We caught up with serial social and green entrepreneur Martin Jähnert. Martin already co-founded the brilliant dreiklang which is reinvigorating the local textile industry in the former GDR. And since last year, after taking part in the Social Entrepreneurship Academy's Global Entrepreneurship Summer School on the topic of "Waste", he has been co-developing a tech solution for boosting recycling, which has an international team, its first investment and is about to go to market with (what may well be) the world's first ever smart trashcan. All whilst still a student. We wanted to find out more!
Martin, you have been busy in the last few years. What has been your proudest moment so far?
Well, pride comes in different packages when it comes to social entrepreneurship. On the one hand seeing your impact first hand is always so important. So I would say that with dreiklang, it was when I showed the first tshirt we produced to my grandma, she was a former textile worker herself and fully understood the meaning of what we were doing.
dreiklang (dreiklangkleidung.com) is one of those forgotten brands from the past, the best pyjama maker of GDR times. My flatmates come from the village where they were produced and we knew the factory in the Erzgebirge was struggling financially. So we thought about how we could help the ladies who tried to keep up their textile tradition and revived the old name, interpreting it with our core values. Now Gisela, one of the remaining textile workers, is smiling again, and makes artist tshirts in limited editions for us.
With my other project Schülerpaten, it was when I heard that a pupil from Berlin, who had been struggling at school, had become a proud apprentice at a company after three years as a mentee with our NGO schuelerpaten.
On the other hand, building a financially sustainable social business is a huge challenge. So we were particularly proud when we were able to cash our first paychecks at our new startup, binee.co, last week.
Ok, so with three(!) social businesses under your belt, you sure know something about being a social entrepreneur. What are the tops and flops as far as you are concerned?
The best is the inspiring people you meet while making people happy. The worst is that it is never good enough. There will always be things to improve, and there will always be people who point that out in a discouraging way instead of as constructive feedback. I love feedback. I still sometimes struggle with the way it is given.
Learning from your mistakes is pretty important for a serial entrepreneur like you. What has been your biggest fuckup so far?
I had to look up that word. ;) Seriously, many. In Germany we say "when you are shaping wood there will be splinters." (Wo gehobelt wird, da fallen Späne). My motto is "pour la liberté de changement d'opinion." So as long as you don't surrender, you can still fix things. I once took a job just for the money and then nearly surrendered. That was a close catch and I am happy I changed direction just in time.
And who has been there to ensure it is not only fuckups?
It's funny you ask, because I thought about that just today. So many people out there try to enable others to help. Right now we are working hard on a new startup to improve the recycling experience through gamification and to subsequently boost recycling rates. It's called binee - no waste, more fun (binee.co).
The idea, the team, the spirit was born at last years Global Entrepreneurship Summer School in Munich. Last year the topic was "Waste". Right at the first team meeting we discussed what we want from these two weeks and decided to definitely take it further. So after a great, fun, intense time in Munich, team "binee" kept in touch, meeting through Skype on Sunday nights, the only time we all could manage with time zones and projects.
That was in September 2014. Now, in March 2015, we are a company, have funding, an office, and are getting ready for the market. And all thanks to this awesome team and the perfect team building by the Global Entrepreneurship Summer School (globalsummerschool.org). They really chose the right mix of different backgrounds: socially, geographically, professionally and it boosted each participants knowledge a lot. With a crowd of 35 students from 27 countries, everybody went through an intense, multi-layered learning.
I know they are planning their next summer school now, focusing on Youth Unemployment, and I am really sad I cannot apply again this year.
And then of course there are many more that go out of their way to help others, that give us freedom to follow our dreams - parents, friends, but also many more. And those that make us more grateful for what we have!