• Ideas that have potential to influence a million people or more

    KERAKAMIKA Café: Take it Easy and DO Something Fruitful

    You want to get inspired? Stay with me!

     Who, what?

    Tanya and Borche are a husband and wife team, leading a successful business with social responsibility, in Macedonia. Their business model is a blend of creative studio and café, which Tanya and Borche, both artists themselves, decided to open after a long phase of experimentation. Since then, Kerakamika is a paint your own ceramics studio, where in a relaxed atmosphere one can have a drink while making a special gift for themselves or a dear person. As a matter of fact, initially, they named the studio Keramika Café, later they renamed it to Kerakamika.

    In case you are wondering why Kerakamika instead of Keramika, read along!

    Actually, the name of the brand was deliberately invented by a little human; a very sweet one even. In the words of Tanya and Borche, the name came into being as their toddler was constantly saying Kerakamika instead of the initial title, Keramika Café. Their toddler’s version of the name sounded sweet and playful, but still akin to the original. Hence, Tanya and Borche decided to rename it Kerakamika, as a combination of Keramika and Café.

    Everyone has potential to become an entrepreneur by simply using their education and work experience as a starting point.

    Why is this studio special?

    For being an innovation. For being unique. For being multifaceted. Kerakamika is the only studio of its kind in Macedonia. On top of that, the surrounding area where this studio is located, the Skopje Old Bazaar, inspires creativity and imagination on its own, offering a magnificent atmosphere for giving life to one’s ideas. What’s more, visitors can create inside the studio or outdoors, while savoring a sip of coffee, lemonade, or Turkish tea, specialty of the bazaar. The package is made whole with creative workshops, which are offered to art enthusiasts, who wish to learn skills and techniques offered by Kerakamika artists.

    More about the workshops.

    In this studio, they offer more than 10 different workshops, which people can choose from. In the first place are ceramic workshops, in which people learn various ceramic forming techniques and methods of decorating ceramic pieces. Part of their workshops tackle the subject of recycling and up cycling, even so, they still give advice on multi-purpose usage of every-day items in every workshop, with the mantra:

    If we can make or reuse it, let’s not buy it”!

    So far, Kerakamika has organized over 100 creative workshops for different groups, such as, children, adults, children without parents and children with special needs. What’s more impressive, these workshops are attended by people who apply the newly gained knowledge and skills to advancing their career, their business, or hobby, thus becoming financially more independent.  It’s no wonder, the interest to participate in these workshops is huge.

    Social Impact.

    Social impact is achieved by offering people knowledge within a hand’s reach, without pressure, at leisure. In these workshops they challenge themselves, gain useful skills, and gain a new perspective about the everyday items that surround them. Later they benefit from the skills (and the perspective). Kerakamika’s aim is to share knowledge and happiness, and they are achieving it.

    Eureka!

    Beyond question, similar studios would be welcoming in other places too, for one, because this model is a perfect blend between art and business, but also because it is a balance between giving and receiving. It goes without saying that this is one of the most convenient paths for artists who are struggling to make a living, and for those who wish to serve their community while being rewarded for it. Ergo, the outcome of such an endeavor is financial as much as moral.

    Feel-good elements.

    In Tanya and Borche’s words, there are many feel-good elements in this occupation. Such as, passing on knowledge, serving a social purpose, freedom of creating, meeting wonderful people, reciprocal inspiration, a smile on children’s faces, beautiful drawings and letters from them, the thrill of completing a workshop, the excitement  of creating your own piece of art, the euphoria of seeing the results, feedback from satisfied clients… What is most morally satisfying and motivating is when participants in the workshops, apply the knowledge on their profession and hobby.

    What is their advice for future entrepreneurs (you)?

    Everyone has potential to become an entrepreneur by simply using their education and work experience as a starting point. Tanya and Borche state that the most important prerequisite to thrive in this sector is self-confidence, persistence and endurance. “You will see the outcome later, it becomes real after impeccable dedication. And yes, work with love!

    Beyond doubt, people who visit Kerakamika leave accomplished, having acquired new skills and knowledge; delighted, having created a piece of art; animated, having gained new friends. Most importantly, they leave Kerakamika with a blissful smile on their face.

     

    Did you get inspired by this article? Have you thought of founding your own business?

    Social Impact Award offers support to young people who have an idea but simply don’t know where to start. Start from here!

     

    Author: Ardita Zulfiu – Volunteer at Social Impact Lab, Macedonia

  • Ideas that have potential to influence a million people or more

    10 trends Social Entrepreneurs need to know about!

    Who am I? My name is Markus Engelberger and I am the Country Coordinator of SIA Austria.

    I also run my own business as a Graphic Recorder and Visual Facilitator.

    As a Graphic Recorder I basically listen to what people talk about at events and I capture the essence of it in real time through pictures and words.

    I recently worked at the European Forum Alpbach, an event where Europes “Elite” comes together. There I represented Social Impact Award, but also wore the hat of a Graphic Recorder.

    This is how it looks like, when I work:

    In this blogpost I am gonna share some insights I found quite interesting and of which I think that they can be very relevant for what you do!

    You might wonder: “What or where the hack is Alpbach!?”

    Don´t worry – For Non-Austrians, and even the majority of Austrians, it is unknown or at least mysterious, what actually happens at Alpbach, this tiny, picturesque village in the mountains of Tyrol.

    Since this is important for all that follows, let me try to explain…

    The European Forum Alpbach

    Once a year, for three weeks in a row, the European elite in business, politics and technology comes together. A happening of the finest kind.

    What is today considered the “Spring-Break of Austria´s future leaders”, has a serious background.

    Shortly after World War 2 leading thinkers and influencers of their times met in this village and agreed that such a terrible war must never ever happen again.

    In order to realize that, they came up with the idea of bringing together the young elite of Europe once a year from now on until forever.

    And that is the spirit that is deeply routed in Alpbach. That is also the reason why highly renowned domestic and international politicians, business-leaders, scientists and philantropists make their way to Alpbach every year.

    They cherish the tradition and contribute to a peaceful and better tomorrow.

    And well, where young people come together of course the one or the other party happens also.

    But let´s concentrate on the 10 most important learnings I personally took from Alpbach, listening with the ears of a Social Entrepreneur.

    The good message to start off:

    “We don´t have to re-invent things. They are already there!” (Franz Fischler – President of the European Forum Alpbach)

    What he meant, is that a lot of solutions, networks, laws and so on already exist. The only problem is that people never knew about them or have forgotten.

    So let´s challenge your local politicians – let them know you are interested and want to be informed!

    “We are not here to change the system or to invade your country – We are here to add value to your country and build a better life.” (Conclusion of a group of different people that had to leave their countries for safety reasons.)

    I know, many of you will say they already knew that. But even for me, a person who is constantly working together with Ventures supporting Refugees, it was an “Aha-Moment” and a kick-ass argument against all who claim Refugees are “invaders”.

    “Digitalization, Climate-Change, Migration” (Summary of a plenary session on today´s most pressing challenges).

    When some of the most powerful political leaders in the world come together, these are the most pressing topics they agree upon. Maybe that´s a little hint for all of you, who wonder in which field to get active and solve problems in an entrepreneurial way. I am pretty sure these guys also have the money, if you come up with disruptive and scalable solutions.

    “Why did people not do more against climate change?”, “How could people have ignored the effects of automation on their work lives?”, “How could they have believed in ever growing economies?” system (Philipp Blom – Author, Lecturer & Broadcaster)

    Three interesting questions a future young historian doing research about the days we live in might ask herself. I think there is nothing to add and I leave it open to you to explore this thought experiment.

    “How do we communicate evidence to citizens?”

    A simple and “easy – to – get” communication is also a topic, that keeps a well-aged generation of politicians awake at night.

    The same is true for:

    “How do we engage citizens into transformative processes?”

    What politicians lack at the moment, is the ability to come up with solutions that create and support transformation. They are willing to include people into open Innovation processes but at the moment simply seem not to be capable to pull this off.

    “Most ideas deserve to die!” “99 out of 100 ideas are not very smart or well based. But the 1 good idea deserves the fight of your life!” (Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York)

    “Most ideas deserve to die!” This is a harsh quote by a man who has fought for the good cause all of his life. But especially that fact makes his thought so interesting.

    At the end of the day Mr. Sachs, one of the world´s leading experts in economic development and fighting poverty, is really interested in Start-Ups and Social Entrepreneurship in generel. But what he is missing in most of the projects he gets to know, is some more depth.

    That means:

    Do your homework fellas! Dig into research, talk to experts in the field, who for instance have been tackeling the issue of climate change for the past 30 years already, collect data, set your impact metrics and then fucking measure them.

    We all know that this is not the fun part for most of the people.

    But you´ll need the data to convince powerful gate-keepers like Mr. Sachs.

    “We need to de-carbonize our system dramatically by mid-century” (Agreement in a panel discussion)

    The frightening fact that our system already collapses in 15-20 years, if we as humanity continue doing, what we are doing at the moment, was starting point of a very diverse discussion between scientists and politicians.

    “Vancouver wants to be the greenest city in the world by 2020.” (Gregor Robertson, mayor of Vancouver)

    While many seem helpless or try to improve things by buying CO2 certificates (which is more about making statistics looking nicer in many cases and not about actually reducing CO2), Vancouver makes nails with heads. Vancouvers mayor, Gregor Robertson, also stated, they as a city have a clear and simple 3 step – plan how to further reduce CO2: “1.: Walking 2.: Riding the bike 3.: Green public transport instead of individual cars”

    An interesting point of view from an Austrian´s perspective was, that Vancouver is looking to what  Vienna does in order to get inspiration and steal good ideas from them.

    At the end of the panel discussion Jeffrey D. Sachs concluded that Europe is actually the leading region when it comes to sustainability and solutions that help us create a better future.

    The only thing lacking in Europe is an agreed upon concept or plan.

    He ended his speech with “Let´s make a plan!” And that I also see as a strong invitation for our community of super talented and motivated Social Entrepreneurs.

    Get out of your god-damn boxes and connect to each other! Try to create synergies and learn from each other! Support each other and stand together! Then we have the chance to realize impact that truly matters!

    By the way: The best opportunity to do so is the SIA Summit in Belgrade this year!

    I wish you all the best, hope you found some inspiration in this Blog Post and come back to me if you have any new ideas or further questions.

  • Ideas that have potential to influence a million people or more

    Tips and tricks: How to promote your social business at no cost?

    Dear social entrepreneur, or friend, colleague and supporter or a social entrepreneur, this post is for you.

    You’re at the very beginning, you are confused, you have to learn legal procedures about starting your business without being imprisoned by tax police and people from SIA are encouraging you to think about promotion. You want to survive without getting grey hair and wrinkles and learn how to promote your business at the moment of usual startup money shortage? Look no further.

    Let’s be clear – you have to promote your business/product/service simply because you cannot get any income if no one knows about you. Your idea can be extremely important, a great solution, with amazing products of services, but if there are no people who are willing to pay for it at a decent price, the effort is futile. You do have to promote yourself and your business.

    Create key messages, define channels that are available free and add some creativity.

    Things to think about when deciding when and how to do it:

    1. Timing

    Don’t wait for the first costumer and first money earned to start promotion – do it now. It is good to start promotion even before you start your business, even if you do not have a product ready or you are still not able to offer your services. You have to create a need.

    1. Creating a need

    People do have to eat, drink and they do have some other basic needs. Nevertheless, do you really need a vacuum cleaner when there are brooms? We now don’t pose the question on what to use, but the very first vacuum cleaners and producers had to convince people that they need their products. Therefore, you have to convince people that they really need you, that your product is needed.

    1. Strategy

    You cannot convince people that they need your product if you yourself are not certain of it. What helps with this is strategy. Strategic marketing or strategic communications are professional services you might not have money for as a startup, although their work and results could prove you right to your customers. However, what you do have is common sense. Think as a costumer, test your ideas among your friends (even better acquaintances) and then just write it all down. Create key messages, define channels that are available free and add some creativity. In addition, yes, you should have a simple timeline. To take that first step is hard, but remember there is not much that you can spoil at this stage 😉

    1. Channels

    Think about available channels for free promotion, and find out which of the possibilities (which are almost endless) are best for you. Social media is a must and it’s free or a good bargain if you decide to use ads. Don’t forget traditional media too. You don’t have to be an expert, it’s enough to sit in front of the TV and watch carefully. You’ll notice that there are many live TV shows with many guests in it, usually in the morning or in the afternoon. You need to be there, but hey – they also need you. Television employees are sometimes in desperate need for guests for their long TV shows. Find them, contact them by email or phone and suggest them that your story is more then a business, and they will be ready to host you. It’s almost the same with newspapers, they need to fill all that pages with some interesting texts and there is for sure enough place to place the story about you. When we come to online news platforms and lifestyle media, they differ slightly. Think about click-bait headlines (but true to the text and story behind them). This style might be boring for you, but it sells products, so think how can you be attractive to the general public and to your target users. These all might not come with your first initial steps, but create the connection with media, foster it, and right about when you are ready for the market – they will have slots for you in their channels.

    1. Luck

    If you did everything well, you’ll also need a bit of luck. You’ll have to catch a TV show editor at the right moment, your common sense should be similar to those of your target customer and things will take a turn to better.

    You can always fundraise to pay communication experts. Sometimes, it might not be a bad option. But try going through these steps first – test yourself and the business.

     

     

    Author: Zeljko Veljkovic, SIA Communications Officer for BIH, MNE & KOS

    Editor: Vladica Jovanovic, SIA Regional Coordinator for BIH, MNE & KOS

     

  • Ideas that have potential to influence a million people or more

    The packaging that had a past… may also have a future! – Pakomak

    Pakomak is a non-profit company, founded in 2010, whose main activity is management of packaging waste. According to the new Law on management of packaging and packaging waste, since January 10, 2011 Pakomak is the first company in Macedonia, licensed by the Ministry of environment for selection and processing of packaging waste.  

    The company’s goal is to build a long-lasting and solid cooperation with its customers and the Government. In total, eleven leading manufacturing companies in Macedonia are founders of the company.  In accordance with European regulations, minimizing the negative impact of packaging waste on the environment, promoting a responsible attitude towards the companies packaging waste are the main goals.

    picture1Pakomak is open to include all companies that have an obligation to manage their packaging waste and are aware of their social responsibility to provide a healthier environment. As a part of Pakomak, new member-companies have equal treatment as the founding companies.
    Since May 20th, 2011 Pakomak is the 34th national non-profit company that joins the international network of packaging waste management Pro Europe, and thus receives the license to use the symbol “Green Dot”. Green Dot is a financial symbol, which signifies that for the packaging that has this symbol a fee has been paid for handling the waste after its use. Additionally Pakomak is also active member of EXPRA international network of packaging waste management companies.

    Sustainability through social responsability

    picture4Pakomak is managing the packaging waste with the aim to minimize the negative impact of packaging waste on the environment and to promote more social responsibility for the companies toward packaging waste. In the system of Pakomak as members, there are a huge number of domestic and international companies, manufacturers and importers, who by selling of their products generate packaging waste.

    picture2Pakomak leaves moreover an impression of positive and socially responsible changes in the society. Social responsibility for Pakomak is business imperative. As a successful and modern company Pakomak has plans to impact on their customers, members and partners, the environment and the whole society, regarding social responsibility. Pakomak in social responsibility is looking as a strategic long-term goal, which is the ultimate goal of improving the overall quality of life in the environment, which is the main goal of the company.

     

     

    Increasing public awareness, Investment in infrastructures, Support in humanitarian projects

    Pakomak on the one hand continuously strives to invest in improving education and raising public awareness among the population regarding the benefits of recycling, and the other hand Pakomak continuously is investing in infrastructure for the collection of packaging waste with the ultimate aim of protecting the environment. It also supports humanitarian projects and develops a sense of solidarity and philanthropy in collaboration with the community.picture6

    As a company with the aim to raise general environmental awareness among citizens, especially the need for separate collection of packaging waste and its recycling, Pakomak´s goal is to connect the entire chain of successful waste collection, with high benefits for: nature, citizens and the whole country.

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  • Ideas that have potential to influence a million people or more

    The changing trends towards a sustainable market in the Tourist Industry – TourViaMe

    Montenegro – as one of our smallest and newest SIA countries – is getting more and more sensitive in the sphere of Social Business as markets change. The international travel industry i.e. shows a rise in social inclusions of regional projects. Enterprises connect with regional organizations to create “green” awareness, just like TourViaMe does. 

     

    Like every good travel company in the world, Tour Via Me wants to foster responsible and sustainable travel. Foundations like Planeterra.org and Intrepid Foundation are leading the change as they create new opportunities through social enterprise in travel all around the world: from supporting Peru Women’s Weaving Co-op, to giving jobs to street children in New Delhi, India. They aim to follow their example and help in developing travel social enterprises in Montenegro. “Together with SIA and other social entrepreneurship programs we are here to help, and we will always be more than happy to mentor you and help in bringing positive change to the community. “ says Bojan Ćinćur, one of the founders of Tour Via Me which is recognized as one of the first startups in Montenegro.

    Tour Via Me is a curated online marketplace for escorted tours. They sell escorted tours created and conducted by the world’s top notch tour operators through innovative UX design. They aggregate the best tours on the market, collect all relevant data about those tours, and present information in a simple and visually appealing way. Tour Via Me’s mission is to become a one-stop shop for group guided tours. They want the majority of the best group guided tours in the world to be found and bought on a single website, and to be the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they start thinking about finding and booking a tour.

    The guided tours market (multi-day guided group) is a 36 billion dollar market which is highly under-served in the online world. It has no good aggregators, or a marketplace that will help travelers in their quest to find their next tour. This market existed since the 1950’s and has been growing steadily over the years.

    At the moment, travelers are forced to search for these tours using Google and other search engines, only to find hundreds of tours scattered across many different websites (tour operators and smaller agencies) each of them providing a very different user experience, information density and service level. This makes the entire process very confusing and demanding time-wise, as people need to research every option not knowing if it will suit them and their needs.

     

    Tour Via Me organizes and structures all tour information so that consuming this information is very easy and fast. As a result, they have a unique data system that enables them to build the most advanced searching capabilities and to create the richest comparison engine in the tour industry. In addition, this allows them to implement sophisticated personal suggestion engine and additional user-oriented features. Coupled with reliable reviews, interactive map and rich media content, this allows users to easily find exactly what they are looking for and make an informed decision before booking their perfect tour.

  • Ideas that have potential to influence a million people or more

    First mover in Bosnia and Herzegovina – global supply on ecological woodwork by MS&Wood

    Trees are one of the most vital natural resources in the world, with tremendous benefits for supporting life. It has an irreplaceable role in the world ecology, as forests are nature’s lungs. There is not a species on the planet that does not owe its existence to trees.

    People have benefited from forests for thousands of years, utilizing this amazing resource for shelter, fuel, tools and even medicine, with more than 25% of all medicines used originating from rainforests. Wood is a natural, living material, which has both strength and elasticity. A tree’s species, origin and growth determine it’s technical capabilities. In the hands of an experienced master-craftsman, wood’s practical capability and aesthetic beauty is revealed.

    Latest research has shown immense health benefits to people who utilize natural wood furniture. There are indications that wood has curative properties and help with the recovery from illness, compared with those who live surrounded by synthetic materials. Only 1% of forests has been studied for medical properties, and yet every second we are losing a football-pitch size of this amazing resource.

    It is paramount that we all work towards sustaining this natural resource and ensure that future generations enjoy its vast benefits.

    The company MS & WOOD today supplies its products to Sweden’s IKEA and the example of furniture a high degree of added value. Its director Muhamed Pilav believes that the key to market success can be achieved by the quality of the product and that without it is not possible to go out into the world market.

    MS & WOOD is in metallurgy redirected to wood processing. Its http://img.archiexpo.com/images_ae/photo-g/149987-9640983.jpgproducts and furniture is present on all continents, and nearly 99% of production is exported to Japan, European and American market. Orientation is on production for export, because without rapid growth of production of goods and services for export, the recovery, which is considered Pilaf and vice president of the Association of the wood industry in BiH. Currently our neighbors give companies the empty halls free to use, and to purchase equipment grant in the amount of 50 – 60% of investment.

    Croatian Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 2015 under favorable conditions lend to the real sector of about two billion marks. Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia, Romania intensely provide grants and tax credits real sector. Germany subsidizes exporters costs of transport, energy, interest, and so on. Can we follow the competition from these countries, concludes Pilav.

    Masters and Wood (MS&WOOD) is a furniture manufacturer specializing in solid wood furniture, constructed out of a variety of species such as beech, ash, oak, and walnut.

    MS&WOOD prides itself on its environmental and ecological credentials with its Chain of Custody certificate from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). MS&WOOD’s manufacturing capability encompasses the entire production process from raw lumber processing, both traditional and modern machining capabilities to finishing, packaging and export. The capacity of MS&WOOD is vast with the ability to produce 500,000 chairs and 100,000 tables each year, with an aim of reaching an annual production of over 1 million units by 2020. A high profile partnership with the world-renowned company IKEA is a testament to MS&WOOD’s manufacturing capability and level of professionalism. This is further supported by the fact that MS&WOOD is the exclusive manufacturer for certain products for the IKEA range. MS&WOOD exports to every continent reaching over 40 countries worldwide.

  • Ideas that have potential to influence a million people or more

    Koala Phone makes a smartphone even smarter for challenged users

    Josef and Tomáš Slavíček founded the Koala Phone app – a simplified Android phone interface that elders and others can control easily. Koala Phone won a prize at the Social Impact Award in Prague in 2014 – now the app is available in 24 languages and has a huge potential to help millions to better communicate with their families and friends.

    Is it true that people over 65 are too technophobic to bother with those “newfangled contraptions?” The reality is that elders are using smartphones to communicate with their families and friends, and many more would use them if they were easier to handle.

    Two brothers from the Czech Republic, Josef and Tomáš Slavíček, decided to challenge the elder stereotype with hard research. They looked at some basic demographic data that showed a sizeable, growing market of elderly smartphone owners. As the population ages, it is becoming increasingly tech savvy and demand will rise steadily.

    Finding a balance between usability and functionality

    The brothers also found out that “seniors, like our own grandma, are frustrated when it comes to actually using touchscreen smartphones and their numerous features,” explains Josef. “Some find it difficult to see the small icons, text and buttons; others are confused by labels, unfamiliar terms overwhelming options and the complicated interface.”

    Up till recently, the answer was a “senior phone” – a push-button device with large buttons and readout. But it’s embarrassing for many elders to buy or own such a device – it makes them feel old and feeble – and they lack functionality that many elders want: alarms, notifications, calendar, camera and photo-sharing. However, 80% of people over 50 think their smartphones have more features than they would ever use. Users are often overwhelmed and just give up.

    A launcher is launched

    The brothers developed an App called Koala Phone. Josef describes it as “an Android launcher with an easy to read and operate interface. The users can manage their contacts and write texts, as well as access the camera, calendar, alarm and flashlight without leaving the Koala interface.” The alert sounds and ringtones are louder than usual and the “buttons” vibrate when pushed. It also provides a simpler, usable way to access only those external apps that the user needs.

    To date, the free 7-day trial of Koala Phone has been downloaded more than 10,000 times, leading to 1300 purchases at $6 each. But if a elder can’t first find the app available on GooglePlay, how can he or she download and install it? “We are forming partnerships to have Koala preinstalled on Android devices,” Josef reassures us, adding that they also actively market the App to the families of seniors.

  • Ideas that have potential to influence a million people or more

    The Re-Cycling Community

    Most citybike-services follow a unique template: fixed bike-stands to pick up and return your bicycle, provided by municipial authorities, sponsored by corporations. A Czech bicycle-sharing project leaves the trodden path and adds a strong sense of community to the mix.

    Project Rekola unsurprisingly has strong ties into the Czech green community. Its founder, Filip Ježek, is chairman of an organisation connected to the Green Party. Newly hired CEO Pavlina Pacáková has worked for Greenpeace and for the Czech Green Party. Vitek Ježek, the third founder, co-owns a software company called Mangoweb that provides the mobile app to access Rekola-bicycles.

    Speaking about Rekola, Pacáková never calls it a citybike-ring, but a bike-sharing-community. “The idea is based on an earlier bike-sharing-system in Suchdol – a small district of Prague. Unfortunately, the founders back then suffered a total loss due to vandalism. Rekola keeps the community-aspect, but adds intelligent software and bike-locks.”

    The bicycles are refurbished citybikes painted in a flamboyant pink design. “High school-students help out renovating the bikes or look after the bikes that are in the city for very little money.” In terms of organisation, Rekola operates as an NGO. The workshops are open to everyone, and while visitors are asked to contribute their bicycles to the system they do not have to.

    Getting started

    Rekola has used crowdfunding via the Czech platform hithit.com and raised 150.000 Czech crowns (about 4.500 euros). This sum was doubled by the Vodafone Foundation, which is in the Czech Republic running a programme Technology for Society. The foundation also enabled the founders to visit similar projects abroad and it keeps supporting the project in various ways.

    But also with such a strong backing, none of the founders would disagree that Rekola is still a work in progress. Last year, they even experimented with a kind of franchise-system.

    Work in progress

    “From April 2015, we will start what is our third testing-phase,” announces Pacáková. 100 Rekola-bikes will then be available in Prague, 50 more in Brno, 10 in Olomouc and 20 in Pardubice and Hradec Králové. “It is the first bike-sharing-system working without fixed stations and relying on a community rather than one company running the system. We already have more than 1.000 registered users. Some of them are not even cyclists, but simply wanted to support the idea.”

    Social Impact Award

    Winning the Social Impact Award changed two things for the team. “First, being acknowledged like that was a huge boost in motivation for us. Immediately, our vision became bolder, we started thinking more internationally. Why not go to Barcelona or other cities where there is no working bike-sharing-system in place?” she recalls.

    “Second: The positive feedback we received convinced us further that it is the community-aspect that is most important about Rekola. We will never let go of the community principle.”

    What would you say to others like you?

    “Everyone kept telling the Ježek-brothers that a bike-sharing-system like this would never work,” recalls Pavlina Pacáková. “But they refused to listen. Even now, we often face resistance, for example when we try to convince politicians to let us build more and safer bike-stands. After many ‘no’s’, we often get a ‘yes’. So my advice to social entrepreneurs is this: Never give up!”

  • Ideas that have potential to influence a million people or more

    Successful Business creating a Better Life for Others

    Blitab is a tablet-computer specially designed for blind and visually impaired people. Although it is not yet on the market, it has already attracted a lot of attention and won an impressive number of international awards.

    How to make the world a better place for some 285 million people? Take a display of small physical bubbles forming Braille alphabet, add to it a so-called Perkins keyboard, which is a keyboard specially designed for typing Braille. Stir innovative technology and and accessible design into the mix, and voila: You have the invented first tactile tablet-computer for blind and visually impaired people.

    Kristina Tsvetanova, Slavi Slavev and Stanislav Slavev, co-founders of Blitab, have done exactly that and met with huge success. Their idea was born in Bulgaria in 2012, and the founders moved to Austria to turn it into reality. The company was finally established in August 2014. Blitab, with its potential to bring mobile computing  and digital experience to a group of people that was until now excluded from that kind of modern communication, should go on sale in 2016. It is now in the prototyping phase.

    Among the awards and grants the project already won are not only the Social Impact Award, but also many other Austrian, European and even one Mexican Award. Among those who hailed Blitab are also the Austrian Social Ministry and aid foundations for the blind.

    Who is Blitab for?

    According to the World Health Organization, there are 285 million people on the planet who are blind or visually impaired. Blitab says that 150 million people use the Braille alphabet and are potential primary customers for Blitab. “And there are secondary customers as well”, states Tsvetanova. “Think of offices which have blind and visually impaired people coming in as customers. With Blitab, you can hand them sales material to read or contracts to go through. And of course there are companies that employ blind or visually impaired persons.”

    As Tsvetanova and Slavev are well aware, their product can help improve the lives of their customers immensely. But of course they also have business success in mind, or, as Tsvetanova put it: “We think of ourselves as a hybrid social company – we are convinced of the global social impact of Blitab, but we also do it because we see in it the next successful business starting from Austria.”