on providing that access and opening up resources for women, students, and minorities.

What do you think is the power of virtual reality to effectively tell the stories of marginalized communities?

Virtual Reality (VR) has the ability to create empathy for the social causes that you are talking about and it’s important to bring that technology into the hands of people who would never have the opportunity to access it. VR is such a powerful, immersive environment because it can teleport people to be in someone else’s shoes or interact with somebody they have never met before.

Why do you think it’s important to support women in entrepreneurial environments?

Being a woman entrepreneur myself and having gone through the challenges, I feel that it’s really important for me to give back to that community and to build a solid system of support for people to make sure that they have access to the opportunities that I had. A platform like WiseHer is really close to my heart because we are a bunch of interesting entrepreneurs from all around the world, mostly women, who are using our expertise to develop small innovations for entrepreneurs anywhere around the world.

I get the opportunity to work with businesswomen in India and Nigeria who have great ideas, but have never had access to micro-investments or have even been taught about business. The fact that a small idea, for women mostly in India or Nigeria, could take them to a platform where they can support their families and build a business that can bring change in the world, is something so exciting, unique, and organic to see.

What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to aspiring student entrepreneurs?

I think my biggest take away from working with students and being an entrepreneur myself, is that as women, minorities, and students, we often don’t have a lot of faith in our ideas. And the biggest challenge that we face is who do we talk to? And is my idea going to be stolen? My biggest advice is don’t be afraid to talk about your idea and have confidence in it. The more you talk about your idea, the greater the chances you will come across the right people and the right resources which will help you shape that idea into an innovation.

Any final thoughts?

There’s a lot more that goes into an innovation than just having a seed idea, so talk about your idea as much as you can, look out for mentors as you can, and access the kinds of resources that are available around you. In short, be enterprising and strategic.

It’s time that we start innovating outside of the buildings and start talking and connecting to as many people as we can, especially the people we are creating the product and innovation for.