To open an Impact Hub, like starting any business, takes courage – even more so in 2020, the year our world changed. From England to Bangladesh via Switzerland, we spoke to some of our fearless founders who opened an Impact Hub in 2020. They tell us about their journey, learnings and aspirations for a better future.
Meet Kamran, Shazeeb, and Carlotta, the founders of Impact Hub Bradford, Dhaka and Ticino respectively:
Q. Let’s start with why. Why – despite the unusual year that was 2020 and continues in 2021 – did you open an Impact Hub?
A. Shazeeb M Khairul Islam, Director of Impact Hub Dhaka, Bangladesh: The journey of Impact Hub in Dhaka started with a vision to build a community of socially and environmentally conscious individuals within a shared space to meet, learn and connect.
By opening an Impact Hub, we knew that we had the ability to revolutionize Dhaka’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and enable entrepreneurs and organizations to be more impact-driven and sustainable.
“The ongoing pandemic has made it even clearer that our support to social enterprises is crucial to restructure the new normal and solve the most pressing issues of our time.” — Shazeeb M Khairul Islam, Director of Impact Hub Dhaka.
But shortly after opening our doors and beginning to realize our vision, the country went into lockdown. We were left with an empty space and saw many of our friends struggle and pivot their businesses to be able to continue their journey.
The good news is that it didn’t stop us. Not only that, but the ongoing pandemic has made it even clearer that our support to social enterprises – via capacity building, providing access to global resources, opportunities and mentors – is crucial to restructure the new normal and solve the most pressing issues of our time.
“The pandemic also had a positive side; it forced us to rethink our strategy and priorities, and reinforce our purpose.” — Carlotta Zarattini, Co-founder of Impact Hub Ticino.
A. Carlotta Zarattini, Co-founder of Impact Hub Ticino, Switzerland: The COVID-19 crisis has been quite shocking for our team… However, the pandemic also had a positive side; it forced us to rethink our strategy and priorities, and reinforce our purpose.
We soon realized that the – pandemic and post-pandemic – world needed an inclusive and sustainable economy more than ever, and the support of the Impact Hub network to the changemakers driving this change is crucial for achieving it.
Q. That’s inspiring to read. Are there any examples of entrepreneurial action in response to the pandemic you witnessed in your community?
A. Shazeeb: We were able to provide food, medicine and face masks to front-line workers and our community members. We produced 3D-printed face shields with our member Wizkit and donated them to frontline fighters. Our friends from Amarlab supported us by organizing free medical health camps for our community and the Grameen family and staff. We even hosted the 2021 Social Business Youth Summit in a hybrid format, bringing together hundreds of participants and over 75 speakers from all over the world including Nobel Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus and Alberto Masetti Zannini, Global Development Director of the Impact Hub Network.
Now, we are committed to continue nurturing our community and creating a Bangladesh where we all thrive, together!
Q. Wow, beautiful! Next, let’s talk about courage. It’s one of our values as Impact Hub, alongside collaboration and trust. Opening an Impact Hub is a courageous thing to do, even more so during times of pandemic. How do you define courage?
A. Kamran Rashid, CEO of Impact Hub Bradford, England: Courage is when your inner voice tells you can’t do it – and yet you do it. The fear is palpable and the uncertainty ahead raises doubts, but you rise above your challenges, work through your limits and make yourself vulnerable knowing it’s the right thing to do.
“The fear is palpable and the uncertainty ahead raises doubts, but you rise above your challenges, work through your limits and make yourself vulnerable knowing it’s the right thing to do.” — Kamran Rashid, CEO of Impact Hub Bradford.
A. Shazeeb: at Impact Hub we look at courage as the ability to take action despite our fear. In the face of the pandemic, we let our inner courage and resilience determine how far we, as a community, will reach in achieving our goals and continue thriving as we transition into the post-Covid world.
A. Carlotta: Courage is the strength to be ourselves, to believe in our vision no matter what, to the extent of not being scared of being (left) alone. Courage means to accept risk as part of the journey and to see positivity in every challenge. Courage is also the fearless awareness of the unknown.
Q. Incredible. What do you see as the main benefits of being part of the Impact Hub network?
A. Carlotta: The network is alive and always ready to support and encourage us. We never feel alone!
The shared expertise is invaluable and we always try to remember ourselves that, in most cases, a solution is literally “a call away”. We are also lucky to have a strong and highly structured network in Switzerland and wouldn’t be at this stage of development without them.
Being part of a global network and movement also has a spiritual sense: it’s the feeling of belonging that connects us all, gives us the strength to believe in our vision and go on despite the difficulties.
A. Kamran: Being part of the network makes me feel I am not alone. I am one person, part of a community of 17,000+ changemakers who help inspire, enable, connect around the same vision.
Q. What advice would you give to others who want to open an Impact Hub?
A. Kamran: Be prepared to be challenged, unlearn what you think works and remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. In years to come, you will look back and think you made the right decision when you joined the world’s largest tribe of changemakers. You will not regret it!
A. Shazeeb: Do it with joy!
A. Carlotta: Take all the time you need (or even a bit more) to put together a solid and committed team, and don’t forget the human side of it. Invest in getting to know each other and talk in an empathic and constructive way. That’s the main takeaway many other co-founders shared with me and I cannot deny it was difficult for me to understand how urgent this could be until I became a founder myself.
Challenges often go hand in hand with opportunities and those arising from the COVID-19 pandemic are not an exception.
The stories of Shazeeb, Kamran, Carlotta and their teams, are three examples of brave, bold and impact-oriented entrepreneurs who have stood up to adversity and joined our movement, one of the world’s largest networks focused on building entrepreneurial communities for impact at scale.
Besides Bradford, Dhaka and Ticino, Abidjan, Agder, Barcelona, Leipzig and Waikato also opened the doors of their Impact Hubs in 2020.
Inspired to make a change and open an Impact Hub in your city? Find out about the options available and get in touch!