4 steps to surviving as a social entrepreneur

With climate change and pressing social issues knocking on the door of an increasingly interconnected planet, the world needs social entrepreneurs more than ever.

Marianne Caroline
Oct 3, 2016 · 4 min read

Tackling some of the world’s greatest challenges requires courage, and a true representative of that courage is Stacy Flynn, co-founder of the trailblazing textile technology start-up Evrnu and winner of the Fabric of Change challenge.

My interview with Stacy was originally published on Virgin and can be read here.

Since starting her career sourcing textiles for large companies, Stacy has set about developing a technology that could make cotton become infinitely and cleanly renewable. Today, her company Evrnu is a ‘social purpose corporation’ whose technology can “turn a T-shirt into a pulp then back into virgin cotton with what looks like a shower head.” Stacy is now working with companies like Levi’s and scaling her technology, but her journey required summoning the grit to pursue her vision.

I sat down with Stacy to learn more about four principles that every social entrepreneur should have in their survival kit:

1. Educate yourself and others

From the word go, Stacy set out to become a world expert on textile technology. “I knew I needed more training if I was going to take this challenge on,” Stacy says. “When bringing something new into the world, you don’t yet have a reputation. I needed more training so I could bridge the gap between how sustainability professionals see the world, and how apparel professionals see the world.”

Today, she is an alumnus of the Fashion Institute of Technology and Pinchot University and has a reputation for sharing knowledge. The expertise she built was essential for her ability to form corporate partnerships.

2. Find like-minded people to join your journey

Referring to her co-founder Christopher Stanev, Stacy says: “we’re more powerful together than we are alone.” Stacy seems skilled at bringing people along on her journeys. Not only has she convinced major corporations to support her innovative technology, but she has also built a solid team at Evrnu and gathered mentors around her. Stacy emphasises that role models are incredibly helpful along one’s journey as a social entrepreneur: “I have a lot of role models and I tend to seek them out much more than most people. I’m so lucky that when things get hard I have a lot of people I can call.”

“The coolest thing is we’re working with people across different industries,” she says. “It’s about pulling out the best in people and recognising when something isn’t your realm of expertise by bringing in someone more qualified.”

Virgin Unite, Entrepreneur, education, Ashoka, Fabric of change
Virgin Unite, Entrepreneur, education, Ashoka, Fabric of change

Image from Start Up stock photos

3. Lay out your vision

Social entrepreneurs have a strong vision for what a better world could look like. Stacy has what she calls her ‘legacy vision’ laid out until 2050. She explains, “I’m working on something much bigger than myself. I keep a strong visual on how the story ends in 2050 with a handful of us saying ‘look at what we just did!’ I’m fighting to have a legacy of change.”

The bigger vision for Stacy means catalysing other players to make an impact. She says, “I think there’s a way to bring technology into the world which has a ripple effect. It’s not just about the technology, but what it inspires other people to layer on top of it.”

4. Believe in yourself and have confidence in your own ability

We know entrepreneurs are hit with their fair share of personal criticism along the way. “People always ask me ‘What makes you think you can pull this off? Why hasn’t anyone done this before?’ What makes you so special?’” Stacy says.

Despite these questions, she has kept going — “I realised this challenge was way too important to be self-conscious. I didn’t even know what a ‘social entrepreneur’ was when I started this, but I have now accepted the identity.”

For Stacy, it was a growth process. “I had to step-up,” she says. “You need to have so much confidence in your own ability. Learning that internal leadership was hard for me. I thought others were more qualified than me, but I realised you can learn things like finance and how to raise money, but you cannot learn the vision you inherently have.”

Ultimately, re-imagining what’s possible, dedication to growing her expertise, collaboration, and courage have been vital parts of Stacy’s survival kit as a social entrepreneur.

Virgin Unite, Entrepreneur, education, Ashoka, Fabric of change
Virgin Unite, Entrepreneur, education, Ashoka, Fabric of change

Image from Evrnu

To learn more about the Fabric of Change challenge follow the link here.

Marianne Caroline

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