By Marc Stöckli, Global Chair, Entrepreneurs’ Organization
The strength of entrepreneurs has always been their ingenuity in resilience – their ability to triumph through adversity, devise new ways to push the world forward in dire times and inspire their communities to come back stronger.
In recent years we’ve seen several situations where this quality has been desperately needed – turmoil, conflict and crises have become a constant undertone. But what we’ve also seen in these situations is how entrepreneurs have come together to help people, to lend the strength and tools to rebuild.
This is why I believe in the power of EO and our members – I’ve witnessed so many real-life stories that prove the extent of our efficacy when we come together; how we can move the world forward by unlocking our full potential as leaders. What I love about entrepreneurs is that they do not wait in the aftermath of disasters or crises. They roll up their sleeves and find solutions. They are the drivers of change and the ones who rebuild countries from within, carrying entire communities on their shoulders.
As we mark Global Entrepreneurship Week (14-20 November), I thought it would be an ideal opportunity to celebrate some of the many heroic business leaders across EO’s membership, and the gift of a community that brings us together to solve problems with the tools and enterprises that empower self-reliance.
I begin in Eastern Europe. We have all witnessed the destruction of the war in Ukraine – displacement and devastation have left an indelible mark on the nation, and spurred a damaging ripple effect on food supplies, energy security and global supply chains. As soon as the conflict began, EO members in Poland, Romania and all across the globe organized to offer vital life support.
What started as essential supplies for refugees fleeing Ukraine turned into a wider plan to support the long-term health of entrepreneurs that remained in the country – buying goods from them, supporting their businesses and ensuring they had the resources necessary to continue trading. So far, more than $700,000 in support has been directed by our members to local businesses. Bravo!
The help given to business owners is so incredibly valuable because it supports a country rebuilding from the ground up, while restoring a crucial part of a thriving community. It enables the ripple effect.
This year Pakistan was faced with devastation of a different kind: unprecedented floods that killed more than 1,700 people, including 600+ children, and injured another 12,000 more. Some 2.1 million people were displaced from their homes—many made homeless—and the country was forced to declare a state of emergency. The EO Lahore chapter came together quickly with EO Karachi and EO Islamabad in establishing three committees to support entrepreneurs and their communities in affected areas, helping them rebuild in the aftermath of the worst floods in Pakistan’s history.
These committees focused on directing ways to help deliver safe drinking water, lifesaving medical supplies, therapeutic food supplies and hygiene kits to heavily impacted families and children, but they also focused on empowering people to rebuild for themselves, to avoid creating dependence. One initiative in particular stands out: an entire group focused on equipping Pakistan’s enterprises with the tools to grow business right there in their country. Entrepreneurs established a bazaar with 70 shops, made it operational in less than two weeks and helped more than 100 families whose livelihoods were at risk. All of this was done by EO members, who both planned and strategized but also joined on the ground to help make it all possible.
Another amazing story of entrepreneurial progress comes from the southern tip of Africa, where a Canadian-based EO member from South Africa founded a company to help bridge the digital skills divide in the country. WeThinkCode recruits and trains young people to become software engineers, closing the skills gap and providing new career opportunities. Their user community is made up of 91% students who are from low-income households, 94% black students and 50% who are young women. The programme has proven revolutionary with 94% of students finding full-time employment after graduating, on average doubling their salary in the first two to three years and using those earnings to support their parents and families. Amazing.
Every day, EO members amaze me with their ability to inspire, pivot, rebuild and reimagine a better world for their communities and ours. This Global Entrepreneurship Week, I humbly celebrate and applaud our incredible network of business leaders who work tirelessly to support, not only their employees and customers, but each other and their extended communities in times of need. I would name you all here, but that would make this a much longer read. You know who you are and how much we admire you.
This is how we move the world forward and unlock our full potential. Together we grow.