Kiron Chandy was a teenager growing up in Silicon Valley when she learned how “paying forward” career support can translate into a wider sphere of influence. At 16, while visiting family in India, she met Nobel Peace Prize nominee Beena Sebastian, an advocate for vulnerable women and children.
“Beena supported me to develop a volunteer network alongside the women’s shelter she runs,” Chandy says. “Working with her was transformational. She believed in me, and from her, I learned to believe in other people.”
At Haas, Chandy wrote about her experience with Sebastian for Lecturer Daniel Mulhern’s Everyday Leadership class. Mulhern encouraged her to start a venture. Consult Your Community (CYC), a pro bono consultancy, launched in 2013. The organization mobilizes teams of college students to help small business owners implement meaningful changes.
Its stats are inspiring: Since 2015, some 2,500 student volunteers from 28 universities have contributed more than 637,000 consulting hours, creating $12 million in economic value for neighborhoods nationwide. And rather than dampening CYC’s efforts, COVID had an invigorating effect: 50 volunteers from 18 universities helped many small business entrepreneurs stay open longer than they might have without the support—five months on average, according to 14 entrepreneurs, Chandy says.
For Chandy, paying forward her support means encouraging CYC volunteers to take ownership of the organization’s mission—and to build worthwhile careers.
“Thoreau wrote that most people live lives of ‘quiet desperation,’” she says. “I want to support both our volunteers and small business owners to live lives of quiet inspiration.”