Prague has hosted my comrades and I for 3 days and too many nights. From my window seat I am looking out at at the exact view that wikipedia has taken for the Prague Castle. Phenomenal.
Crediting jet lag, I have had exposure to this city at her earliest moments and certain times past curfew. Her cab drivers have both disappointed and aided this certain vagabond. But what I have gathered in my limited time is this.
Prague’s tourist attraction shadows its potential. The people here are intelligent. This city is ambitious. Progress is riding through the streets on electrically charged vehicles. We visitors come here for delicious beer, not knowing that the Budweiser shoved down our throats in Superbowl ads and Nascar marketing is actually a name stolen from a legit beer company from the Czech. These people don’t fret. Their other beers are actually better, and they create experiences that are both memorable and forgettable.
But the Hyderabadass did not come to Prague to drink beer. He did not come to judge her people, or engage in city walking tours that promote churches that are a strange mixture between Jesuit history and Monarchial devience. He came here to study Social Entrepreneurship.
Social entrepreneurship is not Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Spacebook, or any of that. It is entrepreneurship at its finest, using innovation, ingenuity, creativity, and brilliance to solve social problems through sustainable business models. Seldom are these entrepreneurs businessmen(women). Like Daja Kabativa, founder and president of http://www.letohradekvendula.cz/, these ventures achieve success from the tenacity and endurance of ordinary people committed at progress. People who want to leave the world better. They identify opportunities in area’s that have multiple bottom lines for profit. And they find unconventional ways to prosper.
Our interview with Daja was a once in a lifetime opportunity. A woman who lost a child from a mental disability, she has dedicated her life to create an environment where similar people (that she calls her clients) can live, learn, work, and teach. Her facility has been constantly expanding over 10 years to the point where they now house state of the art appliances for healthcare, physicaly therapy, retail store, bakery and even an elevator. Her philosophy is to treat clients as equals, as they are often diagnosed and limited to certain roles appointed to them by others. By creating a family where all are expected to work to their capacity, people are empowered to reach their potential. She had 65 clients, 15 employees, and generates income from quality products produced in both her workshops and bakery.
Although I read her background and Ashoka’s report of how great her business is, nothing impacted me as much as actually meeting Daja, her clients, and touring her facility. She was a powerful woman who projected confidence in her native tongue while I anxiously awaited my mediocre translator to communicate back to me her words in English. Her instincts were so powerful, that when she invited us to come back next year, she made a point to tell us that she would learn our language, or provide a professional interpretter for the meeting. Nothing against our translator, who was doing his best, but it was obvious that there was a better form of communication with this entrepreneur.
2 weeks before taking our meeting, she was invited to Brussels, with all expenses paid, to meet with the World Economic Forum. Her little project in the Czech had caught the attention of world leaders, and she was asked to present how and why her business has been working. On a macro level, the EU is facing challenges of a shrinking workforce and growing population of people alienated from the workforce. Instead of inviting city officials of Prague, or national politicians, they invited Daja in a group of 15 people to help start the dialogue on how to make a change. This social entrepreneur has dedicated 10 years to a very small location and specific cause, but now has understood that her actions and passion serves value to a worldwide need that could benefit millions. Watching her express this in her language was one of the most beautiful things I have seen in a city that lacks none. No translator was needed to see the pride she shared with us.
In a city that escaped communism, she credits her country’s history for the founding of her company. If not for the end of communism, she would not have been able to obtain the resources needed to start this venture. Her credit to luck, ideas and friends for her success is something entrepreneurs often say but rarely think about. Humbly she admitted that her venture was close to failure several times before someone stepped in and saved them. Her advice is simply to never give up.
And as I waive goodbye to the city of Prague from my fancy hotel window seat, I offer the same advice. In a city where it seems the people are confused about the political future, with an election 2 weeks away and much doubt about the decision to join the EU, I wish them the courage and resilience to find their place in our world’s future. Not to be exploited by cheap labor and inexpensive products and services, this place has the potential to be an entrepreneur’s dream and a place for true progress that can benefit our global community for centuries to come, while quenching our thirst.
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