afrah shuja

17-year old entrepreneur is helping students overcome their mental health obstacles

17-year old entrepreneur is helping students overcome their mental health obstacles

At just 17, Afrah has successfully launched a startup and pioneered as the first entrepreneur of her family. After an overwhelming period of endless lockdowns and countless nights in, Afrah took notice to the fact that the Covid-19 pandemic was leaving a negative impact on her classmates once regular face-to-face classes resumed. That’s when Afrah conceptualized Cortex Wellness, a startup that helps students’ wellbeing at school due to the impact of the pandemic. 


Everyone was affected by the coronavirus in different ways and also dealt with it in different ways. Students, specifically, were left to adapt to this new strictly-online learning environment. This transition to go fully online proved to be an obstacle for many learners, something Afrah noticed amongst her friends. In a wholesome attempt to help them any way she could, Afrah began thinking of how there needed to be a concept in place to help these students, beyond a school counselor. And not just that, Afrah wisely points out how there is a stigma attached to mental health issues and asking for help. With the Cortex platform, these students now could ask for help and receive it, all digitally where they don’t have to face that stigma and be embarrassed to ask for help.


“There was a counsellor, but suddenly due to the pandemic, they were no longer accessible in some schools,” Afrah explains for the need of Cortex. Afrah goes on to say that the education system needed a new and improved way of helping students’ mental health during the pandemic. Speaking on the fact that this did not exist yet, Afrah explains how she always had the mindset of never settling for what exists, but rather inventing what is missing and needed. She says, “It’s a societal thought put upon us that we should make use of what we have only, but we’re never taught about what could be there – that’s why I thought, if something isn’t there, then you should just make it.” 


In fact, Afrah attributes her coming up with this idea to the fact that she was home schooled for about two years, through which she felt she was less influenced by society, and thereby having the opposing mindset of that mentioned earlier. 


Although Afrah grew up in a family that followed ‘traditional paths’, so to speak, she always undoubtably had an entrepreneurial spirit and mind. When she was younger, she was responsible for starting a journalism club at her school, inspiring others and showcasing her passionate spirit to start new ideas and make them happen – just like a true entrepreneur! 


But it’s not all glorious – Afrah admits that stepping out of the standard expectations for students to study, rather than shift their focus elsewhere, at her age came with its complications. Being the first in her family to launch her own startup meant that she had no “advisory board” – or essentially, no one to guide her. Not having someone to turn to when making big decisions as a smart but young 17-year-old was difficult, but she gladly speaks on how she now has a full advisory board that helps her every step of the way. 


Fast forward a year later, those challenges are not minuscule but a part of her young journey. Within just one year, Afrah and her company have helped nearly 3,000 students and acquired 15 partnerships, and they’re not stopping there! Currently, Afrah says Cortex is focusing on customer acquisition, being the schools, and refining the product. Since the startup is still in its early stage, they are going through a learning curve of understanding their product and customer better. 

Afrah seemingly never stops learning and her ambition only grows bigger by the day – like a true Entrepreneur! Cortex Wellness can be found at: and their Instagram @cortex.wellness.