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Simi Shah: Elevating and Centering the Stories of South Asian Trailblazers

Simi Shah: Elevating and Centering the Stories of South Asian Trailblazers

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Hey, friends! Spiffy here, and I’m back on Spaceship Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! Today, I had the pleasure of chatting with Simi Shah, the founder and host of South Asian Trailblazers. Are you ready to be inspired? 

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Simi! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?

Simi: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! Trailblazers is a content platform and community that dives deep into the journeys of trailblazing South Asians. Our mission is to give generations of South Asians a line of sight to leaders who resemble them, and to meaningfully capture stories of South Asian success. We believe our community needs to see and hear from leaders who look like us. Every community does. We’re capturing these stories to showcase who’s out there, what they’re contributing, and how they’re doing it to inform and inspire our own journeys.

Spiffy: Nice! What motivated you to tackle this challenge?

Simi: Since childhood, I've always had a strong connection to my culture. But after graduating from college, I wasn't able to engage with it or with my community as easily, and that was a tough adjustment to make. I knew others felt the same, which is why I started Trailblazers. It became an avenue for me to not only highlight incredible success stories, but also connect with my culture in this new, professional context of my life (and help others do the same!).

Spiffy: How are you and your team at Trailblazers working towards a more equitable world?

Simi: It comes down to representation. The South Asian community is integral to the socioeconomic and cultural fabric of so many countries, yet our stories often go untold and unseen. We're dedicated to changing that: to elevating and centering the stories of our community in unprecedented fashion.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent milestone by Trailblazers. What impact does that make?

Simi: We recently hosted our first few live events in New York City, including a podcast recording with a live audience and our inaugural Dinner with Trailblazers series featuring South Asian women in venture capital. Seeing our community come to life has been powerful. When someone is coming up to you and sharing how much they loved a specific episode, or how a particular story affected them, the impact of your efforts feels very real. It's shown me how much South Asian Trailblazers’ work means to people, some of whom I'd never met or have yet to meet. It's given us momentum to keep forging ahead with our mission and vision.

Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from that experience?

Simi: I don't know if I'd call it a failure, but ... growing a podcast and content platform is not without its challenges. Elevating any type of content is fairly difficult in a world where there's information overload all the time. I've worked in media, and I truly believe that if you're not adding value, or if people aren't excited about what you're building, then it's time to pivot or move on. For me, it's been a lesson in zooming in on our specific niche and mission. We can't do everything, so how do we zero in on what we're good at? How do we better reflect on what continues to bring people back to our platform time and time again? Learning to ask myself these questions has been a significant point of learning through the peaks and valleys.

Spiffy: Thank you for sharing that. What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?

Simi: Gratitude is the key to happiness. I learned this from my cousin, Pooja — she's always thinking critically about how we can become better versions of ourselves, and that's led her to deeply study the art of happiness. In one of our recent conversations, she explained how gratitude — showing appreciation for life and all that comes with it — can unlock so much joy within us. And in actually trying this, I've come to see exactly how true this is. But, I don't think it's an obvious fact!

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Simi: I always encourage people to just start. For us deeply analytical types, we can identify a million reasons not to try our hand at something. I've felt that way more than once with Trailblazers. But, every time, I've been so happy that I did try, that I did push forward. So, whatever idea or initiative you have stirring in your mind, just go for it!

Simi Shah is the founder and host of South Asian Trailblazers, a podcast and platform highlighting stories of South Asian success. She has spent time working in media and in finance. Simi holds a B.A. in Economics from Harvard University and is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on August 25, 2022.)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.