stEMPOWERher » Veale Entrepreneurs



Ishita Kopparapu, stEMPOWERher
Ishita Kopparapu, stEMPOWERher

Ishita Kopparapu recently created stEMPOWERher, a local non-profit STEM camp for young girls, while attending school at Hathaway Brown. She is the Small Business track winner of the 2023 thinkBIG! Challenge.

We interviewed Ishita to learn more about how stEMPOWERher has evolved and how she became an entrepreneur.

Tell us a little about your journey to entrepreneurship.

I never really wanted to do something commercial when it came to starting a business because I never felt like I would benefit or help others benefit if I did that. I have wanted to start a nonprofit organization for a few years but never knew what I could do to help the community. I then joined a Business class in my school that helped me get on that path again. I started becoming more serious about starting a non-profit and started to brainstorm. After a long time of doing that, I finally got this idea. I took a good 4-5 months to fully develop a foundation but I eventually got there. From there, there has seriously been no looking back. I have continuously put in the effort to make stEMPOWERher better day by day and have gotten this far by doing so.

Who helped you get started as an entrepreneur?

There were a lot of people who helped me get started as an entrepreneur. When I first started developing my idea, my mom, my dad, and my teacher Mrs. Molly Krist helped me the most. My parents helped move in the right direction and gain clarity on what I wanted to do while Mrs. Krist helped me implement those ideas through her Business and Finance classes and one on one meetings.

What is stEMPOWERher and how has it developed over time? Where do you hope to see your business in the future?

stEMPOWERher is a non-profit organization that strives to inspire young girls to pursue STEM through various free, interactive, and unique opportunities. Our goal is to inspire girls to explore STEM through curiosity, innovation, and creativity. It has been one year since stEMPOWERher started and since our founding we have grown into a team of people that work to push the initiative forward. We have expanded our connections and are making an effort to be seen in the community more often. We have impacted over 100 girls and are on track to doubling that in 2023. Developing the organization took a lot of time as we had to carefully decide what to do next and think about where we wanted the organization to be in the future. Speaking of the future, in the next few years, we hope to spread our initiative throughout the nation and introduce more and more formats in order to make our services more accessible. This means developing more curriculums, creating nationwide chapters, and developing an online version of our in person curriculum. Hopefully, we will be able to go global with this and create unimaginable opportunities for girls all over the world.

stEMPOWERher summer camp photo 1
stEMPOWERher summer camp photo 2

stEMPOWERher students participating in a recent summer camp.

How did you become involved with the Veale Youth Entrepreneurship Forum (VYEF) and can you tell us a little bit about your experience?

I became involved with the forum through my school. In our business and finance class we all submitted our ideas to the thinkBIG! Competition and I decided to submit my organization as my pitch. I really enjoyed how as we went through the competition there were three rounds for potential competitors to be narrowed down. Overall, I learned a lot about the business aspect of my organization and what it means to write a pitch and proposal.

How will you use the funds that you won in the thinkBIG! Challenge?

I am planning on using the funds I won to further my organization’s initiative of inspiring young women to pursue STEM. We’ve recently had some major developments and are in the talks with schools and organizations in multiple other countries, so the funding I won would be put towards any expense regarding the projects we are working on internationally.

Ishita Kopparapu and other Hathaway Brown students gather for a picture at the 2023 thinkBIG! Summit.
Ishita Kopparapu and other Hathaway Brown students gather for a picture at the 2023 thinkBIG! Summit.

What takeaways did you have from participating in the thinkBIG! Challenge?

Some of the biggest takeaways I had from the competition was learning what it means to start from scratch and build a community through your business. The biggest takeaway, however, has to be me overcoming my fear of talking to hundreds of people. I remember being really scared seeing the amount of people there, but I think a lot of the activities we did and speakers we listened to helped me calm down and focus on what was important; being seen and sharing my love for the organization.

What are the biggest challenges you face as an entrepreneur and how do you overcome them?

The biggest challenges I face as an entrepreneur in the non-profit sector are funding, marketing (being seen), and really getting out in the community. When I started this, I had absolutely no funding. I applied for grants and got the money I needed in order to make everything free. I am also working on creating a platform for the organization to have a constant source of funding. I have improved marketing by planning deadlines to get information out in a timely manner.

stEMPOWERher summer camp photo 3
stEMPOWERher summer camp photo 4
stEMPOWERher summer camp photo 5

stEMPOWERher students measure ingredients in preparation for a STEM experiment.

Do you find value in using an entrepreneurial mindset in other settings besides your business?

I do find using a business mindset in other aspects of my life is valuable. Starting and running this organization has taught me valuable communication, leadership, and team building skills. I manage and work with 4 other team members on a daily basis and I have to maintain a healthy work environment while helping them grow as well. I also take time to train them and doing so not only ensures the job gets done to perfection, but it builds our relationship as a team. I communicate with so many people outside of my social circle and that has taught me to deal with all kinds of people. All these skills have helped me become a better person and have immensely helped me in my academic growth as well as professional growth.

What advice do you have for other students who are interested in starting a business or developing an idea?

My advice to other students would be to jump right in! It’s so much fun figuring out all the details and learning from everyone around you. I think what’s most important is to find a balance between having the discipline to give yourself time to think things through and the freedom to go wild with your ideas. I would also say create something around your passion or let the idea become your passion. I cannot express how far my ability to show passion has taken me. When people see that in you along with the potential to learn and grow, a lot of people are going to want to help you and it will take you very very far.

stEMPOWERher Logo

How can people find out more about stEMPOWERher?

People can find out about stEMPOWERher through our website,, Instagram, @stempowerher23, or contact us through email at