SEF interviews. Supertramps.

By |Monday, January 16, 2017|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , , |

Read what Teresa from Supertramps has to say about homelessness and social business in Austria.

 

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Driven all-rounder

What problem do you solve?
Even though Vienna is always cited as world‘s most liveable city, the number of homeless people is growing. Once living on the street, finding the way back is challenging due to a complex set of reasons: Often, homeless people have little opportunities because they have no one who believes in or trusts them anymore, they unlearned social competencies and reliability, and they often have mental problems. These factors all lead to a very low self-esteem. At the same time, most people have prejudices and are not very familiar with homelessness.

How does your business model work?
SUPERTRAMPS offers adventurous walks through Vienna, developed and led by homeless guides. At carefully chosen public places, they connect knowledge about homelessness with their personal stories. With the walks, we aim to empower our guides and build awareness about homelessness. SUPERTRAMPS was founded in 2015 by Katharina Turnauer who supported a similar project in Prague with her private foundation. At the moment, SUPERTRAMPS is organised as a non-profit. The foundation supports SUPERTRAMPS with expertise and funding. However, the aim is to be self-sustaining in the long-term.

What is Social Entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
To me, Social Entrepreneurship means tackling societal and environmental challenges in an innovative way whilst striving to be financially independent. In every step Social Entrepreneurs make, they act in a respectful and morally reasonable way. The applied practices are led by a social mission and not by profit goals. For them, impact is their main priority.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
I personally think that there are two main challenges: Does my business truly have a sustainable impact? Is my business really able to operate without external financiers?

What is your vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria?
Social Entrepreneurship is not only seen as a current hype but as a long-term interest by the state and as a respected and applied business model by the private, public and NGO sector. At the same time, conventional businesses acknowledge the added value of Social Entrepreneurship and recognise their social and environmental responsibilities.

A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs to be?
In your ambitious pursuit of goals and success, don’t forget you as a person. If you feel good, the business will flourish.

If you could put up a huge billboard anywhere – what would it say?
Everyone has a talent. If you recognise the talent, honour and encourage it.

 

For more information, please visit http://supertramps.at/.

On a personal note, a few of us from the SEF Team have had the pleasure to take part in a tour led by one of the supertramps, Ferdinand, and we can sincerely recommend it. It was incredibly interesting and we walked away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the complexity of what it means to be homeless.

 

SEF interviews. Leila Wien.

By |Monday, October 3, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , , |

Read about what Simon from the NPO Leila Wien has to say about sharing and social entrepreneurship:

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Library of things.

Which problem do you solve?
We enable access to a lot of reusable things without buying them, thus for making the use ecologically and financially more efficient.

How does your business model work?
We are a non-profit, so we only need to cover the costs with our income and not create a profit. Our members pay a yearly fee to get access to the lending pool.

What is Social Entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
Social Entrepreneurship is a trending term. For me a main requirement is that the social goals a startup sets itself are determining the shape of the whole organization. Creating profit should be a secondary if at all a goal.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
As all of our work is voluntary and unpaid, time is the limiting factor. To run a long term project with a team consisting of volunteers can be challenging.

What is your vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria?
It should not be an exception that businesses aim for the social wellbeing of a society or a group within. In the future it should be a requirement. If you want to make a profit with a business, it has to have positive effects on society and environment. A lot of businesses nowadays do not.

A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs to be?
Talk to as many people as possible and meet all kinds of role models while you plan your project. Almost everything has been done before.

If you could put up a huge billboard anywhere – what would it say?
Sharing is back. Leila Wien

 
Simon is co-founder of Leila Wien. Read more about it on their website: http://www.leihladen.at/

 

SEF interviews. 1000 Worms.

By |Thursday, August 25, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , , |

Drumroll for David Witzeneder, who tells us about 1000 Worms.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Passionate, calm and hard-working.

What problem do you solve?
When I came to Vienna to study I was upset that I had to dispose organic waste into the rubbish bin with all the other residual waste. There was no organic waste disposal system. This was not only my problem. Many other people told me that it feels bad to dispose organic waste, which is actually a resource we can use, together with the other residual waste. What we do now is to offer a solution for this problem.

How does your business model work?
We developed boxes made of wood. So called wormbox or “wurmkiste”. In the boxes live earthworms. Earthworms love organic waste and 1000 Worms eat approximately the amount of organic waste one person produces every day and they process it to fertile humus. We construct the wormboxes in our small workshop as ready-to-use boxes, do-it-yourself sets or make them together with participants in our monthly workshops in Vienna. As well we sell a very efficient wormbin called “hungry bin” for outdoor use.

What is social entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
To be able to fall asleep easily at night because everything you did on this day was in line with your personal and social values. Selling crap to your customers or treating your employees bad would result in bad sleep. At least for me.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
To treat yourself as well in a social way. Working 60 hours per week, answering emails on Sunday and being present at every event even if you are not interested are the toughest challenges I have faced or that I am still facing.

What is your vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria?
Once a businessman came to me and told me he has some contacts to an Indian factory. “You could let them produce the boxes produce and sell it for 1/4 of the actual price”. That was his idea.
My vision for social entrepreneurship in Austria is, that it can contribute to a greater awareness that business is not only about money and cheaper production but about creating value to customers (solutions to problems) and employees (purpose and financial safety) alike. So I hope in the future there will be fewer business people thinking like that.

A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs to be?
Don’t believe everything they tell you 🙂

If you could put up a huge billboard anywhere – what would it say?
1000 Worms can eat your daily organic waste.

David is co-founder of 1000 Worms (formerly Wurmkiste). More information can be found on their website: https://www.1000worms.com

SEF interviews. Younited Cultures.

By |Thursday, August 11, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , , |

Another interview, another social enterprise: Andra and Younited Cultures.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Optimist, creative, fighter.

What problem do you solve?
Raising awareness towards the positive role of im/migrants for the society and economy.

As a migrant myself, I am disappointed to see how the negative image of migrants is being constantly promoted, yet, the positive side of migration is never really shown. I want to bring more awareness towards that. The press plays a big role in influencing society. Migration has been misrepresented for far too long. We need new ideas to show that migration is positive.

How does your business model work?
Storytelling scarves. Wear a story!

Together with the im-/migrant role models and through a creative process we transform their integration journey into unique scarf designs, that express their character, diversity and cultural heritage. In order to make our message impactful for everyone, we also created the “Celebrate Migration” signature scarf, which aims to become a symbol for cultural diversity. By wearing it, we make the positive image of migration visible, a topic rarely promoted and spoken about.

We sell these scarves/ stories as gifts online, via fairs, events, shops as well as companies. Additionally, we now offer a teambuilding workshop for companies to create their own signature scarf with their employees. We capture their story, vision and values and put them on a scarf that they or customers can receive on special occasions.

What is social entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
Creating value for society no matter your business, product or service. Overall, social entrepreneurship is not a charity activity. It’s creating value, purpose and impact by putting people before profits.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
Finding state funds that concern social entrepreneurship, which are equal to none. We are registered as a GmbH (eng. company with limited liability) but act as NGO, which means that we reinvest the earnings to bring awareness towards our vision, to celebrate cultural diversity. And for that, there is no subsidy, because we are for-profit, but our focus is social.

It saddens me that all I hear about is tech funds, digital app funds, fast growth, fast job creation. There’s always money for that, but nothing for social entrepreneurship.

What is your vision for social entrepreneurship in Austria?
That all companies act more social. I hope it will become a standard form of doing business.

A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs to be?
Network with other social entrepreneurs, learn from their experiences and be aware that, in order to make an impact, you also have to develop a sustainable business model. Don’t get dependent on external money (sponsors, etc.) but make sure you have a viable product that can sustain you long-term.

Andra is founder and CEO of Younited Cultures. For more information please visit http://younitedcultures.eu.

SEF interviews. Peter Vandor on Social Entrepreneurship Education.

By |Tuesday, July 12, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , , |

University is where most of us from the SEF Team first heard about social entrepreneurship. Hence, we are very thrilled to have Peter, a real pioneer on the field of social entrepreneurship education in Austria, answering our questions.

Why should social entrepreneurship be taught and which role do universities play here?
Social entrepreneurship education meets a rapidly growing demand among students. More and more students are seeking competences and classes on social entrepreneurship and related topics. They see that the world is not exactly running out of problems and wish to do something about it in an entrepreneurial way. In Austria, we see this interest every year at the Social Impact Award, where hundreds of students participate in workshops on social entrepreneurship and develop their own ideas and projects. At WU, such interest has also materialised in the start of student-led initiatives around social and sustainable entrepreneurship, such as 180 Degrees Consulting, oikos and SEF.

How early should we start teaching about social entrepreneurship?
From an educational standpoint, the earlier the better. Research suggests that experiencing pro-social behavior in your youth increases the likelihood of such behavior for the rest of your life. Being able to help others is a powerful experience and those who experience it early are probably more motivated and develop the self-efficacy to become successful social entrepreneurs later in their life.

What are the barriers, if any, when implementing a rather new field like social entrepreneurship into school/university education?
Social entrepreneurship education is a pretty new field, so many of its tools and concepts are still under development. Much of the current teaching borrows heavily from entrepreneurship. While that is often very useful, sometimes the entrepreneurship instruments and concepts do not fit the reality of social entrepreneurs and can be a barrier. For example, many financial instruments and concepts taught in entrepreneurship are heavily venture-capital- and exit-oriented. This is far from the reality of social entrepreneurs in Austria, where social venture capitalists hardly exist and only a fraction of social enterprises chose a legal form that would allow external investments. We should avoid copying concepts blindly, but adjust the teaching to the social realm, the ecosystem we are in and the actual needs of people.

Which tools do you provide your students with?
In our courses, we first provide a brief theoretical background on social entrepreneurship and try to carve out similarities and differences between social entrepreneurship, commercial entrepreneurship as well as traditional third-sector organisations. The larger part of the semester is then focused on experiential learning. Students either work on their own idea for a social enterprise or work with other social entrepreneurs on their challenges.

Which advice do you give your students?
Try it out for yourself! The best way to learn about social entrepreneurship is by getting involved in social enterprises or starting your own social venture. For the later, I founded the Social Impact Award in 2009, which offers free start-up workshops for young social entrepreneurs in 10 countries and is operated in partnership with the Impact Hub Vienna. During these workshops, students from all disciplines can meet peers, develop a new idea for a social venture, improve and structure it and get expert feedback.

What is your vision for the future of social entrepreneurship (education)?
10 years ago, the coolest thing to do for a WU student was to become an investment banker or a consultant. This changed. Currently, entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs seem to be the rockstars on campus. It is likely that this hype will eventually fade a bit, but in terms of substance, I think, the best is still to come. Since we started the first course on social entrepreneurship in Austria in 2009, more universities have included the topic into their curriculum. Moreover, an ecosystem started to grow, including support organisations, co-working spaces, new funding instruments and an increased number of social enterprises. Since 2015, also public institutions have launched funding instruments for social entrepreneurs. The recent announcement of the government to reduce labor costs for start-ups could provide further positive impulses for social enterprises – but of course only, if they are included in the target groups of the proposed measures. I am curious to see the next steps and am optimistic about the development of this sector.

About:
Peter Vandor is senior researcher, co-founder and manager of the NPO & SE Competence Center at WU, the Vienna University of Economics and Business. In his position, he has been leading 50+ collaboration projects with organisations such as CERN, UNDP and the Roland Berger Foundation. His research interests lie in the areas of social entrepreneurship, migrant entrepreneurship and innovation. Peter is founder and academic director of the Social Impact Award, a learning program and idea competition for budding social entrepreneurs in 10 countries. He also initiated the first academic and award winning course on social entrepreneurship in Austria.

SEF interviews. Wohnwagon.

By |Friday, April 29, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , |

SEF interviews once again, this time Theresa from Wohnwagon! 

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Passionate, persistent problem-solver.

What problem do you solve?
We offer solutions for the future of natural living. Looking at a world of immense resource waste, climate change and a lot of unhappiness, most people know that things can’t go on like this. But they are lacking a clear understanding of what to do. The Wohnwagon (engl. caravan) is one possible alternative and inspires people to find new ways of self-sustained and natural living. The 25m2 living unit is completely independent thanks to its bio-toilet, water treatment system and photovoltaik system. We sell the Wohnwagon for multiple purposes: it can be a full-time living unit, an office, a hotel room or a second home. We also offer the modular autarky systems of the Wohnwagon for different purposes and want to help people to take steps towards a more sustainable and independent life – no matter if they are living in a small flat in the city or on a huge farm in the country.

How does your business model work?
We sell Wohnwagons (engl. caravans) well as products for natural, self-sustained living and offer workshops and coaching to help people realise their ideas.

What is Social Entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
Social Entrepreneurship is a powerful tool to address the problems of our times while building a business that is also financially sustainable and independent from public support or donations. It is not an excuse for politics or the individual citizen to engage in those topics as well.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
Keeping your focus on your impact and at the same time acting in a financially responsible way is tough sometimes. Your energy might drift more to one side or to the other eventually. What is important is that you keep evaluating your business. Even if there is a lot to do, take a step back and analyse where you are and where you are going right now, discuss it with your team and partners and listen to your gut feeling.

What is your vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria?
I think Social Entrepreneurship can become a great trend that not only solves social and environmental problems but also offers people a meaningful place to work where they can still make a living. It is great that this platform tries to raise the awareness for this possibility to found a business! I think it should also be taught at universities and it might make sense to establish a separate corporate form for it.

A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs-to-be?
Find an area that you are really passionate about. Build a great team, that you can rely on – even if times get tougher. Keep going!


Theresa Steininger is the CEO of Wohnwagon. For more information, please visit http://www.wohnwagon.at

SEF interviews. whatchado.

By |Tuesday, April 26, 2016|Categories: SEF interviews|Tags: , , |

Welcome to our new category: SEF interviews, giving you real-life examples of inspiring social entrepreneurs. First up: Kambis from whatchado! The stage is yours.

Describe yourself in 3 words.
Ambitious, motivated, megalomaniac.

What problem do you solve?
Jobs can be fascinating. However, too many young people nowadays lack clear vision in what to do and what not. Particularly job- and career-wise they are still seeking to find something that really matches their interests.
Back in 2012, my friends and I therefore decided to launch the portal whatchado, a combination of storytelling handbook and standardised format of short films on real-life job descriptions. Fascinating job stories and a dating concept will guide job seekers to find their true calling. Loving to probe people on their lives and backgrounds, we want to provide authentic career information and empower young people. We have therefore collected thousands of faces, careers and inspiring stories from all walks of life, regardless of position, rank and industry.

How does your business model work?
Using online (Social Media, SEO) and offline (Events, whatchaSKOOL) marketing, we acquire users within the relevant target group (13-34yrs.). Our customers pay to keep accessing this target group through company profiles. On these profiles their employees introduce their jobs and employers in a standardised video format. New digital placements and advertising ensure our recurring revenues.

What is Social Entrepreneurship to you? And what is it not?
Social Entrepreneurship to me is changing the society for the better. Whereas most businesses often focus on making profit or increasing shareholder value only, social businesses also need to target a societal problem, e.g. lack in education, and provide a proper solution. In doing so, you can sustainably change your environment.

What are the toughest challenges you have to face by running a social business?
I think that one of the toughest challenges is having a sustainable business model that generates regular income. Many social businesses ultimately fail because they cannot operate without external financiers. Therefore, social entrepreneurs need to understand basic business economics as well.

What is your vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria?
My vision for Social Entrepreneurship in Austria is a strong increase in younger people who are not afraid of becoming social entrepreneurs. This comes with a positive approach in entrepreneurial mindset and that social businesses benefit the whole society.

 A little piece of advice for social entrepreneurs to be?
Dare!


Kambis Kohansal Vajargah is the co-founder and CMO at whatchado. For more information please visit https://www.whatchado.com