The Oppy staff is proud to continue our feature “Stern Somebody,” telling the stories of remarkable classmates and how they became the exceptional people they are today.
Aditya Sundaresan, more popularly known as Sunny, cannot be put in a box. He is a veteran, an entrepreneur, a TikTok influencer, and among it all, a first year full-time MBA student at NYU Stern. After graduating with a major in physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Sunny chose to do the unexpected and joined the army. After five years of service, Sunny has now rejoined civilian life and has recently launched Zuvier, an adventure and leisure brand. I got an opportunity to chat with him and learn more about his fascinating life. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Tell us a little about your life before Stern.
My dad is a scientist and I chose to take after him and study physics in college. A couple of years in, I realized that this wasn’t my passion. I enjoyed science, but didn’t wake up each morning excited to study it. Around this time, I read a book by someone in the CIA and I was fascinated by his cool life in the 1980s. I knew I didn’t want to pursue a boring, traditional job and that’s when I started looking into the army. I had never played competitive sports growing up, which meant I needed to teach myself to get fit to bring up my physical fitness scores. I worked very hard, and chose not to have any backup plans because this is what I wanted to do. After that, my life became an exciting adventure. I was doing things I never thought I could do. Training for two years, Alaska for a year, Iraq for a year and back to Alaska. It was like a movie.
What brought you to Stern?
When I returned to Alaska, I realized I had gotten what I wanted out of the army and I wanted to explore my career options outside of it. The MBA is a popular degree for officers leaving the army. My life there taught me a lot about dealing with people and management skills and the MBA, in a way, is an extension of that. My mother went to Stern in the 1990s and my parents met in New York. This city is where I wanted to be.
Tell me about your social media. I recently discovered you are popular on TikTok with over 85k followers. What’s it like being famous?
I grew up watching YouTube and I had seen a lot of people succeed and fail on social media. I never thought I would do it because, honestly, I thought it was a little lame. But it all happened kind of organically. There is this community on TikTok called MilTok. My niche in this community is that I make light hearted fun of relatable experiences people have in the military. I remember when I was in the army, there would be situations where we have to do a certain thing, and everybody was thinking, “this is so stupid!” And yet we all kind of have to do it anyway, even though nobody thought it was a good idea. I think making these videos is therapeutic in a way because I get to say what everyone was thinking. I choose to stay away from all the TikTok drama though!
Tell us about your company Zuvier.
Zuvier is a word my friends and I made up when we were in Alaska. We had all been raised in cities and now we were living in this place with extreme weather and terrain. Zuvier was what we called our lifestyle – doing cool, adventurous things and looking good while we did it. There is this culture in the army of “it’s not just about how good you are at something, it’s about how good you look doing it.” It got me thinking about creating a brand that catered to this lifestyle.
Having a strong social media presence has been nice because I can be my own influencer and promote my brand. Other creators have also been so supportive. I am learning a lot about the need for constant advertising and understanding my audience.
How has Stern helped you on your entrepreneurial journey?
I came to business school with the idea for Zuvier but I didn’t know the specifics of how I was going to get it off the ground. I did the Startup bootcamp by Leslie eLab in the fall which was helpful. This led me to apply to the J Term Startup Sprint program which was cool to be a part of. Out of the 90 teams that applied, my team was among the 10 that were picked and we got a bit of funding too. That was two weeks of intensive coaching on learning to start a business. NYU has been a helpful resource. They have seen so many startups succeed and fail, which makes their insights valuable.
What do you like to do for fun?
I read a lot, it’s probably my favorite thing to do. I enjoy going to museums and other cultural activities in the city. I also enjoy outdoor activities like snowboarding. Right now my business has been my main focus. It combines what I want to do with my life with what I enjoy doing!
Zuvier Lifestyle is a premium lifestyle apparel and media brand for Veterans creating their own path. Zuvier is about high adventure and leisure, and fashion. Check out their website at https://www.zuvierlifestyle.com/ and you can follow Zuvier and Sunny on TikTok and Instagram.