‘They shouldn’t be afraid to compete with the big brands’: how must impact startups change to succeed?

Amid all the excitement at ImpactFest last week, we took aside some social entrepreneurs, impact investors and consultants to find out what they think is worth championing and what needs to be changed in the world of impact startups.

More access to funding for young people working in agriculture, more competition with big brands on the mainstream market, and less emphasis on financial returns when measuring results. These were some of the suggestions given to enhance the world of impact startups by the vast array of startup leaders, investors and policymakers present at ImpactFest

The eighth edition of ImpactFest, an annual conference for impact makers, was held last week in The Hague, The Netherlands. It was hosted by ImpactCity, an organisation founded by the municipality of The Hague that supports social entrepreneurs and impact innovators.

Impact businesses should not be afraid to compete with the big brands, and to position themselves as a viable alternative for daily life

Living up to its reputation as hub for purpose-driven innovation, The Hague’s annual impact convention attracted a diverse community of around 1,500 committed social entrepreneurs, impact investors and mission-led policymakers from 37 countries . Pioneers Post took a few of them aside to ask to find out what they think needs to be celebrated in the impact startup sector and what needs to be improved.


Olivia Onyemaobi, founder and CEO of PadUp Creations, a social enterprise that manufactures reusable sanitary pads for women and girls in Nigeria

CHAMPION: “Social entrepreneurs create great solutions to problems.”


Sandra Van de Waart, manager of business and innovation, Municipality of The Hague

CHANGE: “We should define differently what the result is when you make an investment into an impact business.”


Mtamu Kililo, founder and CEO of MycoTile, a startup that manufactures bio-based, alternative building materials in Nairobi, Kenya

CHAMPION: “The bottom-up approach… [gathering] qualitative data that you can get from the people who receive the impact.”


Jan Geert van Hall, investment director of YES!Delft accelerator

CHANGE: “The impact sector [should] become mainstream and not be afraid to compete with the big brands.”


Tara Levy, growth strategist specialist at Zarttech, a social business consultancy 

CHAMPION: “As the generations change and younger people are coming into business, you get all of these amazing ideas actually being put into practice.”


James Ebuk, founder and CEO of Awelo Millers & Packers Investment, a business in Uganda that manufactures food and laundry products using fish technologies and agricultural waste products 

CHANGE: “Access to affordable finance for some of these youth [in agriculture] and some of these young champions.”

Check out our social media soon to see more of our interviews at Impact Fest 2023. 


Top photo: One to Champion, One to Change still image (credit: Pioneers Post)

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