Interview with Srilekha Cherukuvada, the 16-year-old Founder of Plannr Consulting!
Srilekha Cherukuvada is a 16-year-old mental health advocate from Austin, Texas. She enjoys writing, reading, playing the flute, and bingeing old Netflix shows. She is the Founder & Executive Director of Plannr Consulting, an organization striving to spread mental health awareness, create an open community, and consult with students for free.
Interview by Daania Sharifi
Could you start off by introducing yourself to the readers?
I’m Srilekha, a 16 year old mental health advocate from Austin, TX. I love writing, reading, playing the flute, and of course managing Plannr Consulting. I’ve always been the most passionate about writing though. I work for Urban Asian and The Tempest and love writing for them. I also love graphic designing, which is something I do on Canva. I’m also a Netflix addict and am currently watching All American (IT’S SOO GOOD). I have two cousins in Michigan so I also enjoy facetiming with them! :)
Nice to meet you! Talk to us about Plannr Consulting! What is it? What’s the mission? How did you create it?
So I started Plannr Consulting after dealing with several issues myself. I’ve also just seen a lot of mental health issues in general and it never really struck me that I could do anything about it. For years, I also played around with the idea of starting a consulting business with event planning & organization. Late last year, I just merged the two ideas into a notforprofit mental health service. Plannr Consulting strives to bring about mental health awareness, consult with students in lifestyle, test prep/tutoring, and college admissions, and create an open & welcoming community for all. We are growing pretty fast so our whole team is super excited about having a larger impact and consulting with more people.
Interesting! How has the experience taught you skills you never thought it could teach you? What have you had to learn to start this organization?
The experience of leading an organization isn’t only about leadership. I learned a lot about my own leadership style, yes, but more importantly, I learned about communication and why it’s critical for an organization’s growth. I learned how to care and love for volunteers, and become friends with them and I learned to listen to their amazing ideas and opinions. I learned that growth is a team effort and I learned that nothing will be perfect on the first try. I learned how to improve my design skills and email outreach skills. Starting an organization was crazy hard. Growing and recruiting is even harder. But out of all of that hard work, there is so much more that comes and benefits you. I don’t think I would be the same person today if I hadn’t started this organization, so I’m very glad.
Talk to us about working for Urban Asian and the Temptest. What is it your job is as a writer and what makes those organizations important to you?
So I’m a staff writer at Urban Asian and an Editorial Fellow at The Tempest (I’m also co-Managing Editor at GenRise Media). Urban Asian I actually joined after working with Rehana Paul at Overachiever Magazine. She had told me about Urban Asian and I just loved it so much. Urban Asian is so important to me because it allows me to connect with my South Asian roots and representation. Roshni, the Founder, is so nice and I’ve loved working with her. The Tempest also has had a huge impact on me. I really love the community of staff there and I’ve enjoyed the writing style of personal narratives. It’s just a really empowering organization and everyone there always lifts you up. Federica, Mashal, and Laila have all been wonderful and special shoutout to them <3.
Being this involved must be difficult at times to juggle school and work, how do you learn to manage?
I get this question all the time and I honestly don’t think it’s been that hard to manage. I’m a huge workaholic. I just really love working at these different organizations and getting involved. I do keep a very strict Google Calendar and Google Keep so those are always open on my computer 24/7. When I do have school, I also keep a written agenda. I also have a whiteboard for any other important key things I have to keep track of like events and birthdays. I used to take band so I’m used to working late into the night and managing my time pretty well. I think because of my time management through all of these methods, I turn out to be a pretty put together person (although there are always those occasional times where I completely break down.) With all these things going on, I still think the things that bring me the most stress is with my mental health. On that note, my mental health is not super affected by my work. its usually other things.
Who is your biggest inspiration and what about them inspires you?
My biggest inspiration would hands down be my mother and father. And I’m not just saying that because they’re my parents and I love them. Even though they live a MUCH more conservative Indian lifestyle than me, my parents have taught me so much. My mom has always been the one to comfort me when I’m at my worst and teach me all of those life lessons. The rejections, the hardships, she was there for every single moment. My dad has been that ray of sunshine you just need in your life or you can’t make it through. My dad is the one who would praise me when I’m succeeding and bring me hope. My success, my dreams, I owe them all to him, because without my dad I am essentially no one. And without my mom, I am essentially nothing. (if that makes any sense at all). My parents are the people I will always treasure the most in this world, and they will always be my most beloved cheerleaders. My other inspirations include- my big sister, my aunt and uncle, my two little cousins, my family friends who are basically like another family to me, and every single friend, acquaintance and stranger I’ve met because I’ve learned something from every single person in my life and I am so thankful for everyone. To me, everyone is an inspiration.
Love that! It’s always great to have support and inspiration in any endeavor. How have you been coping with quarantine? What do you do to past time?
To cope with quarantine, I've been doing a TON of writing. I write two hours a day or something and of course I have all of these school assignments that I do everyday. As I said I'm a huge workaholic, so I've been working a lot, with my job at Mathnasium and of course at Plannr. I also briefly had a rainbow loom phase again and made 15 bracelets. I play the flute and have been taking online lessons so that's also fun. And yeah, just a ton of facetiming with my friends and family. :)
Any advice for teens hoping to follow your footsteps? How would you suggest they find opportunities?
I would say- don't stop, just start. One of the biggest issues I've had with my organization was just getting it started. Like I said, I had the idea in my mind for a very long time, I think years, of a consulting business, but I never took that initiative. After I did, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me and instead, it was filled with excitement because I knew this was something that could grow and become something big. So, if you have an idea, just START IT. NOW. go do it. Finding opportunities isn't that hard either necessarily. Following youth organizations on Instagram and starting from the smaller organizations and building your way up is also a good idea. I remember two years ago, I worked for a small magazine, and now, I'm working for Urban Asian, which is huge growth. I would also say look for success, but don't become obsessed with it. Although you want to become big and successful, your focus as a social entrepreneur, should MOSTLY be in helping society and other.
Definitely! Do you have any advice for teens in general about school, mental health, and social situations?
As for school, I think not stressing out about homework and tests is important. Failing an assignment is not the end of the world. Also, seek help if you need it. Plannr Consulting is always there for anyone who needs help with school and mental health. Taking care of yourself should be the number one priority in everyone's life. I recommend checking out our self care kit that will be releasing later in May. It has some great ideas for self care. Also, letting go of things and learning what is best for yourself by getting to know you and what you need is really important too. It always helps to talk to someone about it.
Anything else to add before we conclude this interview?
Um yes! I just want to say thank you to your organization for interviewing me and of course all the readers. We will all be okay after this crisis- so please don't stress yourself out. Please check out our website- plannrconsulting.wixsite.com/plannrconsulting and book a consult now (they're all FREE) if you need to talk to someone or need help with anything. We also have a blog- plannrconsulting.wixsite.com/mindgarden so be sure to check those out. We are @plannrconsulting on Instagram and @PlannrConsult on Twitter. Thank you so much!