First-generation American Jyothisha Chilukuri ’25 has always been an entrepreneur.
During third grade, Chilukuri rallied her recess classmates to set up a working mall—complete with goods, services, retailers, and consumers. “I don't know why I was so intrigued with retail and business at age 9,” says Chilukuri, “but it stuck with me through the years.”
Continuing the trend, in fifth grade Chilukuri launched Tween Magazine with two friends. Popular with classmates, the monthly publication featured fashion trends, class news, and pop culture insights.
Just a few days into ninth grade, Chilukuri started a club to raise money for kids with cleft palate. After completing the paperwork, drawing up the constitution, and setting up and running regular meetings, Chilukuri morphed the club into her school’s first chapter of Operation Smile, an organization that delivers safe cleft palate surgery to those who need it most.
A former high school vice president of student government and avid tennis player, Chilukuri still has an edition of Tween Magazine tucked away at home in Massachusetts, where she lives with her parents.
During your last summer of high school, you started a podcast. What was the focus?
I started That Coconut Life with two friends. The name refers to the juxtaposition of having a physically brown skin tone while also being told to adopt the cultural norms of a predominantly white society. The podcast delves into topics and social-justice issues pertinent to the Indian-American community. The research and logistics were extensive, but the experience was super rewarding. We were able to help others gain a voice in a meaningful conversation, covering important topics facing their lives.
What drew you to Babson?
I took part in an entrepreneurial incubator, run by Babson professors, during a virtual event where we talked in groups, came up with an idea, and then pitched our idea to a panel of students and professors. During the event, I met people from Peru, India, and other places. It was appealing to see so clearly that Babson was focused on entrepreneurial thinking, group work, and diversity.
What does being a Blank Scholar mean to you?
This is going to be a defining experience in my overall Babson journey. We are only the second cohort, so we have a lot of space to direct the program. And, being able to work with last year’s scholars is really amazing because we get to pivot and take the program wherever we want it to go.
What does leadership mean to you?
Everyone is listened to—even the people who might not want to speak up for themselves or who may not have a platform. For instance, I’ve been approached through student government by students who needed to spread the word about an idea they had. Together, we were able to find the right approach to solving their problem. I was able to help amplify their voice and evolve their ideas just by collaborating.
Of Blank’s six leadership qualities, which one do you most identify with?
Put people first. In business, social entrepreneurship, or at a nonprofit, you need to be able to put people first. That’s what gets your business going in the first place, and it is what helps it grow, become successful, and continue. Putting people first is even what makes a product sell, by putting the focus on your consumers and their needs.