We bring to you the fascinating Niyati Desai-Kadakia. During the day, Niyati runs her tech start up – Nulern. She is also an expert packer-of-lunchboxes, kid activity coordinator, chauffeur and PTA enthusiast. At night she moonlights as a story-teller, spinning tales to answer the darnedest questions posed by her twin daughters. Her stories are mostly inspired by her own experiences of being an immigrant student and then a first generation Indian-American mother. Her stories focus on questions, concerns and feelings children have as they are being raised by parents who grew up in a different culture than theirs, which encourages them to create their own unique identity that is whole and complete.
She founded KidzBelong to meet a pressing need to have picture books address needs of children of immigrant families who are particularly vulnerable to feeling marginalized and different.
Niyati holds a B.S. in Biochemical Engineering from USC, B.A. in Literature from Scripps College and M.A. in Biotechnology from Columbia University. In the past, she has worked as a scientist in several biotech start ups and innovation centers, that specialize in Brain Health and Drug Delivery. She has lived in 3 countries, 5 states and 8 homes (although not all at once) with her husband and daughters. She currently enjoys life with them in Greenwood Village, Colorado.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
(A long long time ago, in a galaxy far far away), I came to the US from India, to study for my bachelors. I met my husband, Niraj, during my under-graduate studies and we noticed that we laughed at each other’s’ jokes, when others around us didn’t and we liked the same movies, so we decided to get married.
Soon after we got married, we found every chance to camp, backpack, binge on TV shows and make moderately edible food together. Although all that was a whole lot of fun, we proceeded to bring twin beautiful girls into this world – Nivedita and Niharika. In our sleep deprived state, we went on to live in 3 different countries, 5 states and 8 homes. We continue to camp, backpack and binge on tv shows – we just do it with our 10-year-old daughters now. Life has never been more fun.
Which cities have your lived in/ visited in your lifetime? Which is your favorite?
It is virtually impossible to pick a favorite city. Each place that I have lived in has so many beautiful and cherished memories that picking one out of them would be unfair.
I have liked living in the following cities:
Baroda, Gujarat, India – this is home for me. I grew up here, went to school here and learn ow to ride a bike here. I describe this city with the words – home, roots, security, family, food and love.
Los Angeles, CA – I studied here at USC and Claremont. I also met my to-be husband here. I grew from a girl to a young woman here. It is also the first city I landed in as an immigrant student when I came to study in the US. So this city always brings back a lot of emotion. I describe this city with the words – studies, competition, immigration, homesickness and letters.
New York City, NY – I did my graduate school here, at Columbia. I decided to get married in this city – and have some beautiful memories from here. I moved on from being a young woman to a wife here and made some of the most important decisions in my life in this lovely city. I describe this city with the words – love, marriage, energy, immigrant crossroads.
San Jose, CA – I lived here soon after I got married. I was getting used to getting called someone’s wife. This is also the place where I started my professional life as a scientist and worked in several biotech startups in the bay area. I earned my first paycheck here and learnt what a 401K is here. I describe this city with the words – married life, natural beauty, adventure, money and profession.
Philadelphia, PA – My husband and I moved here, while my husband studied towards his business degree at Wharton. My twins were born here. 2 Biotech startups I worked for also got acquired while I worked for them here – so lots of activity here! I became a mom in this city and will owe a lot to the hospitals that helped my preemie babies. I describe this city with the words – motherhood, chaos, prayer and family.
Bombay, India – My family lives in Bombay, so this city is (sort of) home for me too. We also moved to Bombay with our daughters to try-out moving back to India. Although we enjoyed our life there, we could not settle down professionally and returned back to North America. I describe this city with the words – immigrant decisions, homesickness (but homesick for the US), citizen for the world, identity crisis and dual culture.
Toronto, Canada – My kids went to kindergarten in this beautiful city. And started elementary school here. I describe this city with the words – diversity, acceptance, home and friends.
Denver, CO – We live here currently and love the mountain that surround us. My daughters move from elementary to middle school in this city. I started my own startup here and am trying to manage being a mom-entrepreneur. I describe this city with the words – mountains, parenthood, entrepreneurship and family.
What brought you to what you do?
I run an online learning startup – Nulern. Nulern enables live, 1 on 1 learning in lifestyle based skill sets with globally accessible, vetted experts.
Since our family has moved a lot, we felt the need to start an online learning platform that makes learning proactive and removes restrictions like geography, time and location from accessing wonderfully nurturing experts in skill sets that are under-represented in our current learning environment, like music, language, cooking and art.
What is one aspect in raising multicultural children do we need to be MOST aware of ?
While raising multicultural children, I most emphasize on the empowerment of having a duality in the child’s identity. While it is easy and often natural to select one or the other definitions of identity for a child (I am Indian or I am american etc), it is important to emphasize the completeness in also having more than 1 identity (I am Indian, American and canadian etc) and still being whole, complete and unique.
My daughters have 3 passports and while they often talk about patriotism in confusing terms, I encourage them and those around them to see them as complete individuals without any 1 patriotic leaning or cultural heritage, but more than 1 heritage and still have a wonderfully complete and complex identity.
What is one personal challenge you have overcome growing up?
I learnt about how money works much later on in life and wish I had learnt those lessons when young. 🙂
Share with us two parenting hacks that have made your/child’s life easy.
My husband and I set rules that we never break – there is almost no argument in our home because of these rules (no phones around family, no tv on weekdays, read 30 min before bed, no shoes in the house, in bed by 8:30 etc).
We always sit together and eat for dinner (this enables us to connect as a family and talk about what is happening in each of our lives).
We write letters to family abroad (helps with practicing how to write a letter for kids and helps them keep in touch).
Door are never locked in our home (enables us to be open and receptive at all times)
We emphasize that school and grades are not everything. Believe it or not, this has helped them look at life quite differently.
What projects are you working on next?
I am the co-founder to an online learning startup – Nulern. I am consumed with that.
What is one thing piece of advice you would give to children?
Be good, kind and useful. Everything else is extra.
Tell us three things that are on your bucket list?
To hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim.
To backpack across the country.
To maybe one day, meet the Dalai Lama.
What 3 books/movies would you say changed your life?
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
The living Gita by Swami Satchidananda
Where this is love, there is God by mother Teresa
Millionaire next door by Thomas Stanley
‘It’s a wonderful life’ movie
Green for life – Victoria Beutenko
Do you have any freebies for our readers/listeners?
Buy one get one 1/2 off (non-amazon orders only)
Readers can place orders on firstname.lastname@example.org or call/whatsapp 720-899-2590/or my PMing of FB/Instagram
You can find & connect with Niyati on social media here —
Make sure you pick up copies of Niyati’s books to read to your child to help them understand the duality of their identity.
Also, be sure to grab a copy of our bestselling book for you for practical tips to better parent your multicultural child to thrive.