On this Inside the Chamber: Four Under 40 special, Kaylin Risvold, President and CEO of the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce(NACC), sat down with Isha Elandassery, one of the four award recipients of the NACC’s Four Under 40 Achievement Awards. During the interview, they discussed how Isha demonstrates excellence in the following categories: Leadership in Community, Leadership in Business, Excellence in Career, and Life Balance.
A little background on Isha Elandassery
Isha Elandassery is a recent Naperville North High School graduate and will pursue a Business Management Degree at Indiana University in the fall. Isha is a passionate young adult determined to solve community problems through service, leadership, and business.
Isha has a two-year-old startup called Salus Security, a public safety company that creates discreet emergency wristbands for college students. She started this through the incubator program at NNHS under the guidance of Mr. Nolan and currently has talked to five universities in the Chicagoland area, including North Central College and Lewis University, and started testing with Benedictine University. With her team of five, she placed top 5 in the Celebrating High School Innovators pitch competition winning $1,000 this past April.
Apart from running her startup, she is involved in diverse activities within the Naperville community. She was Chair of the High School Network Committee at the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce from 2021-2023. In that role, she built a strong relationship between chamber businesses and the youth of Naperville through professional development activities as well as the start of the mentorship program: a program where high school students have the opportunity of having a mentor in an industry they are interested in.
She also founded the Naperville Rising Women in Business organization, which builds leadership skills and habits in high school girls to prepare them into female leaders with executive strength. She also devotes her time to volunteering for a non-profit called Youth Promise, a free virtual tutoring organization for underserved children globally. She started as a tutor in 2020 but eventually found a passion for growing free education outside the U.S. and became a prominent leader in 2022. Through her leadership, she developed the organization across two continents – Asia and Africa. She continues to tutor within the organization and is determined to bring free virtual education to more children globally!
In her free time, Isha loves playing with her German Shepherd, spending time with her twin, reading, and watching Bollywood movies with her parents!
Who does Elandassery look to for inspiration or mentorship?
Elandassery began, “I’ve always been a fangirl of Rebecca Maltoke-Meslin. In the summer of last year, I was looking for a passionate woman that could share my vision for starting Naperville Rising Women in Business (NRWIB). I happened to come across Rebecca’s LinkedIn page and I immediately knew that I wanted her onboard. Coincidentally, a week after coming across her LinkedIn, she was a keynote speaker at an event I attended! I was extremely shy to approach her, however, I got the courage to say hi. That “hi” turned into a one-hour conversation! We clicked immediately and she was a prominent factor in starting NRWIB. Her passion, advocacy, and determination are so inspiring to me. Her running for local office this year led me to respect her more than ever as a strong role model for me!”
She continued, “My forever mentor is my father. However, I want to shout out to the person who saw my early potential in business and leadership: Mr. Nolan. Mr. Nolan was my business teacher at Naperville North High School who led the INCubator and accelerator classes. He always listened attentively and gave critical advice when needed. He channeled me into certain pathways that catered to my strengths. He supported me and my team by attending pitch competitions that were two hours away on a Saturday morning as well as always challenging us to our best potential!”
What Elandassery believes are the most important attributes of successful leaders today.
“Three come to mind when I think of successful leaders: visionary, ability to listen/ask questions, and learning,” said Elandassery.
She added, “To quote Mr. Nolan: A visionary leader always has “the end in mind.” Having a vision or goal will naturally bring passion, ambition, and determination to a specific project.”
“I found that asking questions is never a bad thing! Instead, it helps me find the BEST solution to my problem by asking multiple people questions if I am stuck or confused. Thus, having a mentor is imperative. From my experience, leaders don’t act like they know everything, if they don’t know, they ask questions. It is also important to learn to listen attentively. Listen without having a response ready. Listening attentively is reflecting on the points the other person made and responding thoughtfully. This skill builds effective communication skills through thoughtful communication,” remarked Elandassery.
“Finally, leaders keep learning. I’ve had the best experiences in my mentorship session where I learned from different members of my community on a variety of topics. However, we often have a misconception that we can only learn from people older than us. I observed a junior in high school that is also a leader in our community named Athena Chen and got some takeaways from her leadership style. I learned so much from her, even though she was younger than me. Learning comes in all forms, no matter the age!” exclaimed Elandassery.
What is one thing that makes Elandassery most proud?
Elandassery said, “It was a specific event. I volunteer for a nonprofit called Youth Promise, a free virtual tutoring organization for underserved children globally. I started as a tutor in 2020, but eventually found a passion to grow free education outside the U.S. and became a prominent leader in 2022. I had to work through multiple language barriers, cold-calling, and ugly communication to bring free education virtually in Nigeria and India. My team was so passionate, we were all high schoolers that had the same vision. Finally, we got a contract in a rural south Indian village where we would teach about 20 kids on one computer math and reading. I remember after the first class, getting a photo of the children happily learning from my teammate and I started to cry for joy. It was truly a team effort of making an impact! I am most proud of this moment of helping multiple children who need it!”
What’s the most important risk Isha Elandassery took and why?
“Starting a public safety startup! Two years ago, through the NNHS INCubator program, I helped create Salus Security, a public safety company that creates discreet emergency wristbands for college students. It was difficult since I was unfamiliar with the technology being used as well as the public safety space. However, with increasing issues around the safety of college students, the benefits outweighed the risks! It is definitely a tough project, however, I am working my way through by asking questions. Through this risk, I was able to work with vendors, manufacturers, and developers! I have a dedicated team of five who are all interested in continuing Salus Security at college. We also placed top 5 in the Celebrating High School Innovators pitch competition winning $1,000 this past April. This risk was the first step in my career, and I am incredibly grateful for all the experiences I have garnered!” concluded Elandassery.