How We Won The Schulich-Kellogg New Venture Design Competition — And What Comes Next

Lakdi Nanayakkara and Arun Sundararaman, 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.

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.


Arun Sundararaman

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, and 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.


Lakdi Nanayakkara

We were inspired to come up with a venture to help parents in this situation based on a personal experience faced by one of our team members’ child, who suffered with speech and language delay during his early age. The challenges included finding the right support and dealing with wait times, so we were eager to find a way to support parents by providing help during their long wait times until they see a speech therapist and make better use of the time between appointments.

Lakdi and I are taking forward our business idea and have successfully incorporated our company, TheraSolutions. It is an online program that will assist parents with kids under 5 who have speech and language delays while they wait to see a speech therapist. TheraSolutions aims to revolutionize the way children with learning disabilities develop their potential. We are on a mission to empower parents to make informed decisions about their children’s development while using our customizable activities and programs with the comfort of your home. Parents can sign up to avail our services online and our portal will provide feedback. We have a free assessment which will capture all the relevant questions to be able to provide activities and programs; based on the outcome of the initial assessment, if the parents wish to subscribe to our program, customized activities/exercises will be provided along with analytics to track the progress and other self-directed tools. We will layer in more advanced analytics as well as a progress tracker for hosting the activities, and we will provide regular support and feedback from speech therapists and keep the parents empowered and up-skilled during their child’s development.

In a nutshell, TheraSolutions seeks to transform the lives of children with speech and language delays, to help them succeed and be able to develop communication and language through an online platform. Our “value proposition” is relief for the pain of waiting and the anxiety of not knowing what the right treatment is for your child.

During our EMBA journey, we took a few courses (such as “Growing Business, Growing People” and “Strategic Marketing Decisions”) that helped us along the way to become successful entrepreneurs. The New Venture Design course was a capstone project culminating all the courses put together to make our business idea a success. Afterward, we decided to leverage NVD as a stepping-stone to launch our business venture and embark on a mission to help every child be happy and healthy.

Arun Sundararaman is part of the leadership team within the GlobalView business unit at Automated Data Processing. He holds an executive MBA joint degree from Kellogg School of Management and Schulich School of Business, as well as a Master of Science degree from University of Rhode Island. He lives in the Greater Toronto Area with his wife and one son and is an ardent tennis player.

Lakdi Nanayakkara is a Senior Program Manager at Bombardier Aerospace Inc, specializing in Program Management, Project Management, Product Design & Development. She leads new product development and sustaining aircraft development projects for the business aircraft sector and has experience in providing engineering support throughout sample manufacturing and product development process on aerospace products. She holds an executive MBA joint degree from Kellogg School of Management and Schulich School of Business, as well as a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering degree from Ryerson University.

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