Chirag Kulkarni, DMSB’18, accrued a wealth of entrepreneurial knowledge at a young age from having started a successful tennis racquet stringing business in high school and studying the successes and failures of business leaders around the world. And rather than keep that knowledge to himself, he now helps companies and other entrepreneurs through his company C&M Group, an entrepreneurial strategy-consulting firm.
We asked Kulkarni to share the highlights of his entrepreneurial journey and discuss his experience at Forbes’ inaugural Under 30 Summit last October, which brought together more than 1,000 members of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list with business leaders, mentors, and up-and-coming entrepreneurs.
What inspired you to start C&M Group and how did you position yourself to be a go-to person for the companies you work with?
I had been working with companies—from startups to major corporations such as Berkshire Hathaway—since I was about 17 years old and I was doing it for free. When I started asking myself what I could do to differentiate myself from every other consulting firm out there, I realized the reason why companies saw the benefit of working with me was because I was an entrepreneur with operational experience and could assist on strategic decisions versus traditional consultants.
I essentially branded myself as a professional very early on. I started writing a lot, grew my social channels, and got coverage in places such as Venture Beat and The Huffington Post. People knew that I knew what I was talking about. I gained most of my knowledge through my first few businesses, but also by learning from the best. I tell people I earned my online doctorate from YouTube after watching countless videos of successful individuals and learning from them. People think you need to have credentials to do well—you don’t. You just need to start doing.
How has your time at Northeastern not only shaped C&M Group, but also you as an entrepreneur?
I really wanted to attend a school with an experiential learning program because it would teach me about the real world. For instance, on my Dialogue of Civilizations program to Geneva, I learned about how certain government agencies make decisions based on the business implications, not the societal implications.
Back in the classroom I can ask my professors specific questions based on these experiences that they can answer based on their experiences.
Entrepreneurship is tough but it is important to keep pushing forward. I was part of the sponsorship coordination for TEDxNortheastern and it was really interesting because I think a lot of people that aren’t in business don’t realize how much hard work plays into getting people to support you.
You participated in Forbes’ inaugural Under 30 Summit last October, held in Philadelphia. What was that experience like and what will you take from it?
The summit was about bringing together what Forbes called game changers—people who are doing awesome work in their respective communities. It was an honor being there and it was a great opportunity to meet people who I normally wouldn’t get to meet. I was really inspired by a talk given by Spanx founder Sara Blakely. She shared her experience of starting her company and tips such as be scrappy, don’t underestimate your worth, and don’t give up.
A big thing I learned is that you can make any product come to life if you have charisma, conviction, and confidence—along with some luck.