Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Vanessa Vakharia, who founded The Math Guru to empower children with the belief that they can excel at math and science regardless of the social categories forced upon them by teachers, peers, and the media…
Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
Technically? I own a super cool math and science tutoring studio unlike any other. But really, I help students realize they have the potential to do absolutely ANYTHING.
What was the inspiration for your career route?
I failed math twice in high school, but not because I couldn’t hack it. I was just convinced that I shouldn’t bother trying by all of the haters who believed that my ambitions to become a Hollywood starlet and marry Keanu Reeves meant that I was too ‘artsy’ to be a math person. And by haters I mean teachers, peers, media. The idea that social categories create such myths of ability was never cool with me, and I have made it my goal to change the culture surrounding math and science so that one day kids won’t ever have to deal with this crap.
What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
This might sound trite, but the most memorable moment for me was the day that my storefront sign was hoisted up. I had spent so many years tutoring out of Starbucks, libraries, and driving to students’ homes (great for getting free and awesome home cooked food, so not complaining), and finally here I was: I had built something tangible. I have always believed that having the right learning environment is essential, and finally I had a place where I could create this incense-scented, candle-filled, colourful math haven I had always dreamed of! I was finally legit.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
Five years? On a book tour for the Mindy Kaling-esque math bio I’m planning on writing. 10 years? Traveling to and from the various TMG locations I’ve opened up, flying around the globe educating the masses on how to create an equitable STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) playing field for women. 20 years? Doing it all while spending at least, like, Jan-March avoiding winter. Who needs snow after December anyhow?
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
This is your LIFE. I know that YOLO is totally over but, seriously – YOLO, PEOPLE! There is no point in being stuck in a job that you don’t love doing. Do what you want to do, and live to make it happen. It will.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
Right now I support Girls Rock Camp Toronto and Al Salam School in Turkey, a school for Syrian Refugees. The former because as a musician in a Toronto indie band, I know how few women there are in the scene and how much of an impact that eventually has on girls looking to the media for role models. Also, teenagers need an outlet for expression – performing can be so cathartic and empowering!
The latter because I heard the school’s founder on CBC one morning literally crying about how she had to turn away these poor children who wanted an education so badly that they came to her school every single morning begging to be let in despite the fact that the school was full – and my heart broke. This incredible woman started this school as a refuge for these poor kids who have nothing; a safe space where they can actually have a chance at a future. We don’t realize how insanely lucky we are in Canada to have free education all around us – we take it for granted.
What does the word notable mean to you?
PAY ATTENTION THIS MIGHT CHANGE THE COURSE OF YOUR ENTIRE LIFE.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
I’m super into the new coffee-shop-yet-also-a-bar trend going on right now. My favourites are Boxcar Social (awesome patio), Voodoo Child (great work or play vibe) and Portland Variety (seriously the best coffee in the city and, more importantly, they have a cocktail called “the tequila bong” that actually exudes smoke).
What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser?
Hands down, Gmail. Is that sad? Is that great? I don’t even know.
Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
@OMGliterallydead. Just trust me on this one.
What’s your favourite cocktail?
Extra, extra dirty gin martini.
What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Oh God, EVERYTHING. Anything I do not do gives me FOMO. It’s so bad that even if I’m daydreaming, I instantly have FOMO that my DAYDREAM isn’t actually happening. Does that make sense? It’s bad.
What would be your last meal? And don’t hold back…
I feel like if this hypothetical last meal were happening, I would be too freaked out/depressed/excited to concentrate on eating, like the epicness of the meal would be lost on deaf taste buds, so to speak. But okay, if you’re asking what I would eat if I could just eat anything I wanted and suffer no consequences: The biggest ice-cream-sundae-banana-split that Greg’s Ice Cream has the capacity to make (if you haven’t been there, GO NOW).
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Britney Spears and day drinking.