In Loving Memory of Priya Haji
From a young age, Priya Haji saw how organizations could impact individuals. At 16, she worked with her dad to build a free health clinic in Texas. In her MAKERS interview, she spoke about it as if it was a chance occurrence, but it’s clear that Priya was meant to build businesses that help people. In fact, she made it look easy. In her twenties, Priya co-founded and directed Free at Last, a community-based solution to the problem of drug addiction. "I’m inspired by seeing other people’s challenges or struggle and thinking of an innovative way to use business or technology to help solve that problem,” she said.
A self-described serial entrepreneur, Priya committed to solving problems that spanned audiences, countries, and industries. In 2004, she founded World of Good, a company dedicated to building ethical shopping experiences with retail partners like Whole Foods and eBay. The company was eventually acquired by eBay, and again Priya took the opportunity to launch into new waters.
Wanting to help struggling Americans, Priya started SaveUp, a nationwide rewards program to help people save money and pay down debt. Joined by Sammy Shreibati, she designed a sweepstakes that rewards people for their saving. Priya reveled in her ability to innovate within an equally passionate community. She told MAKERS, “I feel very privileged to live in a time and in a place--Silicon Valley--where I can think of an idea that seems just a little crazy and then be lucky enough to find an amazing computer scientist business partner who says yeah, you know that idea is crazy, but that’s what we’re about. Crazy.” Priya was filled with exuberance and gratitude, both in business and with her family. She chose to have her two children--Zen and Omi--on her own, supported by extended family and friends. Chicago-based entrepreneur Cheryl Dahle has set up a crowdfunding campaign on Fundly to help support Priya's young children.
With the news that Priya unexpectedly passed away on Tuesday, we mourn the loss of a woman whose sincere generosity and commitment to social good affected millions of people around the world. She believed in living boldly and being self-defined. Today, we can honor Priya by following her advice: “I really think the best ideas are still out there,” she said. “Don’t just sit there, and don’t doubt yourself. Just try.”