March 18, 2014

Avni Patel Thompson | Be the Change

I met Avni (you can read her full bio below) at a blog-to-book event at HBS several years ago; we have stayed in touch, and one of her essays is in the 2nd printing of Dare, Dream, Do.  May you enjoy reading about her entrepreneurial dream.    

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  – Gandhi-ji

I suppose it’s fitting that it was Gandhi-ji that uttered this sentiment.  As any dutiful Indian family, we were raised in the teachings of his great accomplishments and watched the acclaimed movie too many times to count.  It was one of very few Hollywood films my parents were okay with us watching, so we did, over and over again until we could recite lines and enact scenes.

Gandhi-ji was one of those rare subjects that spanned both halves of my life.  He was one of the most revered and respected figures in India and therefore in my parents’ eyes.  But he was also remarkable and remembered on the world stage and was known and understood by my western friends.  It was a topic that I could safely broach, even if I pronounced his name Gandhi-ji with respect in the home, and a more nasal Gaaan-di, outside of it.

I felt a certain pride that I may have something in common with someone that did such great things in the world, even if it was just passively sharing a home state and heritage.  And I loved that he was universal.  That he transcended just one culture, one country, one school of thought.

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The more I’ve travelled and seen since my childhood, the more I believe in this view – that the world’s cultures are such a rich source of experience and understanding but too often hidden away within the home, for fear of being misunderstood or mocked.  And perhaps I was okay with this split life – living a modern Western life on the outside and sprinkling in Indian on special occasions, while switching more fluidly between cultures in the home.

Until I had my daughter.  Then it seemed almost lazy and insufficient to be Indian only when convenient and only on special occasions.  I needed to find a way to create that constancy in the home that I grew up with and better yet, to find a way to better share my heritage with those around me, so that it wasn’t such a dichotomy.

But there was nothing out there to help me.  Nothing that was simple and beautiful and easy to incorporate into our busy lives and did justice to the richness of the culture, without resorting to calling my parents or traveling to India, neither of which are sustainable strategies for the longterm.

So a dear friend and I are going to be the change we wish to see in the world.

We’re going to build a brand that believes it should be easier to share your cultural heritage with your family and your friends.  Simply and beautifully.  That there is a whole beautiful world out there that needs to be explored and discovered and celebrated.  Starting with the traditions and stories and food and language of our ancestors.  We’re going to add that little spice to everyday life.

papaya+post (papayaandpost.com) is going to reimagine how culture is celebrated and shared, though content, a community and a unique goods that make the celebrations easier and more authentic.

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It’s quite the change for two women that have made their careers in big, known, safe companies.  But we’re both determined to create a world for our kids that is more seamless in its traditions, more fluid in its stories, more rich in its cultures.  And we can’t think of a more noble reason to take the leap into entrepreneurship.

But it’s a big leap.  And it feels terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.  I suppose the best dreams do.

I know it’s the right thing though, because I wake up every morning energized by this new purpose and this feeling that I’m meant to be doing this.

So we hope you’ll come over and explore a little with us.  Give us your feedback of what you’d love to see, no matter your background or point of view. Because we all have roots. And we’re eager to build and learn and grow.

Most of all, we’re excited to be the change in this world that lets our roots shine.

***

Avni Patel Thompson (@APatelThompson) is a chronically curious brand marketer, inspired by the potential of ideas and passionate people.  As a 2nd generation Indo-Canadian living in the US, having spent a year living in Shanghai, China, Avni understands deeply the power and pull of the world’s cultures.  But navigating the intersections where they meet can be daunting and frustrating if not done with curiosity and care.

This belief has led Avni to be the co-founder of papaya+post (www.papayaandpost.com), a brand that inspires and enables parents to bring the best of their cultural heritage to life with their kids, simply and beautifully.  Her goal is to make culture something to celebrate everyday, in a modern but authentic way.  

Before papaya+post, her passion for building enduring brands took her from Procter and Gamble and the Boston Consulting Group to adidas, Starbucks and Julep Inc.  

Avni has an MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School and a BSc. Chemistry from the University of British Columbia.  She lives with her husband and sassy 2 year old daughter in Seattle, WA.

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