Startup Camp Social Entrepreneurship

How to be a CHANGER

The word of the day was 'change'. Over 50 successful and aspiring social entrepreneurs gathered in a small classroom at Humbolt Universitaet zu Berlin on March 14, 2015 to discuss what it means to run a successful social business and to illuminate the benefits of being a social entrepreneur. 

The idea all started around November of 2014 when the team of the Entrepreneurs Club Berlin and the Bundesverband Deutsche Startups gathered together to discuss the various focus tracks that would be held at the annual Startup Camp Berlin. Hosting more than 1000 participants and 180 speakers, the Startup Camp is the largest early stage startup event in Berlin. This year preliminary focus camps included the usual Startup jargon such as FinTech, SaaS, Growth, Fundraising, Marketing, HR, etc., but as an aspiring social entrepreneur myself, I felt like there was something missing. What about businesses aimed at doing good and making a difference?

Though the idea of having a social entrepreneurship camp was initally met with some resistance, eventually a motivated co-curator was found in Nils Dreyer of Hilfswerft, and the camp was given a green light. Thus, with Nils as my partner, we began a few months worth of contacting the most innovative and successful social entrepreneurs in Berlin and beyond -- including speakers from, the BMW-stiftung, Ashoka Germany and Hilfswerft, as well as workshops held by up and coming social entrepreneurs such as Philip Siefer from Einhorn and Victoria Peter from MakeSense. The camp was an absolute success and helped to create a new network of social entrepreneurs in Berlin -- finally creating a connection to the greater startup scene. Our work is only just beginning, but it was such an excellent platform to invite so many thoughtful changers.

Some of the world heritage studies ladies who volunteered and participated in the social entrepreneurship camp enjoying some well-deserved cake.

Jeannette Gusko from talking about how businesses can be a force for good.

Perhaps one of the best lessons learned given from Naomi Ryland of

How can you get involved?

So how does one become a social entrepreneur? It's easy. Are you an avid recycler? Do you bike instead of drive when possible? Do you prefer hiking rather than going shopping for stuff you don't need? Do you have a garden and try to buy locally grown and produced organic foods and goods? Then you're already a changer.

Aside from your daily life choices, if you want to feel like your work has an impact beyond just the normal 9-5 work day, and you have a passion for volunteering for good causes and helping people, you're already on your way to becoming a social entrepreneur. The easiest step is getting involved and networking with people who have already created their own businesses and are making huge steps toward becoming social changers. Check out the girls from Ruby Cup, for example. With one simple invention, they are fundamentally changing the lives of girls in Africa. Similar to the Toms shoes campaign, for every ruby cup you purchase, one is donated to a girl in Africa. How could you not love it?!

Obstacles for Social Entrepreneurship

Social change is easy, but getting people on board with the concept of social businesses and entrepreneurship is still an obstacle. For some reason, funding for social projects is always an issue, which is why social businesses have turned to regular people instead of Business Angles or VCs to contribute to and support their projects through crowdfunding platforms such as KickStarter, Indiegogo, Startnext, or the up and coming platform for eco / sustainability concepts Ecocrowd. It's all about finding other individuals who are just as passionate about your disruptive idea as you are. 

Keep an eye out in the coming week for my top suggestions of social businesses to keep an eye on and tips in getting involved in social entrepreneurship -- especially in Berlin!

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