Leila Janah is the founder and CEO of Samasource, an international social enterprise that connects marginalised people in Kenya, Uganda and India to digital work. Having served on the jury of the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge in 2013, this year she’s chairing it.

Leila JanahFrom business and social perspectives, you run a very successful company, how do you do it?
With the help of some amazing people who are much more knowledgeable about the industry than me. Working in a social enterprise is a breath of fresh air and can be the best antidote to cynicism. The answers to many of the problems that we currently look to government to solve may actually be addressed by changing the way we practise capitalism, by building different types of companies that serve people and planet in sustainable and even profitable ways.

What does it take to be a good social entrepreneur?
Well, you need resilience and grit. There will be many moments in which it will make more sense to shut down the company and just get a normal job. Your business idea must have clear and measurable environmental and social impact. It must also be financially sustainable, not necessarily in the short term but certainly with the long-term potential to at least break even.

What challenges do social entrepreneurs face?
A social enterprise is much harder to run than a regular one. Doing the right thing costs more, is rewarded less and usually takes longer. And many investors won’t take you seriously, often doubting whether your business model is feasible.

What are the key ingredients for a successful start-up?
The founder must be able to inject the same degree of passion into the team and be able to clearly and concisely tell the story of what the company does. Social enterprises do good on many levels, but rather than communicating all your product’s advantages you need to focus on that one key benefit.

What will you be looking for in the winning finalist?
Someone who has profound motivation and is willing to endure a lot of pain and sacrifice to bring the idea and plans to fruition. He or she will also need the ability to actually execute those plans, which must be feasible. Flexibility is also key, because plans tend to be out of date in some area as soon as you print them.

Samasource

 


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