Bridging Business and Society– The highlights of the night!
On Wednesday the 11th of November we hosted our “Bridging Business and Society – Masterclass with Social Entrepreneurs” event, where four incredible social entrepreneurs to share their experience of starting a social enterprise, with the aim of showing us that doing good and giving back to society alongside making profits isn’t mutually exclusive.
We started off the masterclass with Josh Turner, founder and CEO of Stand4Socks. "What if every single sold pair did a bit of good?", that's how it all started. Josh admits how they started up by complicating their business model by trying to do so much from the start, this led them to struggle in scaling up at first. However, they worked on simplifying their business model over the last few years and since then, Stand4Socks has significantly expanded.
During the event, Josh shared with the community some of the lessons he has learnt in his journey:
1. Stop trying to please everyone – it may not be reliable or in the favour of the business.
2. Making money and doing good isn’t a bad thing. Our socks cost 3x the price to make but that’s because it pays off of the ethics involved in producing these socks as well as donating a pair when a pair is bought.
3. Test, fail, learn.
4. Keep an eye on growth, how things are able to scale up and the problems you’ll face in the future.
Victoria Azubuike from the Us Programme was next. Victoria claims that she really struggled with fitting into the social environment during her days at university – especially coming from a lower working-class background. This experience led her to start her organisation called “The US Programme” which is aimed at supporting ambitious female teens from disadvantaged backgrounds that are seeking ways to develop themselves personally and professionally. They work in providing a safe haven for them to understand the essential skills they need in their early careers. “Our model is that we mainly work with corporations and organisations like Google, they provide us with skills sessions whilst we help them with increasing diversity. Since we started, we have grown a lot. We are now working with 700 girls around London, and we have decided to reach out to different cities to support other girls across the region”. Victoria shares some key lessons she’s picked up throughout her journey “Firstly, times will get really stressful and hard, therefore, it’s always important to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing, if you don’t understand your why those hard moments could break you. I think you need to have a long-term vision and to see where you’re going. Secondly, it’s so important to always remember what your clients want because it can be very easy to divert and think that you know what they want, it’s important to remember who you are serving”.
Hussein Janmohamed our host then asked Victoria the following question: “How are you able to manage the work you do and being able to run such an impactful enterprise at the same time?”
Victoria: “University really breeds and provides that space for you to pursue your side hustles and your passions. It is difficult but I’d say one thing that really helped is that I’ve always been someone really resilient and hardworking, this also goes back to if you know your “why” and doing something you enjoy and that won’t feel like work.
Next is Danat Tekie, the Co-Founder and Chief External Relations Officer at YSI (Young Sustainable Impact. Her mission is “about bringing young minds and the youth population together to solve environmental problems”, YSI works on empowering young people to be able to solve the crucial global challenges we face today. What they believe in as an organisation is that entrepreneurship can be used to solve sustainability problems and utilise youth as a driving force along the way. They run a digital innovation programme that generates youth-driven sustainable businesses and as a result “Earthpreneurs” was generated - a community for like-minded people to work on global problems, together. The programme focuses on finding young people between the age of 16-28 to do something about sustainability, helping and supporting them in the process. Danat stresses the point that “It’s about having a complementary team with a variety of skills that are resilient. When you work with sustainability, you don’t have sustainable development without these three working together: social, economic and environmentally focused purposes. Something is not sustainable when it isn’t financially sustainable, we can’t continue working on something not economically viable.”
Our last speaker was Ben Conard. Ben Conard really endorses the idea of taking advantage of all the opportunities you have at university – from learning a new language to engaging in public speaking events, as these activities really build up your character as an entrepreneur and really open your mind to all the different opportunities you have to seize out there. Ben states that “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”, believing that you have to just get out there and create the first version of your product to share with people, get the feedback and fix it later.
Some lessons he shared with our student community are:
1) Public speaking is a vital skill to acquire especially at the beginning stages when you’re trying to get your product out there and obtaining validation as well as funding, “if you can’t communicate or share your ideas it won’t get anywhere”.
2) Concise and clear communication are vital to successfully market your product
3) Theatrics of presenting- the way you make people feel on the other end will be how they react to your brand later on
4)Connecting your dots within a network and all the experience you have to build your company and you as an entrepreneur
The number one advice he’d give is to “get your hands dirty” just put yourself out there and get that little bit of experience that would help you build and start your company!
Written by: Lamees Al Lawati