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What does it feel like being a young social entrepreneur in the Netherlands? – Joshua van den Hurk

by Kasia Kotlarska / March 2023

SEWF Youth Forum is just around the corner and in the lead-up to the event, we spoke with Joshua van den Hurk from Bamboovement about his work and the challenges that young entrepreneurs face. 

SEWF Youth Forum is a free event for social entrepreneurs and changemakers under 30 consisting of talks, workshops and global networking sessions. Book your tickets today here.

 

Joshua van den Hurk founded Bamboovement in 2018 to inspire people around the world to live more sustainable lives. Together with his brother Ainu van den Hurk, they presently develop unique and eco-friendly personal care products as an alternative to daily used plastic items. Through planting trees, offsetting emissions and supporting various non-profit projects they aim to move to a plastic-free world.

Was there a specific ‘aha moment!’ that made you go into creating sustainable, commonly used items?

After graduating from university in Amsterdam, I wasn’t initially considering starting my own business. However, my travels around the world opened my eyes to the urgent issue of plastic pollution. Seeing beautiful places marred by plastic waste and witnessing the harm it caused to wildlife, such as a seagull choking on plastic on a Spanish beach, gave me the motivation to take action. This experience was my ‘aha moment’ and inspired me to channel my energy into finding solutions for a cleaner planet. So ultimately, that seagull on a Galician beach became my motivation to set on a mission to create a more sustainable future.

What was one of your hardest moments running Bamboovement and how did you get over it??

The Covid pandemic presented one of the biggest challenges to Bamboovement. As a company focused on providing eco-friendly personal care products to the hospitality industry, the pandemic’s impact on travel and hotel businesses meant that everything was halted. To adapt, we pivoted our business model to focus on online sales and promotional gifts. While this required a significant investment in marketing and outreach, the shift ultimately made us more resilient as a business. Although the first six months were financially difficult, we learned valuable lessons about adapting to change and becoming more flexible. Today, we continue to thrive in new markets while staying true to our core values of sustainability and eco-friendliness.

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What are some tips or strategies for creating partnerships and allies with other social enterprises and businesses?

Creating partnerships and allies with other social enterprises and businesses is a key strategy for growing your impact and reach. However, it’s not always easy to find the right partners. From our experience at Bamboovement, we have learned a few tips and strategies that can help.

  • Firstly, it’s important to look for partners that share the same core values as your own company. This will ensure that you are working towards a shared goal and can align your messaging and actions.
  • Additionally, partnering with more recognized organizations can help you leverage their reach and audience.
  • Another helpful tip is to get to the core of your own target audience. What does your business provide and who benefits from it? Understanding your audience will help you identify potential partners who are already working with your target audience. This will not only increase the relevance of the partnership but also help you reach new customers who are more likely to be interested in your products or services.

That’s interesting. But what does it feel like to be a young social entrepreneur in the Netherlands?

Being a young social entrepreneur in the Netherlands is an exciting yet also challenging experience. The Netherlands has quite a vibrant ecosystem of startups and social enterprises, with a growing focus on sustainability and social impact. There are many opportunities for young entrepreneurs to connect with like-minded individuals, access resources such as incubators and accelerators and participate in mentorship programmes. However, you need to look for them. Reaching out to your friends/family and your network, in general, helps a lot to become aware of all the possibilities.

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While there are also still challenges to overcome, such as funding and bureaucracy, there is a growing recognition of the importance of social entrepreneurship in Dutch society. With the right support and mindset, young social entrepreneurs can make a meaningful impact and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Brilliant! And what advice would you give to young people trying to become social entrepreneurs?

For young people trying to become social entrepreneurs, my advice would be to start with a clear and compelling vision of the impact you want to make. From there, focus on building a strong network of supporters, collaborators and mentors. Seek out resources such as incubators, accelerators and grant programmes to help you grow your idea into a business. Take the time to understand your target audience and clearly set your core values and your mission statement, this will give you guidance when making decisions. Finally, don’t be afraid to take risks, fail and learn from your mistakes. Social entrepreneurship is a journey and by staying true to your values and mission, you can create meaningful change in the world. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via email: joshua@thebamboovement.com.

 

Don’t miss your chance to hear more from Joshua at the SEWF Youth forum on the 28 March. Book your free place now.