Tell us a little about what you do…
So far I’ve been following my heart (without giving up my mind) and I hope it always stays that way, as cliché as it sounds.
As of today, I run a sports education not for profit organisation where we teach children (boys and girls) life skills through football in underprivileged schools across India. It’s called Just For Kicks (www.jfkindia.org).
What made you want to start Just For Kicks?
Letting children do what they love most – play, and learning to become strong, independent and successful both socially and professionally through it. I put together the Just For Kicks model (with my thought partner/ co-founder) while I was a teacher myself, and started with coaching my own football team. Teaching the boys football on the field was a a win-win situation for everyone – kids had a blast, they developed essential life skills (critical thinking, coping with emotion, self awareness), schools realised the importance of sports and learning beyond four walls of the classroom, and parents experienced something new to them – their children succeeding in different ways and earning respect for themselves and their families.
My best stories are those where children report their life changing experiences from really stressful, adverse life situations (violence, drugs, poverty, self belief and educational struggles) to personal, family and community victories.
This was it – the intersection of my passion, power of sport, love for kids and that urge to change my country’s education system into a holistic one for all types of children (irrespective of gender, race, socio-economic background). Hopefully we churn out some big star players in the future too. Watch out for that!
If you weren’t this awesome-entrepreneur-lady, what would you be?
Food critic, where I’d get to eat unlimited quantities of all types of food and get paid to talk and write about it.
Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.
I’m pretty sure I fall under the open book category of people, so honestly nothing comes to mind!
One thing you would never endorse?
Unethical Behaviour (and Diets)
What does being a Real Girl mean to you?
Know yourself better than anyone else. Dream. Chase your dreams.
What’s the toughest part of the profession?
Scaling up for sustainable impact. We’ve been thinking about million kids from day 1, we’ve been talking about changes in urban as well as rural India and other countries. We are doing everything we can to make that real.
Tell us something cute one of the kids said to you?!
Will you be my valentine?
(I’m pausing this interview to deal with my heart which has become a puddle)
Debunk one start up myth for us?
24/7 working day
Starting up does mean working hard. But it also means – setting your goals, working creatively and smartly to achieve them and refreshing as much as possible – in a day/ month/ year and so on.
At the end of the day you’ve got to remain excited, energetic and happy about what you’re doing and innovate at a quick pace without burning out.
At Just For Kicks, we do have compulsory vacations and no laptop days for our crew.
What keeps you motivated?
Seeing is believing. I’m easily bothered by problems and like a true optimist know that there are solutions. You’ve got to put in the effort to realise/create the best one and then run with it. Social problems perturb me the most and keep me going to change them around.
Someone you look up to?
My father. Aarti (teacher/ school owner and mother of a child I taught in a municipal school in Mumbai). Michelle and Barack Obama. Roger Federer. Didier Drogba. Audrey Hepburn, Indra Nooyi. So many friends.
I love looking upto people and making them role models. I could go on.
Describe your personal style in one line?
Go with the flow; Don’t worry be happy
What would you tell a young girl who’s not too sure what career path she wants to take?
Be good and keep enjoying your present life and I’m sure you will figure it out.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Binge watching bad TV shows.
Not getting out of bed for 23 hours.
How addicted are you to social media?
What’s your take on feminism?
I’m more for human rights than focusing exclusively on female rights and advocacy. Unfortunately our world has shaped up in a way that women are usually second. So I stand up, speak up and act up for all the times male is not equal to female but should be. What I do keep in mind is that both genders have some differences so one will be better and worse at some things. Use that to complement, not contest.
One thing that “growing up” has taught you?
You can get away with most anything if you want to. But do you want to?!?
Complete the following sentence for me;
www.realgirl.co is ——– an inspirational reality check.
(That is just the nicest way of putting it! I beam but don’t show it for fear of Neha judging me)
Leave us with a message since it’s Women’s Day!
To the Women – Decide what you want and live it up every single day! Don’t ever give up your right to choose.
To the Men – Get with the above Program.
YAAASSSS QUEEEEN! Can I just say, my thoughts exactly! Thank you so much for who you are and what you do. You make a great case for Real Girls everywhere.
(Apart from being an inspirational girl boss and dear friend, Neha is the Founder of Just For Kicks www.jfkindia.org. You can follow her @nehasahu on Twitter)
*This is the second part in a 3 part series of interviews to commemorate some awesome, badass, inspirational real girls on Women’s Day.