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This content was originally published in Poets&Quants.  

Lakdi Nanayakkara ’22 MBA and Arun Sundararaman ’23 MBA, graduates of the Kellogg School of Management and Schulich School of Business joint executive MBA program. They are co-founders of TheraSolutions, which helps connect parents of toddlers with speech development issues and therapists; the company won first prize in the Schulich-Kellogg New Venture Design course.

The New Venture Design course in the Schulich-Kellogg joint EMBA program is about developing the practical skills needed to seize and develop opportunities and ensure they address customer needs through new organization. The crux of this course is developing an entrepreneurial mindset through the experience of doing entrepreneurship in today’s fast-paced business environment. Below they share what inspired their idea.

Our team of five won first prize in the NVD course, which included a cash award generously donated by serial entrepreneur Peyvand Melati. We have incorporated the company, TheraSolutions Inc., which will work toward helping infants and toddlers with speech developmental issues and assist in connecting parents and specialists/therapists.

Identifying the problem

Our team came together with the purpose to create a social impact and focus on the most reported problems by parents of young children: their child’s ability to speak. We believe, and the science reinforces, that early intervention changes lives. Not addressing this issue is a burden on the healthcare system and later the school system if children who need help do not receive it.

Currently, parents need to be experts, do their own research and spend countless hours understanding their kid’s needs. They find it extremely difficult to navigate through the resources that are publicly available in the current health care system. According to Speech Association of Canada, there is just one speech therapist for every 500 children in Canada, making for long wait times and endless frustration.

We did extensive research in 2021 and early 2022 and realized that such challenges and wait times were getting worse since the outbreak of Covid-19. We conducted several interviews with parents, specialists, teachers, school principals, and others to not only understand the suffering of the children, but also of the parents. Based on interviews with pediatricians, child psychiatrists, and speech therapists, we have mapped out the current process: A parent or daycare teacher identifies the problem and sometimes the problem remedies itself, but sometimes it becomes a chronic issue. Once the parents consult the pediatrician, the child is referred to a speech therapist. The clock starts, and the anxiety levels of parents are overwhelming. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones, you will be able to see a speech therapist in nine months—but for many the wait is longer.

Read the original article in its entirety on Poets&Quants to learn more about Sundararaman and Nanayakkara's venture aimed at revolutionizing the way children with learning disabilities develop their potential while empowering parents to make informed decisions about their children’s development.