Crimson Education co-founder and COO Sharndre reckons education is the most powerful tool for change in the world.
To date, Crimson Education students have received more than $33 million in scholarships to study at the world’s best universities, including Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge. Behind this global success is, in large part, its Auckland-based co-founder Sharndre Kushor.
She launched the career-mentoring company, originally Crimson Consulting, with co-founder and boyfriend Jamie Beaton when they were in their first year of university in 2013. As she started her role as chief operating officer and head of recruiting, Sharndre was studying population health at the University of Auckland.
“I had just learnt about amazing global opportunities at overseas universities and companies and felt I had a duty to pass on what I’d learnt,” she says. “I felt really deeply that the younger students I was mentoring should have the opportunity to connect with mentors who had achieved great things.”
Sharndre’s passion for education and basic human rights runs in her family. Her mother is a speech and language therapist and lecturer and her father is an educator who worked during the apartheid in South Africa and advocated for better access to education regardless of ethnic background. “This instilled a belief in me that education is really the most powerful weapon to change the world.”
After her family moved to NZ, Sharndre became a Unicef New Zealand Youth Ambassador. A passion for local children’s rights issues inspired her to offer driven students financial aid opportunities at Crimson Education.
Despite having various interests when she was younger, Sharndre says she was exposed to very traditional career pathways — something she’s trying to change for others. “I’m really proud to support younger students in the process of discovering who they are, what they can achieve and why their voice and contribution in their field of interest is important and valuable.”
Today Crimson has more than 200 full-time staff, 2000 tutors and mentors and 20,000 students in more than 17 cities. The company was recently valued at $220 million.
Sharndre spends half her time in NZ and the rest visiting the US and other Crimson offices, including a new roll-out of posts in Europe. Time management is, naturally, very important. She takes 10-15 minutes each day to plan for the next. When she feels stuck at work, she asks herself, ‘What would I do if I wasn’t afraid of failing?’
In 2017 Sharndre was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Businesswomen of the Year at the Indian Business Awards, which she describes as “just crazy!” To be named Businesswoman of the Year at age 23, when most past winners were 40 or over, is a huge privilege, she adds.
Sharndre also won a New Zealand Youth Enterprise Award and made Forbes’ prestigious 30 Under 30 Asia list. Remembering reading about the young Forbes honourees while still at school, she hopes there’s a young girl in high school equally inspired by her story.
Her next goal is to upskill. After just completing an accounting and finance course at Columbia University, Sharndre is considering a masters in either business administration, education or public policy.
it’s important to show women that their voice matters, not only because they’re women, but because they have their own unique story that shapes their perspectives
A unique vision is paramount to her business success. “I’m a woman. I’m from a minority background. I bring a new perspective,” she says. “I think it’s important to show women that their voice matters, not only because they’re women, but because they have their own unique story that shapes their perspectives. To create change that really makes an impact, we need new and innovative ideas and perspectives — or the world will just stay the same.”
Being a young entrepreneur also gives Sharndre an edge. Crimson was built on the idea that students need mentors who have recently overcome the challenges they’re facing. As a result, more than half of her workforce are millennials, who she says bring with them fearless innovation and bold ideas.
“We were brought up on the idea that the world is our oyster, and that with the right drive and commitment we can change things,” she says. “Go forth and conquer, millennials!”
This article originally appeared in Miss FQ Issue 1, 2018.