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Name: Chandra Shah
Business: Sweet Memories High School
Location: Panchgani, India
Industry: Education & Training
Reason for starting? I was a single mom and I wanted the best education for my children. I had sent my son to a boarding school, but then realized that the boarding didn’t offer Vegetarian home food. My children were always home sick, and good home cooked food is such an important part of a child’s growth and routine. I liked Panchgani as the weather was cool and the place was friendly and safe. I decided to rent a place and educate my children there.
The need to pay my rent, and the children’s school fees led me to start a boarding house in 1984. I started with two children. In those years the thought of having my own school had never occurred to me. Survival was important. I wanted to do something where I could give time to my children, they both needed me. With two children, I started making an income on which we all survived. The next year we had five children. and it grew from there.
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How do you define success? For me, success is a never ending journey. The parameter increases as I accomplish each goal, and this helps me to keep on learning and move ahead in my life. Success is a feeling of happiness and satisfaction inside. When so many pupils who study from my school, Sweet Memories High School, go on to become great individuals in their personal and professional lives, it gives me immense joy, as I have been able to touch so many lives.
Biggest success: My biggest success up has been watching students grow up to be beautiful and successful individuals, even when they have had all the odds stacked against them. When I started my own school, Sweet Memories High School, I felt like I was taking a stand in society and building an institution that was shaping a vision of academic success for all students — one based on values and academic standards.
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? When I started the boarding house I started needing more space to house the children. I had no funds, so to grow it was necessary to shift to a bigger premises. My parents bought a bungalow and asked me to use it until I could manage to buy my own some day. That was my first hurdle. Then, the children who lived in the boarding house with me studied in different schools. I was their mother, mentor and teacher. Soon the word went around, and we were full with 50 children in our house. There was a time when I had to deny spaces to parents because we were so full — but the parents insisted. It gave me satisfaction that parents trusted me so much with their children.
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Who is your most important role model? My father is my role model. He always stood by me. We come from an orthodox background, and in those days divorce was not an option. I was one of the odd ones, hence looked down on by society. My Guru in those days was my mentor. He told me: “You just earn and make money and society will keep you in high regards. Don’t negate your energies because of what they have to say.”
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Edited by The Story Exchange