Two months ago, when I read the email with the schedule of the SE-Forum Accelerator program my first reaction was: “Wow, this is amazing!” The agenda was rich in activities, workshops and events. It even included a four days retreat devoted to teambuilding at Sigtunastiftelsen in Sigtuna, the oldest town of Sweden located just one hour from Stockholm. Thereafter, I saw that the start of the Accelerator program was in the morning of Easter Monday and that workshops and coaching sessions were scheduled regardless of holidays also on May 1st, Pentecostal day and the Swedish National day. The eight weeks suddenly appeared to be very intense and my expectations for the Accelerator became even higher!
Since then the time has flown very fast and a thousand blog posts would not be enough to describe the Accelerator program in its whole. The program has gone beyond my expectations!
Teambuilding was the highlight of the first days of the program in Sigtuna. To be honest, I have always been skeptical about teambuilding activities. Every time Jessica, Andrea, Christa or Marie, the competent and hard-working SE-Forum organizers, announced a teambuilding activity I rolled my eyes. However, my fellow entrepreneurs coming from different countries and cultures made it interesting, challenging and entertaining. By the end of the week I was not only looking forward to it but I felt part of a family with inspiring and like-minded siblings from Russia, Tanzania, Jordan, Uganda, Liberia and Nepal.
Once back to Stockholm, we were introduce to The Hub, a dynamic shared working space environment, where we had the opportunity to interact with many entrepreneurs. The Hub became our daily office. As an Italian, I was also delighted to discover a very good espresso machine in its kitchen! Its coffee was a key prerequisite to actively participate to the numerous workshops. With the hands-on approach of our qualified workshop leaders, we learnt about business modeling and planning, bootstrapping, grant proposal writing, fundraising, project management, impact evaluation matrices, pitching, branding, and web development. However, this was not all the SE-Forum had planned for us. They also gave us access to their tremendous network and an experienced mentor was assigned to each of us to complement the transfer of knowledge.
Now we are approaching the last week of the program and the tension before the final event and public presentation of our ventures is increasing. Differently from my fellow entrepreneurs, I am based in Stockholm, which implies that I do not feel the desire of “returning home”. However, I am experiencing very mixed feelings. During these eight weeks we have worked together almost everyday. We have shared happy and sad stories while frustration and stress were soothed by laughter and hugs. We are not anymore just fellow entrepreneurs, we are also friends that have to say goodbye to each other. Certainly, we will still keep in touch and plan to visit each other. Despite that, I will soon feel nostalgic when everybody has left. However, every end is the beginning of something new. During the SE-Forum Accelerator program, I have learnt a lot. Now it is time to work and to raise the potential of Social Venture Africa from a low scale initiative to a start-up NGO working in Ghana to address the lack of electricity and of clean drinking water by empowering women. I feel challenged and excited to work for a world where every woman is empowered to take her destiny in her own hands and where electricity and clean drinking water are available and affordable everyday to everyone.
By SE Outreach Social Entrepreneur – Cristiana Benedetti Fasil