Female Disruptors: Geetika Agrawal is shaking up how people learn creative skills

Building goodwill is the greatest gift you can give. I truly believe that no one can create anything alone. We all need each other and the…

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Building goodwill is the greatest gift you can give. I truly believe that no one can create anything alone. We all need each other and the more we create goodwill, the more it goes around and eventually comes back. Take the time to hang with your family & friends, listen and help, give feedback and be their cheerleader.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Geetika Agrawal, Founder and CEO at VAWAA — the first globally-curated marketplace to book immersive, one-on-one apprenticeships with master artists and craftsmen around the world. In the hyper-digital 21st century, her mission is to humanize travel and create opportunities for deep personal growth through the lost art of apprenticeship. Previously, she was Creative Director at R/GA, an award-winning global design and innovation agency, leading product and experience design for brands like Lincoln Center, Mastercard, Disney and AARP. Her work has won several international awards and has been featured in leading publications like Travel + Leisure, VICE, Huffington Post, Artsy, Nat Geo and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I was born and raised in India. I grew up surrounded by exceptional engineers & doctors and decided to take the unexplored and unpopular path to architecture school. The school’s Bauhaus philosophy sparked my passion and provided a design foundation for bringing together crafts, arts and technology to create human-centric experiences and communities. In 2002, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a Masters in Industrial Design. Since then, I’ve designed digital products and services for some of the best companies in the world, founded 2 companies, traveled to 45+ countries including a year-long adventure living in 12 countries. I currently live in New York, surrounded by inspiring friends.

Why did you found your company?

I was working very hard at my last job at R/GA and when I wasn’t working, I was traveling. During my travels, I would seek experiences to unplug, work with my hands, learn new skills and spend a lot of time with locals. This is something I’d been naturally doing since my architecture college days, when I would spend summers working with craftsmen in cities around India. It felt really good and left a lasting impact on how I travel. As my life got busier and I traveled more, the desire to immerse myself in such experiences increased. However, it was very hard to find such experiences and plan ahead. I saw people around me craving similar experiences for travel and personal growth, and VAWAA was born.

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Today’s worldly go-getters spend their time and money differently. They spend large amounts of money on experiences for self-improvement and self care. They spend more time outside of work and home to pursue their passions and connect deeply with the world. They take pride in hands-on creating, not consuming. However, the options are very limited and hard to find. The market is hungry for rich immersive experiences. So, we are curating the first global marketplace to book one-on-one, 4–7 day apprenticeship-like experiences with the world’s best creative masters and cultural creators around the world, to learn a new skill and get a deep cultural experience.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

My greatest mentors of all time have been my mum, dad and sister. They continue to be the greatest force behind my dreams. My college professors Krishna Shastri and Kireet Patel have given me a design foundation that keeps on giving. My ex-bosses Chloe Gottlieb, Nick Law, Kris Kiger have shown me what great leadership, boundary pushing work and people-centric culture looks like. Besides them, I have countless peers, former colleagues and friends who continuously mentor me and show me the way.

How are you going to shake things up next?

By staying focused on delivering on our mission and standing up for things that make the world more inclusive, loving and inspiring.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Follow your instincts, prepare and take the leap. Everything eventually falls into place. I’ve learnt that no one has all the answers or the right answers. The best we can do is listen deeply to the answers in our gut and take action to the best of our abilities. It usually creates the best positive outcome for yourself, your team, work and community.

Building goodwill is the greatest gift you can give. I truly believe that no one can create anything alone. We all need each other and the more we create goodwill, the more it goes around and eventually comes back. Take the time to hang with your family & friends, listen and help, give feedback and be their cheerleader.

Culture is everything. It is the spine for great teams and products. Never lose sight of that if you want to build a great company.

What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Share a story with us.

I enjoy listening to “How I Built This” on NPR. The founder stories are inspiring and give me a lot to think about as I build my own business. As an example, I am not very comfortable in sales roles. Over the past year, there have been times when I’ve been outside my comfort zone selling things related to my business. In those times, I try to remember certain episodes from the podcast where founders have shared uncomfortable stories of selling their product and it helps me shift my thinking. I also like listening to talks by Jason Fried & Stefan Sagmeister.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I’d love to have breakfast or lunch with Brian Chesky or Joe Gebbia. I’ve been on a parallel path with them in terms of our design background and passion to connect people around the world and creating a deep cultural exchange. I deeply admire their vision and the impact they’ve had on the world. I would love to share VAWAA with them, get their feedback and invite them to become advisors.

How can our readers follow you on social media?



This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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