The Mentor Network Founder Feature – Meru Kheop

Yep – it’s another installment of the Founder Feature series! In this series, we chat with our founders of the 5th Cohort of The Mentor Network to learn more about them as individuals, as well as their entrepreneurial journeys.  They have some great wisdom and experience to share with the rest of the community!

This week, we turn to Meru Kheop, Founding CEO of The Taisna Group, Inc.! Taisna Group provides services and products to enhance K-12 education. Taisna Traveling School, creates expeditionary learning excursions for youth and their educational games provide enhanced curricula for families.  Meru was a Rappaport Fellow of Law and Public Policy at Harvard’s JFK School of Government (2008) and a U.S. HUD Fellow 2005-2007.  She was in the first “House Party” movie, and, awarded a Congressional Recognition for Community Service by U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel in 2000.  All this builds into the mission of Taisna Group.  After you’ve read our interview with Meru, you can learn even more about her story HERE!

What did you do before you were the Founder of your startup?

I was a Policy/Social Science Researcher and Homeschool Educator.

Why this startup?  A.k.a. what is your ‘why’?

As a grad student and research assistant at Harvard, I also homeschooled my 3 children.  The Taisna Group was created out of my desire to build a legacy for my children; one that encompasses all that I am passionate about – education, research, culture, youth and community.

What was your first milestone/win that let you know that you were on the right track to build this business?

Our first milestone came when the Mozilla Foundation awarded my company, along with a few other women-owned businesses, a joint grant to create virtual reality experiences from the work that I do with youth in the Taisna Group’s Traveling School.  The positive feedback from educators and students confirmed that what we do at the Taisna Group is needed and appreciated.

Why did The Mentor Network stand out to you as a positive program to be involved with?

The openness and willingness of its leadership to nurture and encourage my startup was attractive to me.  I’d visited the Sprint Accelerator two times for events and the energy there was so positive.  It was an environment that invited me in.  When I read that they were accepting applications for the next Mentor Network Cohort, my decision to apply was immediate.

What have your big wins been so far within The Mentor Network?

My mentor, Aaron McKee of Balance Innovations is fantastic.  His experience is in technology and sales.  Already, he’s provided me with valuable guidance that is helpful in structuring my business model.  I am enthusiastic about learning more from him in order to build a go-to brand.

How do you maintain sanity in this crazy, insane startup world?

Meditation is helpful.  As a new business owner and mother of teenagers, I am busy. Taking time to sit alone at a quiet cafe or park allows me time to clear my mind and maintain balance.  

Networking is said to be the key to making business contacts.  While I see the value in that, I also know that, for my sanity, I mustn’t think that I have to be everywhere at the same time.  

When it comes down to it, the product is key.  Managing my time appropriately so that I can develop my products and services is extremely important.  

KC has so many resources and people to help entrepreneurs.  What are we still missing?  What gaps do you think we need to fill?

Workshops would be helpful to the new business owner.  While we have the basics down, there are those elements in marketing and brand development that can make the difference.  Pitching is the hot thing right now.  Some one-on-one training in perfecting the pitch would take members of the Cohort a long way, I think.

Regarding the KC startup ecosystem, what has been your favorite service/resource that you would like to share with other founders to take advantage of?

The opportunities to meet more established entrepreneurs is plentiful in KC.  Time allowing, I would encourage other founders to attend some of those meetups. Listening to seasoned entrepreneurs share their journey let’s you know, as a new entrepreneur, that your struggle is part of the journey.  You must stay the course. Work on building your product and/or service everyday.  Don’t give up.

If you could go back to the day you started this journey and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

I would tell myself to have more confidence in my idea and ability to solve the problem that I aim to solve.  

I do not come from a family with deep pockets.  I am using my own limited funds to build my products, yet, my services are valuable. Identify your customers early and aim to please them.

Also published on Medium.

About the author: Ari DeGrote