Families have a huge influence on character and moral values, so it’s no surprise that many of the Chivas Venture finalists feel that theirs were instrumental in shaping their journey into social entrepreneurship.
From a spouse that inspired a sustainable path to a child that influenced the legacy one chose to leave behind, this year’s competition is very much a family affair.
“At the risk of sounding clichéd, my family inspires me,” says Judith Joan Walker, who founded African Clean Energy with her father and brother. “We’ve always been raised to see not just opportunity, but opportunities to do good and pursue what you believe in... When we see something wrong our instinct is to fix it, even if others don’t always believe it’s possible.”
In a similar vein to the Netherlands-based startup, Katharine Budd who founded NOW Money, explains how coming from a long line of entrepreneurs made her subsequent foray into the world of social enterprise, rather inevitable.
“Every member of my family runs a business of some sort,” Katherine said. “Training racehorses, headhunting, asparagus production and legal practice to name but a few. So you could say entrepreneurship is in my blood.”
Fraternal bonds can be so strong that some decide to embark on the entrepreneurial adventure together. For the founders of Livre, twin brothers Júlio and Lúcio, and for Marios-Ermis and Dimitrios Petrotos of Laddroller, these enduring brotherly bonds have resulted in two new dimensions for wheelchair users.
Perhaps unsurprisingly parental guidance is a common theme that unites many of this year’s finalists. Tricia Compas-Markman of DayOne Response credits her mother for showing her how to immerse herself in different cultures; an important skill for many social entrepreneurs.
Tricia explains: “My hero is my mum. She faced a challenge of integrating our family in a totally new world when we moved to South Korea. She didn’t just help us settle but rather embraced the new challenge by learning the language and making it home. Her resiliency and compassion have been great examples for me in working with different people, cultures, and viewpoints.”
Leading by example is the duty of every great social entrepreneur. For the founder of SoWat, the example his parents set in the field became a catalyst for his subsequent fight against global economic water shortages.
“My parents were wonderful doctors who dedicated their lives to saving people, and my partner, Dr Pierre Huet, worked for Doctors Without Borders in Cambodia in the late 1970s,” Khaled Al Mezayen said. “They inspired me, and I wish to be as inspiring for future generations as they were to me.”
Sometimes the hardships faced by family members can lead entrepreneurs to look for innovative solutions to help alleviate the burden. Son Preminger of Intendu, and Ernesto Rodriguez-Leal of WeaRobot, were both deeply affected by circumstances that befell their respective fathers; Son’s suffered a brain injury while Ernesto’s father experienced severe mobility loss. The costly and impractical nature of their respective rehabilitations awoke game-changing concepts in their different fields.
Families are not the only factor that shape the personality of a social entrepreneur but for Liang Wu, founder of Green City Solutions, the origins of his certainly opened his eyes to the problem he wanted to solve.
“I was born in Shanghai but grew up in Germany,” He explained. “I only realised the bad conditions they had been living in after spending some months in China for an internship. I was suffering from asthma within two months and now wear a mask whenever I travel there. It was surprising when we discovered how many cities worldwide are also fighting air pollution and how many people are affected. So my family and all the people suffering from polluted air are the ones who inspired me to become a social entrepreneur.”
When we talk about the influence of family, it’s not just parents or siblings. Loved ones can also have a strong influence.
“My wife and I-Drop Water’s co-founder, Kate Thiers, is the reason I’m a social entrepreneur,” James Steere said. “We met at business school, and while I ended up in corporate life, she committed hers to a non-profit organization improving rural healthcare in Africa. Together we developed the business that addresses the social needs of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Her ability to honestly and sincerely combine business with a social mission is what inspires me.”
Parenthood can also spark a desire to leave a positive legacy and find sustainable solutions for the next generation. Robin Jun Lu explains his motivation behind First Respond : “When my first daughter was born I realised the environment she would be raised in was unsafe. I became interested in basic life-saving skills and began seeking solutions to keep my children safe, and prepared for emergencies they might encounter.”
Likewise, Nuno Oliveira, founder of Sun Concept, says that his children made him see the world differently. “My entire career has been geared towards nature conservation and sustainable management, but when I had my kids the social side became clearer. I had to not just leave a better planet for my little ones, but also help them become people who will be part of a pro-active, change-oriented society.”
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