Impact Shakers, an impact ecosystem tackling complex societal challenges through inclusive entrepreneurship
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I’m the founder and CEO of Impact Shakers, an impact ecosystem tackling complex societal challenges through inclusive entrepreneurship. Me, as well as the rest of the team come from a migration background and check more diversity boxes than we count people. We truly believe in the power of entrepreneurship to bring about systemic change. One key issue is that people with diverse backgrounds are mostly absent in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is why we’re missing out on so much problem solving potential. I’m passionate about changing the entrepreneurship narrative and fighting injustice through entrepreneurship.
These past years, I lived in New York for a year and another one in San Francisco, making the Mary Schmich quote real: “Live in New York once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.”’
Today I share my time between Lisbon and Ghent, but mostly on the sunny side.
Can you tell us and our readers something about Impact Shakers?
With Impact Shakers we aim for bridging the gap between impact and profit and building and scale stronger ventures. We are part of a global movement working on making impact a logical part of every business model, in short terms: making the impact economy, just the economy.
We are doing this through our global community, by organising events to educate, inspire and amplify the voices of impact entrepreneurs and through our academy for impact entrepreneurs. Besides, we are working on a microfund targeting underrepresented founders. In our entrepreneurship programmes (‘labs’) we work with those who have beaten the odds before and will do again in the future.
Ultimately, we want to get more people to build social impact businesses and scale them into profitable and sustainable companies.
What is the vision behind Impact Shakers?
With Impact Shakers we tackle complex societal challenges through inclusive entrepreneurship. We believe entrepreneurship is the best vehicle for change and people are the best at solving problems they know through experience. To tackle more complex problems through entrepreneurship we need more diverse entrepreneurs and we need to activate all of this underused problem-solving potential.
What is the vision behind the Awards?
The Impact Shakers Awards are our most recent initiative. Impact businesses create ripples that change millions of lives and it is time to celebrate them as well as the ecosystem supporting them.
They are inspired by the doughnut economics model, which maps human prosperity according to a social foundation and an ecological ceiling. By recognizing inclusive and sustainable businesses, people can better visualise meaningful alternatives to profit-only enterprises that overuse resources and undervalue segments of the population. It’s not that profit isn’t important, but it is no longer the only important factor.
Who can apply for the Impact Shakers Awards?
We encourage all startups under 5 years registered in Europe that work towards a social and ecological impact in one of the 12 categories: Energy, Water, Food, Health, Education, Income & Work, Peace & Justice, Political Voice, Social Equity, Gender Equality, Housing & Networks to apply.
Please tell us something about the last Impact Shakers awards?
This is the first time we organise the Awards. Since we have started, over 50 impact ecosystem partners joined us for this first edition from all over Europe. Our goal is to organise the awards in other regions starting with Southeast Asia.
How does your selection process work ?
It’s an online application form, with some questions on your ‘as is’ and future plans. Applications are open until May 1st after which they’ll be reviewed by a diverse jury of European entrepreneurs, investors and other impact ecosystem players. The public will be able to cast their vote on the finalists of each category over a month-long period. Winners will be announced on June 21st during an online Awards Show.
Do you think there is a right time to start a startup ?
I don’t think there is such a thing as the right time but in general starting with something small and actually taking that first step is the most important in going from dreaming to realising your dreams. Don’t get stuck in overthinking what your exact first step should be, just start building. The cool thing about entrepreneurship is that you can make small shifts and decisions every day, or bigger ones when something isn’t working out as you intended it. Which doesn’t mean, quit your day job on day 1. I’m a big fan of bootstrapping and building a sustainable business preferably through revenue creation instead of outside investment. Which means you won’t always move as fast as you’d like or you can focus entirely on what you want, but it does mean you’ll be in control and with value driven businesses this is often key.
How does your normal workday look like ?
Over the past years, I managed to build a great work-life integration. I see very little difference between living and working, I’ve always found it hard to believe in this “duo persona” and walls people see between the two. What I learned is that I need a variety of tasks. For example, I regularly need new input through research or meeting new people, but I can’t do one thing for a long consecutive period. Some of the pandemic months really tired me out with too many online meetings, which although it’s fantastic to meet new people, it’s also incredibly fatiguing as we all learned. I can’t wait till ‘let’s meet for a coffee’ is back!
You have some experience with startups and young founders, so can you tell us first-hand what the biggest mistakes of young founders are?
I don’t think it’s necessarily young founders, rather new founders in general, regardless of age. But what I often see is too many assumptions in the problem-solution fit. The best ideas are born from the problem, but often the love for a solution is bigger than the love for the problem. Underestimating the need for a continuous market and customer research is common – running the business on too many assumptions and too few actual conversations with potential customers.
Another one is thinking you need to raise funding for your business. Most often, you don’t need funding but something completely different, like revenue. The emphasis on venture capital these past years hasn’t been helping. That is why we launched an alternative fundraising programme where we focus on more aspects than funding alone.
Which 3 tips do you have for founders ?
Surround yourself with brave people – who believe in you, who challenge you and who give you feedback with merit.
Embrace complexity – The world is complex and so are solutions.
Be kind – nothing can beat the power of kindness.
Thank you Yonca Braeckman for the Interview
Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.