How Social Business Hub Styria is developing the next generation of social entrepreneurs
ocial Business Hub Styria is a social business incubator and network providing support for entrepreneurs working to solve social challenges. The organization aims to develop, promote and support social innovations, inspire and advise founders, build networks and disseminate expertise, all working towards a fair and sustainable society.
Social entrepreneurs often seek to provide more effective solutions to the challenges facing society at lower costs. “We support enterprises that are mission driven, whether this is social innovation or green projects. This is our differentiator with regular startup centers,” says Kirsten Tangemann of the Social Business Hub Styria. The origins of this facility are a social business club founded in 2013, with the incubator added as an effort to grow the community. To help the transfer of bright ideas and bright people into this sector, the center is located in a building connected with the University of Graz. “We want to help develop the next generation of social entrepreneurs, and we work together with them to offer early-stage support,” says Kirsten.
As well as office space, Social Business Hub Styria offers one-to-one coaching and mentoring support to help with the difficult practical challenges faced by social entrepreneurs, such as building a network for business-operations support or learning how to access different funding streams. There are also workshops on specific topics, which enable entrepreneurs to learn in a targeted fashion and ask questions in a collaborative environment. A bootcamp program is also being developed, and this will offer a month of intensive training to help with basic business support. “This will be a more intense version of the services we offer already, and it will enable businesses to get moving more quickly,” Kirsten says.
A particular concern in this sector is impact reporting: describing to investors, regulators and other stakeholders the social and environmental benefits that accrue from projects. This is especially important in a sector that often relies on support from public bodies. Not only does the Social Business Hub Styria help entrepreneurs meet the right people, but it informs them about the style of approach to adopt. Moreover, the center is supported by the Styrian government and the City of Graz, and this too helps open doors to local decision makers.
You might be convinced that you’ve made an important breakthrough, but don’t be surprised if others do not yet share your enthusiasm. Be patient as you persuade.
Most important tips for entrepreneurs:
💡 Identify solutions. You should have identified realistic, practical ways to solve social problems.
💡 Be passionate. You must be passionate about making social change if you are to drive your organization forward. We know you will experience difficulties, and therefore personal motivation will be needed to break through.
💡 Think and act entrepreneurial. We want to see an entrepreneurial approach rather than you relying on others to find solutions.
💡 Persuade with patience. You might be convinced that you’ve made an important breakthrough, but don’t be surprised if others do not yet share your enthusiasm. Be patient as you persuade.
💡 Embrace flexibility. The path to success is rarely straight, so we expect businesses to be flexible in how they approach their goals. Be mindful that determination can lapse into counterproductive stubbornness, so listen to customers and partners.
A version of this article is included in Startup Guide Graz, alongside many more expert insights and useful tips. Order your copy now!
Written by Stephen Evans
Repackaged by Anastasia Ilcov
Photography by David Schreyer