Entrepreneurship does not always have to be about the big money, as social entrepreneurs prove. They take the growth and ambition of normal entrepreneurship, but add social engagement. A trend that is also becoming more and more prevalent at The Birdhouse. Our latest cohort already includes three social enterprises: Pastati and Humainly. So it’s time for a talk.

Digital work in Africa

Social entrepreneurship should not be limited to Belgium, as Humainly proves. They do not solve Belgian, but Nigerian social problems. “We are addressing the problem of extreme poverty in Nigeria.” explains Jonatan Snyders, co-founder of Humainly.

We do this
by providing training in digital skills and entrepreneurship to unemployed young people
. We
also offer the young people digital work
so that they can earn money to bridge the training period.

That digital work the young do for Western start-ups. For example, digital companies often need individuals to train their AI systems, such as categorizing photos. Through Humainly’s crowdsourcing system, young people from Nigeria do just that, earning an income to tide them over from school. “We are now employing about thirty people in Nigeria,” says Jonatan.

But above all, we want to increase our impact, which is why we need to grow. Because the bigger we get, the more people we help.. That is why we now mainly want to raise capital and continue to grow as a start-up..

The idea for Humainly came about after a trip Jonatan took.I traveled around South America a few years back.” he explains. “Of course, a completely different continent than Africa. But during that trip I ended up in Venezuela. By then the situation there was relatively bad, and
Thanks to that experience, I started thinking about a way to help people in such countries find work.
A whole bunch of iterations later, the idea of Humainly came out of that.”

But again, that combination of social and entrepreneurship not always the easiest option. “We started as a non-profit organization, because for us it is very important that we are impact-first.” explains Jonatan. “All our profits we want to reinvest like that, just to strengthen our goal. But that also has problems, because for example Raising capital as a non-profit organisation is very difficult. That is why we need to move towards a hybrid model, between a non-profit organisation and a company. So there would be a part that we make a profit on, and a part that remains non-profit, so that we maintain our mission.”

So that combination of social and profit is central for Humainly and also other social entrepreneurs “We want to be a company where impact is driven by economics,” Jonatan concludes.

Social and local pasta

Pastati, on the other hand, is a very different social enterprise. They make fresh, artisanal pasta in Belgium, in collaboration with the social economy. But behind that enterprise lies yet another personal story.

I’ve been in business my entire career, including as an executive and consultant in the medical and social sector.” tells founder Kristl De Loose. “But three years ago I suddenly became deaf on one side, so I had to quit my job. After a lot of thought, I decided to combine my love for Italy with my experience in the social sector.

Now Kristl produces fresh pasta in Belgium with Pastati. “We produce our pasta in a
custom-made company
Oudenaarde, a former sheltered workshop, and in addition we work as much as possible
with Belgian and local products
. The ricotta for our ravioli, for example, comes from Berlare. In addition, we focus very hard on sustainability in production and packaging.” Kristl explains her business.

And with that, they’re a sharp example of a social enterprise that brings together engagement and entrepreneurship in one organization. “We hit a nerve with consumers because we make pasta with a story,” Kristl states. “Nevertheless, we have to remain competitive ourselves. A social enterprise is still a business, and ultimately the economic picture has to be right too.