• Freshys – A Healthy, Social Food Take-out Restaurant

    Freshys is a healthy food take-out restaurant, opened in Skopje in January 2016. They offer salads, cold sandwiches, smoothies, and desserts. One-third of their profits goes directly to food donations for homeless and socially disadvantaged people. They also offer a 15% discount for all young people aged 10 to 24. People who use their own plates and cups get 10% off, encouraging the reduction of plastic waste. We talked to the founder, Ljubomir Stojcheski about their beginnings and experience with SIA.

    This is the fourth article of our blog series on the topic of how SIA and social entrepreneurship change people’s lives. Read more about our Impact fields in 2019

    Why did you start this business and what are your future plans?

    Five years ago I joined an informal group called “Retweet A Meal“ where volunteers gather every Friday to cook for the homeless. In Skopje, about 500 people are homeless. Some receive food in public kitchens, but many are not registered and can’t access this support. Moreover, I was looking for inspiration for my thesis. I learned about social entrepreneurship and wanted to write a study. It all came down to my decision to open a restaurant that would not only create direct help through donations. It should also provoke the whole community to think about the food insecurity problem. As soon as we opened the restaurant we started with food donations. We are helping 200 people on a weekly basis, most of them homeless. We cook the food with the group “Retweet A Meal”, and donate desserts and fruits to provide a complete meal. We plan to open another location in the next year and take it from there. Our expansion in the catering business could be the next big step.

    Ljubomir Stojchevski, founder of the Freshys

    How did SIA support you on this journey?

    I found out about SIA in April 2016 and decided to participate. And we won! However, money was not the driver. The whole incubation and meeting peers [process] was the true asset. SIA creates a culture of support and not fierce competition. Right from the beginning, SIA is your backup. To this day I am still good friends with some of them. 

    Fresh food in Freshys

    You also mentored SIA finalists from the Western Balkans at the regional incubation bootcamp in Skopje, a regional gathering supported by Erste Foundation and Western Balkans Fund. Why are these regional events important?

    I was excited about the bootcamp, as it was the first regional cooperation within SIA. At the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, it is important to have a wider, cross-border perspective. Western Balkan countries are such small markets and we should aim to reach them all with our business. I tried opening this perspective for finalists and sharing my knowledge and experience. Moreover, it was a gathering of people exchanging knowledge and ideas. Everyone was learning from each other. 

    Enjoy learning more about Social Impact Award community in our Global Impact Report 2019.

  • Founding An Inclusive Co-working Space For Mothers

    Assel Abylay is SIA Winner 2018 from Kazakhstan. She has a project aimed at creating more job and development opportunities form women. We asked her about her enterprise and the role of SIA in its development. 

    This is the third article of our blog series on the topic of how SIA and social entrepreneurship change people’s lives. Read more about our Impact fields in 2019

    Assel Abylay, founder of the Mom in Office

    What is Mom in Office? Why did you decide to start this business?

    Mom in Office is an inclusive co-working space for mothers, offering training and employment since 2018. As a mother of three, I myself needed to work and support the family. My eldest daughter was diagnosed with diabetes. When you have to take care of your children – or even elderly – your earnings are lower, as you need to devote time to such care. I wanted to solve this. That is why I organize courses for mothers on social media management, copywriting, marketing, photo and video-making and editing. After graduation, they are equipped to work wherever they have the Internet. These kinds of freelance jobs allow mothers to work hours that work for them. In the office space, we also have a playground and babysitters to support women who cannot separate from their children.

    How many women shape your community?

    Our trainings range from 3 to 20 women. We also offer online courses where women from other cities and countries can join. Our team consists of five employees, and many more are hired for specific projects. So far we have reached more than 10,000 women through the training. Some are still working with us, some have found their own jobs. However, with a population of about 18.6 million in Kazakhstan, we aim to reach much more in the future.

    Kid’s space at the Mom on Office

    What are your future plans?

    We started organizing courses for kids, to make the best use of our shared time. We are also starting to work as a social media marketing agency. Currently, we consult on 12 projects from three cities in Kazakhstan. We work with our graduated team, supporting businesses with their social media presence, content production, and advertising.

    You got incubated with SIA Kazakhstan in 2018. How did it shape you?

    Without SIA, my business wouldn’t exist! My initial business model was very faulty. I had very high costs for hiring and was still testing different services for mothers. SIA helped me figure out my business model. I learned about different models of hiring freelancers. The mentoring showed me that courses, like social media management, have a bigger return on investment to make my business more sustainable. This made all the difference! We are still connected with our mentor and with the program hosts from SIA Kazakhstan. They invite us to events within their popular co-working space for social entrepreneurship. I can always reach out for their support.

    Enjoy learning more about Social Impact Award community in our Global Impact Report 2019.

  • Going Big In Romania

    Corina Angelescu and Andreea Nedu are part of the SIA Romania team. We asked them about their work and how is social entrepreneurship developing in Romania, and here’s what they have shared. 

    This is the second article of our blog series on the topic of how SIA and social entrepreneurship change people’s lives. Read more about our Impact fields in 2019

    SIA Romania team

    Already in 2012, Romania joined the SIA family. How has awareness about social entrepreneurship changed among Romanian youth?

    Corina: Awareness of young people about the topic is growing, but slowly. Every year, whenever we go to universities or high schools, the conversation is the same. Youth needs to understand better what social entrepreneurship is, in order to decide if this is the boat they would like to jump on. However, there is a larger potential. I meet many young people who feel the need to do meaningful work. When they discover social entrepreneurship, it clicks well with these values.

    When it comes to entrepreneurs, support programs, and companies that want to invest, there is definitely growth. There are more incubators supporting social entrepreneurs and more awareness-raising programs, although not necessarily for youth. 

    SIA Romania puts a lot of effort into reaching the youth nationwide. In 2019, you’ve organized over 25 events and workshops for more than 900 people in 10 cities all over Romania. Why do you do this?

    Corina: The most important reason is adding options to their potential careers. We help them see a broader perspective than they are used to in schools. There are also very few programs that reach out nationally on important topics for the local communities. Wherever we go we ask youth about their communities‘ issues and how to fix them. We encourage initiatives locally which is really important.

    What makes young people reach an a-ha moment when learning about social entrepreneurship?

    Andrea: What works best are examples. At every presentation, we show them the real people who build social enterprises. They realize it‘s possible. Showing examples or meeting entrepreneurs in person and engaging in discussions – young people can easily relate to that.

    What are your ambitions for 2020?

    Andrea: We want as many youngsters as possible to really understand social entrepreneurship. In the past years, we have positioned SIA Romania as a tool for exactly that. We have also built a great group of supporters all around the country. In the next years, we will push further and implement our ideas to make this happen.

    Enjoy learning more about Social Impact Award community in our Global Impact Report 2019.

  • Big Changes Start With Small Ideas

    Because 2017 is coming to an end, it’s time to look back at what the 6th edition of Social Impact Award in Romania meant this year: bold ideas, young people willing to make a personal contribution to the society, dozens of experts and partners who actively contributed to promoting social entrepreneurship in Romania and a great deal of potential for the development of this segment among young Romanian people.

    The Social Entrepreneurship Ecosystem in Romania

    According to the Youth Speak study conducted by AIESEC Romania on a sample of about 4,000 young people, one of the main motivations of the Millennials is to have a greater goal in life. 21% of these young people want to be paid to work in their ideal jobs. 19% want to work in a startup, and 6% of them want to work in a social business.

    At European level, statistics are similar. According to a study conducted by the Trendence Institute, more than 60% of business students feel more motivated about making a positive contribution to society, rather than only earning money through their businesses. And more and more young people want to create their own jobs.

    When we put together the desire of young people to have an impact and their need to become entrepreneurs, we come to the essential motivation of a social entrepreneur. Given that the problems facing Romania are increasingly complex, we need a generation of young people who dare to build innovative, long-term solutions that combine social impact and financial prosperity.

    This is the main reason why we invest year after year in developing the educational program and the Social Impact Award competition in Romania: for more young people to be aware that they have this opportunity and to be inspired by the examples that already exist in Romania and abroad. And because we want to encourage as much as possible a collaborative spirit among those who are already part of the larger community of social innovators in Romania.

    Raising Awareness and Inspiring Future Social Entrepreneurs

    After six editions of the Social Impact Award, we realized that we still have a lot to build so that more young people in Romania can understand what social entrepreneurship is and how they can embrace this opportunity for professional development.

    Between February and May this year we organized 16 workshops on social entrepreneurship in 8 cities in Romania. Over 350 high schoolers, students and young professionals took part in these experiences, generating ideas and solutions or turning ideas into social business models. In each city we invited examples of local social entrepreneurs, in order to provide an inspirational and pragmatic perspective for our participants.

    At the end of this period, 82% of respondents to our Impact Assessment Questionnaire said they had improved their understanding of social entrepreneurship, and 75% found their motivation to become social entrepreneurs. For the 2018 edition we are preparing to add another 4 cities to our educational program, so that we bring the Social Impact Award know-how and inspiration to areas in Romania where there are fewer opportunities.

    Building a Community of Young Social Entrepreneurs

    Beyond the educational program, this year we also focused on developing an active community of young people who want to become social entrepreneurs. Of the 56 teams enrolled in the competition, the Social Impact Award jury selected 17 for the incubation program that took place between June and September.

    Together with the 17 initiatives we have learned how to build a collaborative learning community. Through all the interactions with mentors, experts and social entrepreneurs, the incubation program helped the finalists to improve their knowledge and skills. Also, we focused on creating a sense of belonging, in order to strengthen long-term relationships between our finalists.

    Two of the elements we have monitored during the incubation period were the motivation of our finalists and their ability to carry on with their projects after the end of this SIA edition. After completing the program, 75% of finalists claim to be more motivated to work in a social business, and 83% feel they have a better prepared team to continue implementing their idea with.

    SIA Romania’s Super-Power: Collaboration

    It is said that “It takes a village to raise a child”. After this Social Impact Award edition, we can also say that “It takes a village to raise a social entrepreneur”. Our efforts to form a generation of young social entrepreneurs in Romania would have been far from attained if we had not had a whole ecosystem of people and organizations near us.

    Collaboration can start from many angles. For us, it was about meeting with people who think equally strong about the purpose of Social Impact Award, and about all the people who contributed to building this year’s experience. They are the main partners of SIA Romania – Enel, BCR, Rompetrol, Ernst & Young and Redbull Amaphiko -, the 9 members of the jury, the experts and mentors involved in the incubation program, the local partners with whom we implemented the workshops in the 8 cities, the social entrepreneurs who joined us at different stages of the program, the volunteers and, last but not least, the SIA 2017 team. The full list of SIA 2017 partners and supporters can be found here.

    We are all needed in the quest to develop the next generation of young social entrepreneurs in Romania. Through consistent and authentic collaboration, we want to actively maintain the ecosystem created around SIA Romania and to take this spirit further for another great SIA edition in 2018.

  • Be unique, be modern, be social!

    Why does entrepreneurship have a potential to improve the economic development in Albania? Why is SIA a good opportunity for the young generation? All the answers in the following lines.

    Despite economic improvements in recent years,  Albania is faced with many social challenges and large disparities. Poverty and unemployment remain very high leaving marginalized groups, especially youth people and women severely disadvantaged. In Albania, where more 1/3 of population are younger than 30 years old, youth unemployment remains a significant challenge. Private sector remains still fragile in Albania, while public reforms have not yet been able to cope with the increasing unemployment situation. As a result, especially the young generation continues to seek opportunities abroad, mostly through illegal emigration, instead of aspiring towards entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has a potential to drive employment and economic development in Albania.

    What keeps social entrepreneurs in developing countries from growing their ventures? Around the world social entrepreneurs are creating innovative businesses that reduce poverty and improve the lives of their customers. These pioneers often encounter many hurdles along the way that make growing a social business a significant challenge.

    In the last decade the world has made great progress in helping people move out of poverty. However, the current economic system has also created inequality and caused tremendous harm to our planet. It is time to re-think the status quo and our economic model. We need to redefine the system so it works the other way around — solving social problems and creating a more fair society for all humans. Whenever we want to solve the problem of poverty, we have to address the root cause. 

    That is where the concept of social business comes in. A social business is a problem solving business. Social business allows people to focus their creativity on solving human problems with business means rather than maximizing profits. In charity, money goes out and never comes back. In social business, the money goes out, does its good work and comes back. One time use versus unlimited use of money; that’s the whole idea of social business. That way social business is a powerful tool to get people out of poverty and close the wealth-gap.  

    Albania is a small country in Balkan area, post-communist, with major economic and social changes. In the communist system the creation of a private business was not conceived  and even the  property was public. All administered by the public administration. After the 90s, the whole situation changed and the free trade created an experiment for the private business. Every year has brought changes by creating stable businesses as a developing country with positive opportunities to move forward.

    Why is SIA a good opportunity for the young generation?

    • Business ideas coming from the passions of young people.

    • Business ideas supported by SIA solve problems in society. It is about identifying needs in society, and not just to sell products and generate revenues.

    • Access to a social impact differentiates businesses from others by bringing a European example with the highest standards.

    • Advanced business models intertwined with innovative social ideas make you competitive in the market.

    So, what are you waiting for? Join SIA! Be unique, be modern, be social!