Catching Up with Our 2017 Winners – Girls Health Champions

Meet Girls Health Champions, a 2017 alum and $50K winner that works to mitigate gender inequality and its impact on health outcomes by training teen girls as peer health educators.

Adolescent girls globally face many health-related challenges, including inadequate nutrition and anemia, menstruation-related taboos, mental illness, gender-based violence, and teen pregnancy. Understanding that adolescence is a critical point of intervention, Girls Health Champions aims to train adolescent girls in these critical topics and cultivate peer educators who will become health leaders in their schools and communities.

We had a chance to catch up with Priya Shankar and Ricky Sharma, Co-Founders, about their experience going through the MC accelerator:


Take us back to MassChallenge Awards... what was going through your mind when you heard your startup name called to the stage?
Tremendous excitement and a deep sense of gratitude! Excitement because we recognized the award would be transformational in shaping the future of Girls Health Champions, and gratitude for being recognized within such a dynamic and passionate group of entrepreneurs and companies.

As a winner, how do you plan to use the cash prize to further accelerate growth?
We are excited to use the award to expand Girls Health Champions to hundreds of schools across India and globally. This expansion will enable us to train thousands of adolescent girls in these schools as peer health educators (or "Champions") in critical health topics like nutrition, mental health, gender-based violence, and sexual & reproductive health. These Champions will lead the educational process and discourse about these topics in their schools and in their communities.

What would you say has been the key driver of your success throughout the program?
For us, MassChallenge was all about engaging with the wonderful people who are part of the MassChallenge ecosystem, including the mentors, staff, judges, and speakers. MassChallenge opened a lot of doors and provided us with access to a variety of industry leaders and experts who were very excited to work with us and who became invested in helping us achieve success.

What has been the hardest lesson to learn?
The accelerator can feel like a sprint – it’s a short, intensive time period, and given the scope of the resources that MassChallenge provides it is very easy to get distracted and get pulled in many different directions. For us, it was important to prioritize and pick 2-3 main objectives we wanted to focus on during the accelerator, and we are very proud of our entire Girls Health Champions team for taking full advantage of the opportunity.

What advice do you have for startups thinking about applying to MC?
Do it, it’s a no-brainer! Participating in MassChallenge has been a wonderful opportunity. One thing that stuck out to us is the intellectual rigor of MassChallenge. You are pushed to think thoughtfully and develop every aspect of your business, and MassChallenge wants to be a thought-partner along the way. So focus not only on where you are today, but the growth potential you have and the areas of your venture that you want to develop during your participation in MassChallenge.