Words by Rebecca Small
Seri Roth is a student at Boston University by day and an entrepreneur by night. With a passion for entrepreneurship, leadership, and giving, at 20-years-old and in her college dorm room, Seri worked countless late nights and early mornings to start her digital magazine. Step Up Magazine launched as a simple website in early January, 2017. What started as a digital magazine has now turned into a multifaceted media platform. Seri’s life mission is to work for a better tomorrow.
You started Step Up from your college dorm room. What inspired you to start your business?
I began a “Step Up” club while in high school. Every month, as a club, we’d choose an issue to step up for and draw awareness to. A few years later (when I was a sophomore in college) I had the idea to apply the concept of what I started in high school to an online destination that everybody could participate in.
Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
Yes! My parents joke that I came out of the womb with an entrepreneurial spirit, and I don’t think that there has been a period of my life that I have not been creating or building something. I was that kid who spent her days creating and running pretend stores, pet shops, doctor’s offices, and I insisted my friends act in plays that I’d write and direct. I’ve always had a drive to create and run my own projects. When I have an idea, I must develop and then execute it. There is no stopping me when I say I’m going to do something.
You've talked about the importance of motivating young people to use their passions to make a difference. What is your passion and how have you used it?
I have so many passions and it would be a challenge to choose just one. When it comes to Step Up, my passion is in giving young people a platform to voice their opinions and views. One of the most powerful tools that we all have is our voice, and I hope to amplify the voices of students around the world.
At The Female Lead, one of our key themes is Asking for Help. Is there a particular network or individual/s that have been instrumental in your success?
There are so many individuals and groups of people that I look to for guidance. And I don’t believe you should ever limit yourself to one circle for guidance in your business. I think of my network as a tool box, and I call upon different people for different reasons. Sometimes I look to my friends for help, sometimes my fellow Step Up team members, and other times my network at school. I have recently set the personal goal of networking with as many professors at my school as I can. I think students often take for granted the incredible value and resources that you can find right at your school.
Step Up has grown tremendously over the last year, and you have also included a program called Step Up Education. Could you tell us a little bit about this program and what you hope to achieve?
Step Up Education is a work in progress right now, and we are excited to create and then implement a Step Up curriculum within high schools. Coming up sooner, however, will be our Step Up Clubs and Step Up Chapters.
Our Step Up Chapters will give student leaders the opportunity to run their very own Step Up Magazine on their campus. Students will be able to experience running their own magazine, from recruiting an editorial team to managing their entire enterprise.
Step Up Clubs will be implemented in high schools, and will take the form of what I started back when I was in high school. Every month, club members will choose a different issue to step up for and then focus that month on stepping up and drawing awareness to the issue at hand.
Are there any particular role models that inspire you?
I have always been inspired by doers. People who back their talk up with action. That being said, I don’t have one specific role model. I always try to find pieces of inspiration in every new person I meet. Every person you ever encounter represents an entire world full of new possibilities and things to learn. There is so much to learn and draw from every person you ever encounter in this life, if you only take the time to truly learn their story and listen to their personal experiences.
Female Lead women believe in finding strength in setbacks. Are there any particular obstacles you’ve had to overcome that have defined who you are today?
When I was younger I really struggled in school. I was that kid who was constantly taken out of class for speech, occupational therapy, extra help - you name it. I was given custom-made exams with multiple choices while all the other students were given “regular” tests. As a child, all of the messages I received from the outside world were that I was not as “smart” as my peers, or I could not accomplish what they were accomplishing. So, for many years (up until I was a junior in high school to be exact), I completely stopped trying when it came to my academics. I stopped trying because I believed what the outside world was telling me.
It wasn’t until I was a junior in high school that I thought I should start trying to put effort in since college was around the corner. I decided to stop self doubting myself just because everybody else was - I took the driver's seat of my own life. As soon as I started to put effort into my school work, I became a straight ‘A’ student. Once it was questioned whether I would get into college, and I now attend a top university. But it wasn’t until I started to truly believe in my own abilities that I saw what I was capable of.
What’s next for you and Step Up?
Well as for me, I head back to campus this fall for my senior year. Which means that I’ll be back to the wonderful life of juggling school and Step Up.
Regarding Step Up, we are excited to launch Step Up Clubs and Step Up Chapters this fall. Additionally, we will be launching our Step Up Portal. We believe that more people would get involved in creating meaningful change if they knew what first steps to take. That’s why we are partnering with various organizations, initiatives and meaningful causes to bring our readers ten ways to start making a difference in the areas they are passionate about.
You are also founder of A Dollar Campaign, a non profit which raises money to support research with the goal of finding a cure for pediatric cancer. Could you tell us more about why you founded it and what your goals are for the project?
I have always had a passion for helping kids with cancer and I had the thought one night back in high school, “What if every person donated just one dollar to pediatric cancer research? Imagine the impact we could make if we all worked together.” It was this thought that led me to the idea of creating A Dollar Campaign. We ended up partnering up with the Pediatric Cancer Foundation to unite in the goal that one day pediatric cancer will be no more.
What advice would you give to other young female entrepreneurs?
Learn how to be your own rock. Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs and it is so important to know that you can rely on yourself throughout. Yes, having a support system is crucial, but what’s even more important is knowing how to be your own support system and your biggest cheerleader. Self trust is also so important while starting a business. This means holding yourself accountable, following through, and always acting with integrity.
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