2020 Interview with Rina Patel from The Thinkers Global

May 1, 2020

By: Barr Morgenstein


‘The Thinkers Global’ offers high school and university students practical life skills, preparing them for a self-sustaining and prosperous adulthood. Their recently launched e-learning programs are designed to provide practical skills in the areas of executive functioning, life design, confidence, and communication skills.


We interviewed Rina Patel, a social entrepreneur and founder of ‘The Thinkers Global’, to hear about her journey in bringing her company to life and the tools she learned along the way. 

The Thinkers Global 

What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started out?

I wish I knew that it’s okay to launch something scrappy as early as possible. When I started out, I spent time designing a great program and spent a lot of time marketing and trying to fill seats for the program. Afterwards, I quickly learned that I could just gather students I knew to test the program in my living room or a local community center. It didn’t have to be anything fancy. If I was starting out all over again, I’d know that there are low cost and less time consuming ways to launch your product that will take you farther in the short term.


How have you adapted (pivoted) your ideas from your original vision? 

When I first started The Thinkers, the target consumer was colleges and universities and the target user was university students. I wanted to create spaces for university students to be able to talk openly and authentically with one another and design a life that aligned to who they are. A large part of our programs were around systems thinking for social change and life design. Since then, I have pivoted to serving high school students and teaching them life skills that are more day to day challenges for everyone. One of the programs we offer is still focused on life design, but we also offer programs on teaching time management, building confidence, and communication skills. 


The Thinkers Global.  A view from the website’s homepage


With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done differently?

I would have started talking to parents much sooner. After going through the E-Lab’s Start-up Sprint, I realized that I had been talking to parents (target customers), but wasn’t doing it in a consistent way. I didn’t have a hypothesis I was trying to disprove or prove and didn’t have a set of questions I was refining along the way. Rather than having loose conversations, I definitely would have spent more time being more methodical. After we went through that process with the E-lab, it has ended up paying off in dividends!


How do you measure personal success?

I measure personal success on inner peace. I’ve spent a lot of my life “reaching” or “wanting’ different things. After realizing that that doesn’t bring any happiness, I’ve learned (the hard way!) that personal success means being okay where you are right now. It means being present and at peace with what is happening in your life. It’s still something I struggle with, but I am working on it day by day.


What advice can you offer anyone who wants to form a start-up?

I would say talk to who you want to serve and your customer as early as possible. Don’t hold off. Don’t build a great product and then bring it to them. I think it’s important to prototype, but I think it’s even more important to come from the mindset of “how can I serve you? What can I do to make your life easier?”


What was the hardest part in the early stages of the start-up?

I spent a lot of time working alone and didn’t reach out to ask for help. I did look to make connections with other entrepreneurs, but I didn’t know exactly where to look for a community who could support me. It was a lot of trial and error and meeting lots of people to now be at the point where I feel like I am supported in this journey. 


Has being a woman/underrepresented minority founder affected your journey?

I’m sure it has, but never in a way where I let it impact my progress. I feel as though it has given me the perspective to be able to emotionally connect with parents and teens, especially teen girls and parents who are immigrants and are raising children born in the United States. This has allowed me the opportunity to be able to build something from the lens of my diverse experiences.


What in your opinion may encourage more women and underrepresented minorities to take part in the entrepreneurial world?

I think mentorship that is accessible. I have spent a lot of time looking for mentors who are five to ten years or even farther along in their entrepreneurial journeys. In the beginning, I just didn’t know where to look. 


What in your opinion are the required steps to be taken for women/ underrepresented minorities to have more leading roles?

I think the community is huge. Seeking out others who are on a similar journey and finding groups to link up with people who you can reach out to for support. Having resources like money is important, but I think mentorship and community are invaluable when stepping into more leadership roles.


Where do you see startups themselves needing the most improvement beyond having a great idea?

I think people make all the difference in an organization or start-up. You can have the best idea, but if there isn’t cohesion and a forward thinking mindset, then it will impede the growth of the organization. I also think effective and transparent communication is important between all team members and that starts with leadership.


What challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?

I think scalability is our challenge. We are in the process of launching paid programs, but are working on replicating our program and nurturing relationships with parents in order to continue to scale it.


Do you leverage social media to raise awareness to your startup?

We do not right now, but have in the past. This summer our aim is to increase our brand awareness and this includes social media.


Are there any new features or milestones coming up for your startup?

Yes! We were recently accepted into NYU E-Lab’s Summer Launchpad. We will be spending the next few months focused on packaging and refining our curriculum to test and gain 60 paid users. In addition, we are working on solidifying price points and building strong channel partnerships with private high schools.


What are the key positions/ requirements to your startups, at the beginning and along the way?

There are two key positions. The first is curriculum development and instruction. This is important as we continue to create an engaging and dynamic program that is intriguing and interesting for teens. The second is marketing and sales. It is important that we are able to cultivate key relationships with teens and parents in order to have a deeper understanding of their needs and be able to expand our programs.


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