Spreading Your Wings Through Social Entrepreneuship
Entrepreneurs from several continents imparted their knowledge and experience with start-ups to AUBG students in ABF center. The event, a replica of the one held in Sofia the day before, was brought on campus as the first Global Social Entrepreneurship Academy for the Fall 2016 semester.
The program aims to help re-understand social entrepreneurship as “not something that leaves you hungry,” as Provost Zankina said, but rather as an opportunity to provide a change in some aspects of life. A morning meet-and-greet and three workshops showed students how to nurture a prospective start-up from an idea into a prosperous business with a strong social responsibility.
The mentors talked about social entrepreneurs as people with a vision that care about the impact their idea will have on society, first and foremost, but never forget to “pay themselves first.”
Nwabisa Mayema and Chenje Katanda, social entrepreneurs with decades of experience, led the discussion on how to create an inclusive business in an emerging market. They described social enterprise as a train whose engine is an idea that would help change society and also generate profit for its founders and investors. The mentors used start-up ideas from their audience to illustrate the process of establishing a business giving valuable tidbits of their hard-earned wisdom.
“You should never give up on your idea. Even if your investors say What if? What if? What if?,” said Aleksandra Dimitrova, a third-year AUBG student, when asked what she will remember as a lesson.
“It is important to find a way to monetize what we [social entrepreneurs] do,” said Chenje Katanda, founder of Education Matters, a social enterprise that helps high–achieving low-income Zimbabwe students finance their education in American universities. When creating a business plan you need to look towards the future “so we can continue operating even if our sponsors pull back their support,” Katanda explained.
“A good social entrepreneurship should be self-sustaining,” said Ismail Lahsini, whose enterprise acts as a private start-up accelerator in Morocco. Furthermore, he added that one of the biggest challenges social entrepreneurs will face is the culture of waiting for the government to solve the problems in society. He proposed a 3-step plan:
- Stop waiting
- Take initiative
- Work together to make a change
Camila Rivas, research coordinator at Socialab – a Chilean organization that supports social enterprises, further stressed the importance of collaboration as a way to see whether your idea is the right solution to the problem that society has.
During one of the afternoon workshops Nwabisa Mayema, founder and director of Nnfinity a business that fosters the growth of female entrepreneurs in Africa, warned that “the more you talk about your idea, the less real it becomes.” According to Mayema, the most important question you need to ask yourself as an entrepreneur is “how can this idea be valuable to my potential customers.”
The mentors encouraged students to dive into the murky waters of entrepreneurship headfirst. Sitting around, awaiting change will lead to nowhere, and a magical opportunity will not present itself unless you make it happen. Bilyana Gyaurova-Wegertseder, founder of the Bulgarian Institute of Legal Initiatives put it plain and simple: “Do or do not. There is no try!”
Photos: Dimitar Bratovanov