It was virtually minutes after I sent a cold call interview request to Miki Agrawal that she responded, “Happy to do it.”
How’s that for a first impression?
I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t a little nervous and a lot excited to speak one on one with Agrawal. Still in her early 30s, Miki Agrawal is a seemingly fearless millennial leader. She has built an impressive résumé that includes Ivy League graduate, professional soccer player, author and successful entrepreneur. Over the past eight years she’s launched three businesses with her twin sister, Radha, and written a book entitled Do Cool Sh*t. It reads as part startup manual, part memoir, and part kick-you-in-the-butt motivational pep talk. Having recently finished reading it, there were roughly 150 questions I wanted to ask her.
I spoke with Agrawal on the eve of the launch of her latest WILD location in Brooklyn. WILD, the first of Agrawal’s entrepreneurial adventures, is a restaurant that offers pizza that is “better for you.” Using organic, gluten-free flours & tomato sauces and hormone-free cheeses and meats, WILD allows its diners to feast with confidence.
I’m pleased to report the charming, no-nonsense voice the reader encounters in Do Cool Sh*t is exactly who I spoke with that afternoon. When discussing WILD, Agrawal explained, “I knew nothing when I first started.” But her curiosity, tenacity and appetite for success (and pizza) turned WILD into a wild success. In addition to its two New York locations, Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com has partnered with Agrawal to launch a third location in downtown Las Vegas.
“Never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up. It’s true what they say, it takes 10 years to be an overnight success.” Miki Agrawal
If you’re paying close attention, the list of projects Agrawal is juggling right now might make your head spin. So, what continues to propel her forward and keep her energized and inspired? Agrawal graciously shared two of the most important lessons she’s learned so far. They offer insight into what keeps her going.
First, the company you keep, both in business and in life, can make you or break you. Who we choose to spend our time with is crucial. Agrawal explained, “Really evaluating friendships is important. Who holds you back? Who encourages you to stay safe or rest on your accomplishments? Ditch them.” She calls friends who aren’t pushing you to challenge yourself, work hard and try new things, “depleters.” By eliminating depleters, we open up space in our lives for inspiring people. “Improving my tribe has exponentially improved my life,” Agrawal admits. Her voice lit up as she described a community of friends, who share mutual admiration, encourage, and inspire one another.
3 Ideas from Miki to Give You Momentum
- Who you spend your time with is as important as what you spend your time on
- Make every day count: Let the mission behind your work keep you motivated
- Positive energy and enthusiastic productivity are infectious: Find a support system to foster both
One member of her community is current business partner in WILD, John Arena. Arena has forty-plus years of experience and a completely different skill set than Agrawal. She explained, “Every challenge we face, he’s seen it 10 times over. And it’s that wisdom that has been so incredible.” She also recognizes that she brings a fresh perspective to the partnership. When Arena has been doing something one way for years, Agrawal’s new ideas keep the business vital and moving forward. According to Agrawal, their intergenerational collaboration has been a joyful experience.
The second lesson Agrawal has learned is that a project’s mission is what will keep you motivated. Her latest project, THINX is a line of comfortable, beautiful, leak and stain-resistant underwear that are also anti-microbial, moisture wicking, and washable. Basically these undies help women avoid accidents and embarrassing moments during our “time of the month.”
But it’s the buy one; fund one component of THINX that Agrawal believes will make it successful. For every pair purchased, THINX funds the production of 7 washable, re-usable cloth pads for a woman in the developing world. This is an incredibly important venture considering more than 67 million women in the developing world use twigs, leaves, mud, dirty rags, pieces of plastic or newspaper during the days they need support. This practice leads to health issues, discomfort and missed school or work. THINX is on a mission to change that. In 2014, a woman’s period should not limit her ability to be a productive member of society.
“The fact that women are missing school because of something as natural as their period is so unfair and so wrong.” Miki Agrawal
Knowing she’s working for a larger cause keeps Agrawal motivated. She explained, “Even when you face energy draining events in your work day, it’s the mission that will move you forward.” The social component of her businesses is vital to both her daily enjoyment and each project’s long-term success.
After speaking with Agrawal for just a short time, I realized the nerves I felt prior to our chat were totally unnecessary. Impressive résumé aside, she was far from intimidating. Agrawal was down-to-earth, engaging and happy to share her story. Her passion for the work she does is evident. Her message is inspiring and her energy is infectious. In Do Cool Sh*t she writes, “…it’s cool to care and be excited about ideas, it’s cool to be proactive, it’s cool to mess up, it’s cool to work your ass off on something that is meaningful to you, and it’s cool to keep trying when the odds are stacked against you.”
Inspired? Me too.