Three Great Insights for Building a Great Eco Enterprise: Lessons Learnt from UNLEASH LAB 2017, Denmark
A few weeks ago, some participants from our SEED Starter and SEED Replicator Programmes joined the UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017* in Denmark, where they had the opportunity to work on their business ideas in order to create scalable solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals.
Back in Ghana, Jackson shares the lessons he took home from this event.
(*In August 2017, the inaugural UNLEASH event was held when talents from all over the world came to Denmark for nine days to create real, scalable solutions to the Sustainable Development Goals.)
Where I come from, we have a popular maxim that is transliterated as “Travel and See.” Funny as it sounds, it is a powerful maxim used to admonish people whose thoughts and actions suggest that they may be overly fixated only on their own ideas, not willing to accept differences. I was moved to reflect on the indispensable truth of this maxim, when my friends and I waited at the Dubai International Airport as we made a layover on our return from Copenhagen to Accra, Ghana, after our twelve-day visit to Denmark – for the UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2017 in Denmark, on 12-22 August.
The Three Great Lessons I Learnt
I had the opportunity to experience and learn from the rapid development of Denmark and their keen interest in sustainability in all sectors, as well as learnt some great lessons for building during our solution co-creation process – which I believe will help every entrepreneur – as I share in the following three greatest insights I received for building my business:
1. Redefine the Problem
One of the important stages within the UNLEASH co-creation process was the “Problem framing” stage. This is very important because it precedes the solution creation, and thus have much influence on the time spent, sustainability and everything else about the intervention you develop. So I learnt that it is not enough to identify a problem to be solved, you must go the extra mile to gather insights into this problem, and then redefine the problem. I am proud to say that, two of my insights that were refined at the SAG-SEED Starter Workshop were selected by UNLEASH for the problem framing session and the waste subtheme of SPC.
I learnt that to make a very touching case for your problem, you must review insights shared by other entrepreneurs in your field, and find out for gaps in the solutions others are offering. The quote below from one of the important personalities that grace the occasion for the final night in Denmark, confirms the essence for redefining the problem and even redefining further before moving on to creating a solution.
“When you find a problem statement and don't have the expertise, resources to solve, just take a lot of time studying more about the problem. Once you've got the clarity of the problem the rest follows systematically.”
-- Ashton Kutcher, Hollywood Actor, Investor and Social Entrepreneur
2. Make Your Enterprise a Personal Investment
Our mentor, Professor Andre Calmon, Assistant Professor of Technology and Operations Management at INSEAD, shared with us three (3) lessons to help us refine our pitch deck. Prof Andre Calmon’s lessons are as follow:
- Know your business down to the lowest unit: this is how he put it; “You must know your business such that you can tell where every dollar invested is going.” This will require that you get involved in the building process of the enterprise yourself, play an active role in every aspect of it and understand everything that happens in it.
- Develop a personal story to your vision: you should be able to find and tell a personal motivation for why you are passionate about the cause for which your enterprise exists. This will not only draw to you people who share the same story but also serve as your drive to keep going when the odds start to happen.
- Build a personal relationship with your investors and founders: try to make your investors see you as a buddy and not a debtor. Often, people invest in you the entrepreneur before your business itself. In order to make your investors your business buddies, you must communicate regularly with them and furnish them with as much information as possible about the business.
3. Have a Global Perspective
Today, every development initiative, whether at the community, the national or regional level is about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. And except you are only building a business to make a profit, any social impact venture like an eco-enterprise will also be faced with the question: which of the 17 SDGs are you concerned with?
Three (3) quick lessons I learnt from an active ambassador for the SDGs on how social entrepreneurs can help reach the SDGs: (a) Resilience – show up and keep showing up until you make impact (b) Accountability – hold everyone around you including yourself accountable for their roles in making the world a better place, and (c) Use of localized solutions – ones that solve the problems in your society first after all.
It is, therefore, true that when you read you learn many new things but it is also true that just travelling alone also teaches you many new things from the experience you get. And this how I got to learn these three great insights to build my eco-enterprise, EcoCare (read about the EcoCare waste reduction initiative here). SEED gave my team some tools for developing our business idea when we got selected into the SAG-SEED Starter month in 2016. After participating in the SEED Workshop and the UNLEASH Innovation Lab I feel really empowered to build my own eco-inclusive enterprise.
SEED is a talent partner of UNLEASH 2017.