How I went from intern to social entrepreneur in a weekend

In early January I stepped onto the Boehringer Ingelheim campus for the first time. I was wide-eyed and eager to jump right in with the Making More Health Team (MMH). Thankfully, I had the opportunity to participate in the MMH Social Entrepreneurship Camp at the Justus-Liebig-University of Gießen. I was optimistic about the workshop but I have to admit, so far, I knew little about social entrepreneurship. From January 18th to the 20th I worked with a variety of people, from all over Germany, who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable in this field.

On the one hand, it was amazing to meet inspirational experts who covered topics such as the necessity of systematic change to foster innovation, while others were social entrepreneurs who shared their own experiences with us. On the other hand, all participants had an opportunity to conceptualize their own social business model. After a group brainstorming session, regarding possible project topics, we formed smaller like-minded groups. Shortly after I joined my group I realized that this would not only be a challenging weekend, but also a fun one. Having 3 team members with me with different backgrounds and origins opened my eyes to new and different perspectives. In the beginning, we wanted to focus on the health of homeless people in Germany. At the end of the second day, a young social entrepreneur presented and stated.

“Never stay with your first idea”- Steffen Preuß

Of course feeling confident, we all agreed to ignore his statement. The next day Katharina Klein, one of my team members, told us about her year abroad in the rural communities throughout Brazil and Ecuador. With little persuasion from Katharina, we decided to focus on South America. This is where “Andando”, which is the Spanish word for go, came alive. Preparing the project and pitch in the new time frame was a challenge, but we were focused and no one panicked. 

“If you´ve got an idea, start today. There is no better time than now to get going.” -  Kevin Systrom

In order to understand Andando, I must first tell you a bit about hookworms. Hookworms are able to burrow themselves into the body through unprotected feet. Many people in rural areas in South America cannot afford shoes with the proper soles. More than 900 million people around the world are infected and there are an estimated of 60.000 deaths per year; as hookworms damage the bowels and absorb the essential nutrients from the body. We want to guarantee access to multifunctional “5-toe-shoes” that fit perfectly to the living conditions in these areas. This will be achieved through the “buy 1 get 1”- principle. Since outdoor activities have become trendy in the past years, we know this business model has potential.

In February, Katharina is traveling through South America for 2 months; it is a great opportunity for us to gain valuable first-hand impressions of the area. We are all extremely excited to further develop our project and make our social enterprise come to fruition! In the end, we were awarded 1.000 euros to kick start Andando – turns out Steffen was right, don’t stay with your first idea! So what are you doing this weekend?

"We looked for a project that makes a difference using entrepreneurial thinking and scalability. The project we chose offered the opportunity for test with an overseeable budget, says Philipp Baum, Head of Communications and Public Affairs at Boehringer Ingelheim. "