Sweden is calling…
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
– African saying
I was selected out of 890 applicants to be among the eight participants who were to participate in SE Forum’s SE Outreach Accelerator in Stockholm, Sweden. As the plane lifts from Africa, you feel that you are leaving more than a continent, but also are leaving a state of mind. Whatever awaits you at the other end of your journey will be of different order of existence. Finally, after many hours of being in a plane, I arrived in Stockholm. Sweden is known as Mecca for technology start-ups and biotech in all of Europe and Stockholm is the most prolific tech hub in the world on per capita basis, behind Silicon Valley. The amount of economic growth driven by entrepreneurs is explosive. Sweden is also known as the most peaceful country in the world. Because of peace and tranquility, it gave birth to ‘Stockholm syndrome’ – a moment where you share Fika with your kidnappers and discuss peace.
My first encounter with the other seven exceptional social entrepreneurs took place at Norrsken House, a co-working space which helps to discover interesting and new Swedish start-ups, whilst also providing a place to connect with fellow entrepreneurs. The program was conducted by Fiona Hazell, SE Forum’s Program Director, and all entrepreneurs started off by pitching and then meeting our mentors, a group of leading individuals that make up the start-up ecosystem across Sweden.
We travelled to Sigtuna for our second day of training. Sigtuna is the oldest town in Sweden, once a capital city of the Swedish Kingdom, and a legacy from the Viking Age. It is a town filled with a cozy atmosphere that makes it ideal for writers and if William Shakespeare had stayed in Sigtuna, I believe there would have been a sequel to Romeo and Juliet.
Lena Ramfelt, our lead trainer, started with a session on understanding our customers, with a big emphasis for us entrepreneurs to listen to our customers. She always ends her sessions by saying that your customers’ stories become your stories. As for me, she provided me with a deep insight on understanding the difference between the customer, the end user, and the beneficiaries.
After three days of intensive training in Sigtuna, we headed back to Stockholm and for the following two weeks our training was comprised of different trainers, including Impact Measurement by Pernilla Bard, and Ruth Brannvall helping me to understand basic finances like cash flow. My life changing moment was when visiting IKEA seeing how they deliver delights to their customers.
My light bulb moment came when I had a one-to-one with Lena Ramfelt as she did a deep dive into my social enterprise. From our discussion, I have managed to set up goals for the next four months: focussing on the solar charger as the main product, discussing distribution channels with hardware stores, structuring the company and defining roles, and spending time with customers. Lena reminds me of Phil Jackson (former coach of Chicago Bulls) and he said that: “The most we can hope for is to create the best possible conditions for success, then let go of the outcome”.
This blog post was written by Tendekayi Katsiga, a participant of SE Outreach Accelerator 2017. To find out more about him and his business, read his profile here.