Tiffany Yau: Inspiring Community-Minded Young Entrepreneurs

Confidence and ability can create social impact

When Tiffany Yau found that many of her peers were leaving the Philadelphia area after college, she decided to step in and do something to help keep them in the community.

A portrait of Tiffany Yau.
Fulphil

Yau is the founder and CEO of Fulphil, a tech nonprofit teaching young students about social entrepreneurship to inspire them to be more civically engaged with their local communities. Launched in 2018, Fulphil manages an e-lab that provides students with lessons on important entrepreneurship principles like pitching, design thinking, product testing, and marketing strategy. 

"We want to inspire our youth to have the confidence to know that they can make a difference in their local communities wherever they are," Yau told Lifewire in a phone interview. 

Quick Facts

Name: Tiffany Yau

Age: 24

From: Southern California 

Favorite activity: reading

Key quote or motto she lives by: “Try to make an impact no matter or big or small every day.”

A Natural Transition 

During her senior year at the University of Pennsylvania, Yau noticed many of her colleagues leaving the Philadelphia. This sparked her to launch Fulphil to inspire area youth to give back to their communities through business. She says social impact starts at a young age, which is why the company targets young students. 

"It felt like a lot of college students came to Philly, got their education, and left without giving anything back," she said.

"I feel like that’s a phenomenon that happens, but I really value the idea of giving back to a place that you basically call home."

Before the pandemic, Fulphil ran in-person programming at high schools. Yau said the transition to an online curriculum was natural, since the nonprofit already was on a path to distribute its content more widely.

Fulphil now provides a fully online social entrepreneurship curriculum. The nonprofit has expanded its courses to focus more on hot topics like sustainability, diversity, and inclusion. 

"When COVID was settling in, we definitely needed to take some time to think about what would be the most appropriate next steps," Yau said. "It felt a lot more fluid for us than I feel like what a lot of other companies experienced." 

Fulphil, which has four employees, often gets help from college students on a volunteer basis. Yau is leading Fulphil part-time while working as a fellow for Venture for America, a fellowship program for recent college graduates who want to become startup leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as a venture capital analyst at Red & Blue Ventures. Yau said she’s lucky to have such a strong team that has been able to transition to remote work. 

Challenges and Pushing Forward 

With its online offerings, Fulphil has created an integration for teachers to track students’ progress with its program. The nonprofit works directly with high school teachers to provide its e-labs product to students who are graded on Fulphil’s 15-section curriculum, using the career and technical education standards for seventh through 12th grade. 

Eventually, Yau hopes to spin out a tech company that entirely would focus on Fulphil's integration for teachers. She said her biggest challenge right now is getting feedback from students and teachers to improve Fulphil’s curriculum, which Yau said came more easily with in-person programming. 

"Everything that my organization does revolves around this idea of giving people the confidence and the ability to make an impact."

"With the online aspect of this, our whole team is scattered everywhere, there is no one in the classroom, and it’s kind of weird to just sit in on Zoom for high schools," she said. "For us, it’s so important that we develop really strong communication with our teachers."

Fulphil hosts monthly calls with teachers, and checks in with them over emails and texts to provide that extra customer service support, as the nonprofit still makes adjustments to online programming. The company has also soft-launched an online community to allow students to connect virtually and discuss their entrepreneurial ideas. 

As an Asian-American woman, Yau said she often feels like one of the very few people who look like her when she’s in a room, whether in person or on a Zoom call. She said this has been a challenge for her as she’s grown her venture. 

"I do my best to try to put myself out there more and ask questions or connect as much as I can," she said. "But at the same time, there’s always a huge hesitancy just because it’s hard to feel that sense of confidence."

Yau said she has especially experienced a lot of "mansplaining" from white men, who doubt her competency to lead her company. 

"We want to inspire our youth to have the confidence to know that they can make a difference in their local communities wherever they are."

"Learning how to navigate that was really intimidating, but I think it’s also helped me build thicker skin, which I’m grateful for," she said. "But I also wish it didn’t have to be like that."

In the next two years, Yau hopes Fulphil is in a position to donate its curriculum to 40 different schools across the nation. Right now, the nonprofit is in conversations to reach at least 20 schools this year.

"Everything that my organization does revolves around this idea of giving people the confidence and the ability to make an impact," Yau said. "We try to redefine that by showing that you can do that in your own community."

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