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I often get asked about what inspired me to start my own social enterprise: C3 – Companies Creating Change, and, I must admit, the idea didn’t follow a heroic event or a pivotal life moment: C3 was born out of a feeling of frustration. When in my teens, I always volunteered, supporting the elderly in my town’s hospice, tutoring underprivileged kids while studying, serving the homeless at government canteens: I put in a lot of effort and commitment throughout the years, but I always felt I could do better. Finally, while doing my MBA in New York, I engaged in a few skills-based volunteering projects, where I could use my business skills to support NGOs and social enterprises in need of pro-bono consulting support: a much more impactful use of my time and skills!
Once in Dubai, a few years later, I searched for organizations that could provide skills-based volunteering opportunities, but I found it difficult to find any: I wanted to serve change-makers who had set up their businesses to serve a social or environmental cause and help them build a sustainable business model around it. I believed - and still do - that social enterprise is the most effective and sustainable way to solve global challenges, and I wanted to follow suit.I spent a full summer complaining about the lack of skills-based volunteering opportunities, until my husband simply said ‘why you don’t start something on your own, instead of whining!’ and until a good friend of mine, Rama Chakaki, provided me with a list of emerging social entrepreneurs in need of help.
‘why you don’t start something on your own, instead of whining!’
Long story short, I started supporting those few social entrepreneurs, initially alone and then in collaboration with a few like-minded professionals. Eventually I met my co-founder, Anna-Liisa Goggs, who joined me to grow a community project into a full-fledged platform. Through C3, we have supported 1,000+ impact-driven entrepreneurs, created a network of 4,000+ experts and engaged 100+ VCs and investment firms in several accelerator programs across the Middle East and Africa region, sponsored by blue-chip companies, such as HSBC, Accenture, Standard Chartered, Engie, Discovery Network, to name a few.
I could never have imagined that a frustrating moment, combined with a lot of energy, a network of amazing humans, and very little budget, could become a regional platform that incredible impact-driven entrepreneurs benefit from!
So, how can you or your kids become impact entrepreneurs? Here are simple steps on your journey towards achieving that:
Identify your mission
If there was one thing that I took away from my experience and that you can share with your kids from an early age, it is to be the change you want to see in the world.
be the change you want to see in the world.
Observing the world around you, being aware of the challenges that different communities are facing and thinking of new ways of solving these challenges will get you into an entrepreneurial mindset that will certainly allow you to take ownership of the world around you and lead by example. And, surprisingly, children can be incredibly good at that. They see the world from a different perspective and with lots of empathy. If we instill this impactful and change-making spirit in the new generations of leaders from a very young age, we will, most definitely, be in good hands for years to come.
Find your tribe
If you go alone, you will not go far. Identifying a group of people who are aligned with your mission and your values will push you to go further and attract new perspectives. Impact can only be realized once we align our efforts. Often, you will find these people within your circle; however, you will also find supporters in perfect strangers: there is so much goodwill around us! As long as you believe in what you are doing and the mission you are trying to achieve, find the tribe that will support you and only push you forward.
Going beyond your circle of family, friends, and acquaintances, empower yourself and your kids to build a network of people who will bring value to their mission. You would be surprised to see how many experts and professionals would want to join in on their impactful journey. Encourage your kids to seek advice from their teachers, from family friends, from parents’ circles, and from any community groups they are part of, and encourage them to go out there and explore it for themselves!
Small savings go a long way
Thinking that the best time to kick-start your impact journey is when you have it all figured out will not get you anywhere. Encourage your kids to take the first step and they will figure things out along the way with the right support system. True, they will make mistakes, but instilling a culture of small savings to be later invested in an impactful project will have a tremendous effect on them. Have them think about the way they “manage” money and allow them to understand the importance of saving and investing from a young age. Aligning purpose with profits will surely keep them motivated for the rest of their lives.
Discussing impact entrepreneurship with teenagers might seem complicated at first. However, once you trickle it down to its essence, it is all about pushing them to take the initiative to solve challenges that they see in their everyday lives and empowering them to ask for help, plan ahead and set their mind to a specific goal that might turn out to be a life-changing experience.