Sali Gigiberia is a rising senior hailing from Georgia. I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Sali through the Diamond Challenge Student Advisory Board’s Creative Content team. 

Bhargavi: First off, an icebreaker question. If you could read only one book for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why?

SaliGreat question! One book that is truly close to my heart is “The Knight in The Panther’s Skin” by Shota Rustaveli. It’s one of those books that manages to deliver a sermon (if you know what I mean) without even making it seem so. An anthropology, the book captures the lives of different people in that era, and we get a look inside the life and times of people in the Georgian Golden Age, seeing their trials and tribulations. I believe that this book has helped me grow tremendously as a person. 

Bhargavi: Can you name one person you look up to? Who is someone you aspire to be like?

SaliSure! I don’t think I would forgive myself if I didn’t mention my mom (chuckles). She is truly so inspirational and courageous.  I hope to embody her qualities someday. 

Bhargavi: In your opinion, what defines an entrepreneur?

Sali: Hmm…….I would say an entrepreneur is a person with a purpose – an idea that they are willing to go to the ends of the earth to implement. An entrepreneur’s two most important qualities, in my opinion, are passion and determination. Without passion, a spark, something that gets you up in the morning, you can never be successful. Determination as well – you have to believe in yourself and your idea enough to struggle for it. 

Bhargavi: Can you tell me about your Diamond Challenge submission, TalkToMe? How did you come up with the idea?

Sali: Of course! TalkToMe is an app that helps deaf/mute people communicate with their family members. 

Bhargavi: How has Diamond Challenge impacted you and your team as entrepreneurs?

Sali: For sure! Diamond Challenge has played such a big role in our entrepreneurial journeys. The sheer amount of resources they offer itself –  the info sessions, guides, examples – I could keep going. Also, the Summit was really enjoyable. We got access to mentorship from top entrepreneurs. I think this year, they had a Forbes 30 under 30 laureate, right? Wow! Anyway, the mentoring sessions were very useful. You go in, thinking your project is perfect, and then you meet them (chuckles). Hearing a new perspective is always helpful. They also gave us several specific tips, relating to marketing, concept development, and even mindset! 

Bhargavi: What are some challenges you had to overcome as part of your Journey?

Sali: Interesting question! I would say the fact that we were new to entrepreneurship held us back a bit – the learning curve was huge. Concept development, market research, marketing, financial planning – these concepts were all completely new to us. We didn’t know anything about app development either. But honestly, I learned over the course of our journey that you don’t need to – that’s the beauty of entrepreneurship. You can simply start with a pencil and a piece of paper – everything will eventually figure itself out. Also, my teammates and I didn’t have much prior experience working together. However, initial awkwardness soon went away, as we were extremely hard-pressed for time! Did I tell you we wrote the entire concept in less than a day? Yeah (laughing)! Not only that, it was on Christmas! So my family – they’re all downstairs, having fun, and my teammates and I are cooped up in a room writing a five page concept essay! Not to say it wasn’t fun, though. We still look back upon that day and think, “Man, that was interesting,”. 

Bhargavi: Here’s a more personal question – What motivates you? 

SaliGood question! I’m a very results-oriented person – I like to look at the bigger picture. I think one thing that significantly motivated me was, actually, Diamond Challenge! Winning the Experience Management Topical Prize, sponsored by SAP, was definitely a big confidence boost! As we were new to the game, doubting ourselves during the process became almost second nature. Having Diamond Challenge back up our idea was very comforting. 

Bhargavi: If you could give any tips for ambitious high-schoolers out there, what would they be?

Sali: 1. Do not rush yourself to think about the future. Live in the moment – cherish it. Do the best you can then and there, and I promise you, everything will work out. Worrying won’t help anything. 2. I can’t stress this enough – EXPLORE. Go on adventures. Learn. Meet new people. Try new things. The more you know about the world, the greater chance there is that the world will get to know you. Rumi once said, “Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?” and I couldn’t agree more. You have the power to shape your future, so learn as much as you can!

Bhargavi: What is your plan for the future, TalkToMe-wise?

SaliWe’re working towards getting TalkToMe programmed into a virtual assistant, like Alexa or Siri. Getting it introduced to such a main-stream platform would be a dream come true for us. Like I mentioned, we have a gaming aspect of the app. After using it the kids are asked to take a vocabulary quiz. We’d like to do comprehensive expansion for those features as well.

Bhargavi: Alright, that’s it! Thanks so much for coming!

Sali: Of course, happy to do this!


About Horn Entrepreneurship

Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the University of Delaware’s creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement. Built and actively supported by successful entrepreneurs and thought leaders, Horn Entrepreneurship empowers aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs as they pursue new ideas for a better world.

Follow Horn Entrepreneurship @udhorn and check out our entrepreneurship competition for high school students @diamondchalleng.