A Coincidental Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Laureate Global Fellowship
I never intended to be an entrepreneur. In 2012, while studying interaction design in Sweden, I joined a friend in co-founding a social business in my home town. Our venture, Eşya Kütüphanesi (Library of Stuff), aims to build a culture of sharing and sense of community in cities across Turkey, while also reducing environmental waste. We have come a long way since we first started. During this time I’ve attended various retreats and conferences, spreading the love of sharing. But a voice remained inside me, saying “This is all a coincidence. I am not a real entrepreneur.”
I was surprised and humbled when I was notified of my selection as a 2015 Laureate Global Fellow. I had no idea what I was getting myself into! I was even a bit scared, imagining the week passing and people eventually noticing that I was just a coincidental entrepreneur. My excitement grew after my first phone call with Kat Kinzer, a member of the YouthActionNet team, but a small knot in my stomach remained.
It’s not about what you do; it’s about who you are as a person
The first day of the retreat, 19 other entrepreneurs from all over the world arrived in groups from the airport. Initial chatting revolved around our ventures, but then slowly, conversations about our weird habits took the stage. Laughter erupted in the air and I felt my nervousness fading.
The moment that it completely dissolved was during the opening remarks made by Ashok Regmi, IYF’s Director of Social Innovation. He said, in a calm and reassuring tone, that we are not our projects; we are individuals. That our work is important, but what we do may change over time and who we are as leaders will last.
“Don’t feel alone in your journey of change” he said. I looked around the room and felt deeply touched and empowered.
A big family
It’s usually difficult for me to find balance between my introverted and extroverted sides during experiences like this. But the week-long retreat was very well planned, with time to be alone and reflect built into the schedule. I felt that the faciliators constantly gauged the energy in the room and adapted content in productive ways.
I soon felt like part of a big family. I am familiar with creating deep bonds within more spiritual communities but this was the first time that I felt so embraced in a setting related to my work.
Seeing how others struggle with similar issues, talking about ways to overcome roadblocks and sharing knowledge with peers was an incredible experience. The bond created is more than networking; it is a family bond where I feel I could reach out anytime and know there will be someone to support me. The yearlong coaching also reminds me that I am not alone in this journey.
I have super powers!
In addition to the support I felt, I gained priceless knowledge on shifting perspectives, various methods of thinking, storytelling strategies, leadership styles (which really opened my eyes to my venture’s team dynamics), my own “super powers” and ways of developing them, how to handle difficult conversations, and approach challenges using appreciative inquiry.
It has been four months since the retreat ended and I still carry so much with me. I am filled with joy thinking of our days together in Washington, DC and I miss everyone deeply as I write this blog post.
The Laureate Global Fellowship has meant much more to me than just an entrepreneur gathering. I feel I have grown as a human being. I may be a “coincidental entrepreneur,” but that’s okay. I learned here that I am me, regardless of my work. I am a superhero, a believer, a change maker, a magic creator and the best thing is; I am not the only one!
Join YouthActionNet in 2016 to discover your super powers! Click here to apply, deadline March 13, 2016.
Ayşe Gökçe Bor is a 2015 Laureate Global Fellow and founder of Eşya Kütüphanesi (Library of Stuff), an online platform enabling users to lend and borrow—rather than purchase—the items they need. To date, more than 2,000 people have used the open-source platform.