Community | SEWF Events

Michael Lim advises young social entrepreneurs to “find the tribe with your vibe”

by Mirabelle Morah / August 2023

“Change is slow. And hard. But anything worth achieving takes time and effort. Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t change the world overnight either. Marry your problem, enjoy the journey and be open to new solutions”. – Michael Lim

Michael Lim is the Founder and Managing Director of Beyond Value (Australia) and is a four-time award-winning social entrepreneur based in Melbourne, Australia. Beyond Value as a social impact consultancy focuses on social procurement, place-based interventions and community engagement. Michael is also a member of the SEWF Youth Advisory Board. As an SEWF23 speaker, he shares a lot in this interview, from the top two mistakes social young entrepreneurs make (and how to solve this), to how he deals with burnout and much more.

What inspired you to develop Beyond Value?

I have a saying when it comes to social impact programmes, that you marry your problem, not the solution. So, I started with the problem I was trying to solve. I have worked for a social enterprise for the better part of six years as a director. One of the challenges that I saw, was a lack of capacity to connect social enterprises interested in social procurement with tier one and tier two companies responsible for delivering large infrastructure projects. Connecting them so that they’re able to do business together and create great social impact ⏤ across not only Melbourne’s West but ⏤across Victoria. That’s why I started Beyond Value, really looking at the challenges that we faced in my local community and reflecting on how I was uniquely placed to make an impact.

“Don’t start your own social enterprise. Join someone else’s”.

What are the two top mistakes you see young social entrepreneurs making and what would be your recommended solutions?

Azima and Australian Youth ForumWell, I’ve got about ten, all of which I’ve made personally. But the two top mistakes, I would say, are trying to do it alone.

One of the most common questions I get is “what should I do to start my own social enterprise?” My initial response is don’t start your own social enterprise. Join someone else’s so that you can learn, get mentored and get an understanding of what it takes to actually run a business. What it takes to create social impact and evaluate a programme.

The second one is again trying to do it alone. One of my favourite sayings is “If you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far go together”. You will only get as far as possible by the people you surround yourself with. It’s important to find your community. Find the tribe with your vibe, as I like to say and you’ll go much further. Because there will be times when you feel burnt out, frustrated, angry. There have been so many times that I’ve wanted to quit the social impact sector and do something else that was, “easier” to do. But time and time again, finding that community was one of the things that kept me on track. Your community is the antidote to burnout.

So, find your community, work for someone else and then start thinking about starting your own social enterprise.

That is powerful Michael. And speaking of burnout, how do you avoid burnout in your line of work?

Through a couple of things. As I already said, through the people you surround yourself, then also internal work. I’m a person who works hard but also rests hard and self-cares hard. I make sure that I go to the gym four times a week, I sleep seven to eight hours at night. I also track my calories so I’m making sure that I get the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and fats. I understand and treat my body as best as possible for longevity and sustainability. Because you are effectively useless to yourself and to others if you are burnt out. Anything you can do to prevent that burnout is going to pay off ten times over. And it’s going to be great for yourself and for your career.

Michael Lim
Michael Lim at SEWF22 (Australia)

How was your experience at SEWF22 and what are you looking forward to experiencing at SEWF23?

My experience of SEWF22 in Brisbane, Australia last year was absolutely amazing. Coming out of the pandemic, two years of lockdown and getting to interact with people face to face again was something that I didn’t even know I needed but was such a breath of fresh air. I met people from all over the world I only got to interact with on camera before, never in person. I can’t even describe the feeling of meeting people that you’ve heard about for so long and that you’ve admired. It was overwhelming and one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

I was privileged enough to speak at SEWF22. I moderated a panel on social procurement and that was just fantastic. I also got to be the co-lead for the Australian Social Enterprise Youth Forum. The smiles, the experiences and the feedback that we got from the young people were absolutely amazing. SEWF22 was really the highlight of my year. I made so many fun memories, with so many different people from all over the world. And that’s what I’m really excited for in 2023. And the ability to just connect. I think the connection with people in this space can be few and far between sometimes. But as I mentioned before, it’s the community and the supporters that you surround yourself with ⏤ the people that you might mentor, your peers and the people who mentor you ⏤ that make the social impact sector so exciting, so vibrant and so refreshing.

So, bring it on. Let’s go!

Join SEWF23 (11-12 October) to access world-class content, connect with thousands of other purpose-driven people like Michael and be part of the world’s largest social enterprise conversation.

Mirabelle Morah is the community and communications manager at SEWF