Through the eyes of a Dutch social entrepreneur

Between my field visits to Kennisland, Social Enterprise NL and Impact Hub Amsterdam, I had the opportunity to meet with Jacquelien Bunt to look at the offers of Dutch support organizations through the lens of a social entrepreneur. As someone who works at an online marketplace for artisanal and upcycled fashion from emerging economies, Jacquelien had cycled to our meeting in her high heels and as I pointed it out (very nice shoes, she is a pro!), she countered: “Oh, cycling is the easy part, heels don’t matter. Try running from meeting to meeting and it’s a different story.” Jacquelien seemed to me as Dutch as they come: Bicycle as an extension to their legs, pragmatic yet humble opinions and always straight to the point. We hunkered down at the large wooden table in the Impact Hub kitchen and started chatting.


Support needs

Discovered is a marketplace that connects rural artisans from emerging economies with ethical consumers in Western markets. Originally, founder Gijsbert van der Sleen saw products during his travels abroad that were not available for sale back in the Netherlands. He was sure there was a market. The idea for Discovered was born and started to develop in collaboration with Enviu in 2012. With Enviu as founding partner Discovered has had its share in other incubation programs.

As a start-up, you don't lack ideas, you lack resources. Click To Tweet

About her experience with incubators Jacquelien says “With some programs, they are all about generating ideas, but when you are a start-up there is no lack of ideas, but of resources. Secondly, programs will often tell you what to do, but not so much how to go about it. They will tell you that you need to revisit your marketing plan, for example, but I need to know where to start, with whom to consult, where to focus and put emphasis, how much to spend. Generic programs can’t do that. What we need at this stage, for example, is access to potential investors, to networks of partners and customers, and advice from experts in areas that we are still building up.”

Stuck between incubation and investment readiness

Discovered has a working product and is operating. Too advanced for an incubator, it is too early for them to participate in an investment ready program as offered by Impact Hub Amsterdam. “We need support working on our finances, marketing and sales, as well as distribution and market access. Until we have these areas figured out, we don’t need coaching towards investment readiness. We are in between, and need a program that suits these needs between early-stage and growth.” Jacquelien has little choice but to find this kind of support through her networks, which are rich thanks to her being located within Impact Hub Amsterdam.

How can we support #SocEnt in between programs? Click To Tweet

The questions this conversation has raised in me are how we as support organizations can help and empower social entrepreneurs within various phases of what we call “early stage” and “growth”. In addressing support gaps how can we organize to build a pipeline and offer tailored support to social entrepreneurs that do not fit into the programs currently offered or need a different mix of support services?


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