Grow It Yourself, The Fumbally Exchange, Camara and Hireland have quite a lot of things in common: they all are Social Enterprises, all are supported by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland…and all came to talk to us in the Helix for the third conference “Get Started”! I can’t wait to tell you more about the best conference so far, but: first things first
In line with everyone expectations the conference was opened by Dr Theo Lynn. The conference mainly consisted of Entrepreneurs sharing their stories and advice with us, Social Entrepreneurs in the first half and Commercial Entrepreneurs in the second one. Being an Entrepreneur himself (The founded a number of companies incl. Enki Information Systems, Educational Multimedia Group and Atomic), he said: “The majority of Start-Ups fail because Entrepreneurs run out of energy, not because of bad Business Ideas!”
Seán Coughlan, CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland guided us through the first half of the conference, consisting of the four most important steps for Start-Ups, focusing on Social Entrepreneurs: the right time to start, get going, building the team and getting the message out there.
That was when I asked myself what exactly social Entrepreneurship was. Darren Ryan explained that pretty well: It’s Making a Profit and Changing the World. With Entrepreneurship there is always one road leading to Value, but for social entrepreneurs there is a complicated and long journey towards to get to profit and impact.
So in case any of you want to start their own business: deciding whether commercial or social entrepreneurship or setting up a charity is not the first step. Darren’s advice is to first look at the core of your idea, at the difference you want to make and then choose the right vehicle for your journey.
Michael Kelly, Founder of Grow It Yourself (GIY), told us his story. I think that all those entrepreneurs telling us their very own stories made this conference very interesting. Michael for example had had a job in the IT branch and had later been working as a journalist, before one simple garlic from China made him come up with his business idea: he wanted to encourage people to grow more themselves, so something like garlic does not have to be shipped around the globe. Actually garlic from China contains more selenium than any other garlic and therefore is healthier, but that didn’t have any impact on Michaels plan: He set up a network, which has now groups in 32 countries. For a long time Michael was working on GIY and as a journalist simultaneously, until the right time to start had come, and GIY took over his life. According to him, you should ask yourself these questions in order to find out if it is the right time now:
- Are you sure there is demand for the product/service? Do you have evidence of that?
- Can you pay your bills?
- Do you have what it takes to pull it off? If you don’t have the talent and skills, hook up with someone who does!
- Do you have a support network? (Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, family, other entrepreneurs…)
- Are you willing to dedicate your life to it?
- What does your gut say?
But his most important advice: Do not, not, not die with your music still inside you!
was the title of George Boyle’s talk. She also shared her story with us, told us that she was not lucky enough to wait for the right time to come but had to do something when unexpectedly losing her job when her employer liquidated and she was holding a baby in her arms. So George founded The Fumbally Exchange.
- Impulse: realising that you should do something, having the idea and then setting up a plan
- Freedom: look at the space-time-continuum: Some people manage to fly, but chances are high of falling
- Guilt: fear, seeing the competition and doubting yourself
- Personal Responsibility: you create your own destiny
- Forgiveness: forgive yourself, in hell no one can hear you dream
- Permission: give yourself permission to dream
- Style: know when to quit
With a presentation based on pictures and George speaking very fast, I found it hard to remember what she said. I guess the others in the auditorium had similar troubles as the only picture that aroused any reaction was one showing the Pope who had resigned the previous day.
Building The Team
John Fitzsimons is CEO, but not founder of Camara. Nonetheless he made an interesting speech about the importance of having the right team. “Lone heroes with good ideas only succeed in the movies” (investor Bill Liao) so it doesn’t make any sense just to focus on the product, you have to focus on the people. There are three key qualities that the team should have:
- Beliefs: The beliefs of the organisation and the individual have to match
- Brands: When designing the brand and logo, do not only consider customers but also potential employees.
- Passion: Your team needs passion, belief and skill alone is not enough. Do what you love, love what you do! If you want to find investors, passion matters more than the idea itself, says investor Frank Walsh.
A model for a really good, but not perfect, team for him obviously was Leinster Rugby.
How are you getting the message out there?
What I remember best of Lucy Masterson’s part is that you have to tell a story that can spread. I think this is because I realized how important that is after the conference: I had indeed liked those speakers best, who shared their story with us, that’s what made this afternoon remarkable for me. So here are the 7 steps to make your voice heard
- Marketing: Tell a story that can be spread.
- Keep it simple: People have 50 different things in their head, and keeping it simple has prominent successful examples: Just do it, Yes we can,…
- Break the rules: No, not the law, but challenge the status quo!
- Start a movement: people want to be part of something: 1 Billion rising has been a true success
- Embrace evolving technology: There is no way you can get your message out there without being part of the online conversation.
- SoLoMo: Be Social, Local, Mobile.
- Be Bold: Fortune favours the bold. In her own story that meant continuously annoying people to sponsor Hireland.ie, as she is the founder of it. All people can do is say “no”, but if you never ask, it’s impossible to ever get what you need!
The end of the first part was a panel with the previous speakers. Generally I think it is a great opportunity to ask questions, but I didn’t particularly like the Panels during all conferences. I got the impression that sometimes the speakers don’t understand what the question actually is and then they are taking a long time because everyone practically says the same but has to say something even if there is nothing more to say.
What I took down beside the quote “just do it, never let anyone tell you that you can’t, you can become everything you want” which we’ve now heard at least a hundred times during those five conferences, was that there is also a project of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland specially designed for young people: Wave Change.
John told us about his experience of being a co-founder and founder in four companies. I liked hearing his story, and it was extraordinary how he always stood up after failure. It was zero to hero to zero to hero and so on, but he always followed his principle: “A small deed accomplished is better than a bid deed imagined”
This panel was about raising money. We were told about excellent possibilities to get money for Start-ups: UStart, Ryan Academy, 30/60 Seed Accelerator Fund
Conor has been talking to us before, but this time it was all about his own story. From the first idea that seemed ridiculous, then creating apps as a hobby and finally, years later setting up his own business with his best friend, starting Redwind Software.
He confirmed what we had heard in the first half of the conference: starting your own business should be fun, rewarding, doing something you are passionate about. He also highlighted the importance of a network.
I disliked this last panel, maybe it was because I missed a golden thread. It is great that DCU could encourage so many Entrepreneurs to come and speak to us, but the only person that made a lasting impression was Paddy O’Connell, and I think it was, again, because he told us his story and mainly because he had brought some of his PaddyO’s Granola bars.
I think we were all pretty tired when the last speaker Gerry entered the stage.
Nonetheless, he got all my attention. At first I was somehow confused why he didn’t focus his own start-up, but I realized that he did something much more important: he was a motivational speaker. While I was tired of everyone telling us “You can do it, don’t let anybody tell you something else!” he told us how to approach that. His four key strategies are: Think Time and Fitness and Surrounding yourself with great people and Mindset.
Last but not least some advice which I think is what DICE is all about and it’s also the key point of a book that was recommended: ENTREPRENEURSHIP CAN BE LEARNED, it’s not something in your DNA that you either have or haven’t!
Further reading and videos
- Overview and more background information http://getstarted.marketinglab.ie/
- What is social Entrepreneurship ? http://www.pbs.org/opb/thenewheroes/whatis/
- Social Entrepreneurs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=275iq2CLVyw
- Social Entrepreneurs Ireland http://socialentrepreneurs.ie/
- Top 30 under 30 Social Entrepreneurs including James Whelton with his program in Ireland ConderDojo (also working with Social Entrepreneurs Ireland) http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2012/30-under-30/30-under-30_social.html
- Spreading your story: How the Harlem Shake spreads all over the world http://ibnlive.in.com/news/viral-harlem-shake-challenges-gangnam-style-on-online-dance-floors/373550-77.html
- Spreading your story: 1 Billion rising http://www.onebillionrising.org/livestream
- Irishtimes on finding investors: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/finance/2013/0204/1224329599546.html
- Grow It Yourself: http://www.giyireland.com/
- The Fumbally Exchange: http://www.fumballyexchange.com/
- Camara: http://camara.org/
- Hireland.ie: http://www.hireland.ie/about/
- Redwind Software : http://redwindsoftware.com/