Interview by Derek Grosso
Name: Yasmeen Quadri
Profession: CEO at ServUS
Neighborhood: OSU Campus
Education: B.S. Neuroscience
Community Involvement: Co-Founder/CEO of ServUS, Co-Founder of The SOAR Initiative (a 501(c)3 nonprofit improving access to harm reduction materials and mitigating the opioid crisis in Ohio).
Project Manager – Stanford’s Muslim Mental Health and Psychology Lab”
Quote: “Breakthroughs don’t happen because of the medicine. Real breakthroughs happen because someone is scared to death to stop trying.”
Give us a snapshot of your path: When I ask people why they volunteer, almost everyone has a memory that they pinpoint as the key moment they found meaning in service. For me, this occurred when I was nine years old. During the holidays, a close family friend invited me and a few girls my age to wrap Eid presents for children downtown. As I wrapped Barbie Dolls and Harry Potter books, I distinctly remember the excitement I felt for serving with my friends and the anticipation I had as we distributed the gifts. Once the event was over, I decided to form Cincinnati Muslim Girls; a youth group dedicated to volunteering in our local community. My interest in service took on many different forms as I grew up, with organizing trips to the Ronald McDonald House in middle school, fundraising for the Leukemia Lymphoma organization in high school, and ultimately creating an app to connect Ohio State Students to service organizations in college.
The path was not always easy, and there were many times when I wondered if ServUS was truly a viable idea. However, after numerous pitches, and countless late college nights spent with my hardworking team growing ServUS – I am excited to announce that our team of ten is working to build a MVP to test at Ohio State this fall.
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
Solving problems. Both in my mental health research, pre-medical studies, and startup, I enjoy the thrill of working on issues bigger than myself and making headway day by day.
What advice or mentors have helped guide you along the way?
“As a 17-year-old entering the startup industry, I was fortunate (and young enough) to be surrounded by mentors at every step of my journey. Danielle and Clayton, my co-founders, both began as mentors to me at Techstars Google Startup Weekend. Before any interview or big pitch, Danielle will always pull me aside and remind me of our bigger purpose. She centers me. Clayton has always had a knack for helping me channel my inner confidence when making a big business or life decision. I met Tess Mateo a bit later in my journey this past year at Ohio State’s President’s Buckeye Accelerator. She reminded me and my team that ServUS can grow with us, alongside life goals like attending medical school or working abroad. She also reminded me that advice is only as good as it is heeded.
What do you do or where do you go to unwind?
Travel – especially to Californian beaches – has always been my way of resetting after a challenging semester or work period. Art has been another outlet for me; I’ve recently been experimenting with HIMI gouache paints. Music as well. I have 700+ playlists on Spotify.
What are a few of your favorite local spots in Columbus?
The little patio overlooking mirror lake at Ohio State is by far the best spot to unwind with a book or listen to a good playlist. When I would spend the summers in Columbus, I spent lunch breaks between volunteer shifts or internships exploring the food scene. Most Columbus locals know of Belle’s bread – an absolutely divine spot for Japanese crepes or sweet bread. I will also always recommend Meshikou Chikin for their mouthwatering Sichuan chicken sandwich. Tiger Lily, Barcelona, and the mocktails at The Guild House are also top contenders.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
A veterinarian, a fashion designer, and a doctor.
What books or podcasts are you reading/listening to right now?
I am currently reading The Lean Startup. With my STEM background, I find this book fascinating because it applies the scientific approach to business strategy. I am always reading a Haruki Murakami book (Kafka on the Shore or Norwegian Wood are some solid recommendations).
What does it mean to you to be chosen for the Next Up Columbus award?
When I began my journey into the startup world, I did so amongst a group of strangers in the heart of downtown Columbus. Over the past four years, these strangers have grown into family. We make it a point to call each other when the world goes sideways as well as when we experience life’s successes. Being chosen for the Next Up Columbus Award feels symbolic of how welcoming Columbus has been to me. I am excited to meet more people and grow within this community.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
People. The people who show up every day to do the work no one else is doing at nonprofits, social enterprises, and even student organizations. These people are the changemakers and catalysts who will build a better city and world. I have had the privilege of working with many of these people and I am excited to make their missions known to the city.
The Next Up Columbus Awards highlight emerging leaders who are connectors and ambassadors in central Ohio and who are making a positive impact on the future of Columbus. The Columbus Young Professionals Club would like to offer special thanks to our 2022 co-presenters, Discover Financial, Ohio Dominican University and Spectrum for their support of this year’s awards program. Meet the entire “Class of 2022” »