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Meet Katie Nguyen, Ishaan Gadiyar and Rithika Ganga of Stay Fresh in Irving

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katie Nguyen, Ishaan Gadiyar and Rithika Ganga.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
All three of us share the same bus stop for school. Every day, across the street from our stop, we always saw a bunch of homeless people along the streets all on their own. We saw them struggle throughout the entire year from the beginning of fall to mid-spring. We knew every day from observing them that they were surviving on such harsh conditions. We wanted to do something, but we didn’t know how to help at such a young age. Then, COVID hit. We knew that this would be the scariest time especially for them, seeing as they are the most unprotected from the virus. The cases kept rising consistently throughout the year and we wanted to do something to help them. At first, it started out as an idea; we just bounced off each other, but after countless nights, we finally decided to become official and try to gather and give necessities to those who may not have them. Thus, our nonprofit started.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Nothing ever runs smoothly 100% of the time. We encountered so many obstacles along the way to get where we are today. When we were beginning our nonprofit, we had many arguments and disagreements. Since it was three of us running the nonprofit, our ideas and mindset needed to align with one another, which didn’t happen often. This was really difficult for us. For example, when we were discussing what we wanted our first event to be and what products we wanted to add into the sanitary bags, we had many arguments. Ishaan wanted to add certain products, but Katie would think they were unnecessary. Little arguments like these are inevitable, but we managed to push through them. As well, when gathering products and donations, we had to email over 200 companies in order to get a response. We all spent weeks emailing separate companies, waiting for them to reply. Many did not reply and it really hindered our motivation to collect donations. Despite this, we ended up collecting substantial donations and were able to make an impact.

Stay Fresh – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our company’s primary mission is to build a variety of sanitary kits to aid homeless shelters and those who aren’t in shelters. So far, our kits include fabric masks, sanitary wipes, hand sanitizer, granola bars, deodorant, mouthwash, and menstrual products. What’s different about our nonprofit is we don’t just gather bulk donations and donate them to shelters. Anyone can do that. Instead, we try to make kits to make it easier and more efficient for everyone. This way, we can also give some to those who aren’t in homeless shelters and don’t have the luxury of having sanitary products to use. We are most proud of the impact that we are making in the community. With the 500 kits that we’ve made so far, the shelters have been extremely grateful for them. We are so proud that we were able to gather and finish the kits in less than three months.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Katie: My favorite childhood memory was probably the move nights that I had with my cousins. We’re all relatively around the same age so we got along and hung out almost every chance we got. Every Saturdays, though, I would go to my aunt’s house and we’d have a movie night together. We would build a fort our of blankets and pillows and make snacks. Then, we would turn off all the lights in the room and watch a bunch of movies together.

Rithika: My favorite memory as a kid was going on a cruise with my friends. I was around eight at the time. Of course, we had parents with us, but a bunch of my friends came along with us and it made the trip so much fun. They had amazing food and the funnest activities. I felt at my happiest getting to spend days making memories with everyone.

Ishaan: My favorite memory when I was young was learning to ride a bike. Up until elementary school, I was always using training wheels and I remember feeling fearless with them by my side. When my dad pulled my bike out of the garage one day without the training wheels, I was scared for my life trying to relearn how to balance. After multiple falls and scratches, I finally persevered and it was the most relieving feeling for me at the time. I no longer had to worry about hitting a curb or randomly falling down, but instead I was able to focus on racing my dad and biking trails with my friends.

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