Nya Holder: Accidental Entrepreneur

Nya Holder (YC '17, MPH '18)

Nya Holder (YC '17, MPH '18)

Nya Holder (YC '17, MPH '18), a member of the new Student Advisory Board at Tsai CITY, says she “fell into entrepreneurship by accident.” She knew she wanted to do work that would positively impact her community in the Bronx, so she applied for an online social innovation course called the Advancing Leaders Fellowship by the nonprofit World Learning Inc. Nya was chosen, and by the course’s end she was inspired to start her own nonprofit endeavor and applied for a Seed-Stage Grant from InnovateHealth Yale. Her idea was called BE ART—workshops providing an introduction to mindfulness aimed at middle school students in the Bronx. The experience was an experiment of sorts—to discover the work she wanted to do and what kind of impact she could have. And it turned out to be a tremendous learning opportunity.

“The feedback from the students was really important,” Nya says. “Over 90% said they wanted us to come back and had learned ways to use mindfulness to work things out.” She talked about how students really opened up in these sessions, and addressed serious issues they were facing. “It made me feel the work is so worthwhile and I want to do more.”

Following this experience, Nya says: “I consider myself an entrepreneur. I can create things.” Ultimately, she says, she’s using that experience to inform what she will launch next and developing insights by doing a needs assessment in her community. “My broad mission is making people aware that they have a greater purpose to serve and giving them the resources to do that,” she says.

She credits several resources at Yale for supporting her in her process of self-discovery and growth. The weekly Yale Women Innovator’s Series gave her confidence and encouragement to pursue new ideas. “After those sessions, I always walked to class so excited and pumped,” Nya says. She was also paired with a mentor as part of the application process for the Aetna Foundation Prize for Health Equity Innovation—Louise Langheier, CEO and cofounder of Peer Health Exchange. “Hearing from other entrepreneurs is really inspiring,” Nya says.

Her advice to students interested in entrepreneurship is this: “Just start and ask a lot of questions. The biggest thing was getting outside of my comfort zone.”

Brita Belli