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Given all the numerous problems in the world, we need social entrepreneurs and changemakers to harness the future of the vulnerable in society. Prof. dr. Josette Dijkhuizen (Founder Krachtbedrijf Foundation) trains potential entrepreneurs on how to manage their business that can lead to an important change in their lives.

Josette Dijkhuizen is helping victims of domestic violence, refugees and prostitutes to harness their future and use entrepreneurship to organize, create, and manage their businesses to make social change in Eindhoven.

“These people are able to come up with brilliant ideas and I think the city wants such a diversity in entrepreneurship. It will benefit all of us.”Josette Dijkhuizen, Krachtbedrijf

What prompted you to start this project?

“Entrepreneurship is a very important tool to stimulate survivors of violence like refugees, women in shelters and prostitutes, to set up their own business. I saw they are having some extraordinary qualities, like courage and perseverance, and I thought there might be people in the shelter homes and refugee shelters who are good entrepreneurs. That is why I decided to help them to set up an enterprise.”

What kind of skills do you share with this group of people?

“Some refugees who come from conflicting war-zones already were entrepreneurs in their homeland and they know how to run a business. Other participants are survivors of e.g. domestic violence which means that they also have a lot of resilience and perseverance as otherwise, they would never have left the violent situation.

It is important because entrepreneurs cannot succeed in a day so you need perseverance, resilience and of course a good business idea, vision, and knowledge to know where you want to go. Thus, you need a whole bunch of qualities in order to meet the challenges ahead.”

What has been the response of the community in Eindhoven?

“If I tell the story about very strong and talented women and men who come from violence and start an enterprise, everybody is surprised because most people see them as victims. People do not know who they are and through the program, people get a face and that makes people realise that they could also be victims of violence themselves.”

What are the contributions the participants of Krachtbedrijf are making towards the growth of Eindhoven?

“The participants come from an isolated position and through the program, they are able to participate again in the society. Furthermore, if they succeed they will not need the social grant anymore. Running their own enterprises make them independent and empowered.”

How does your project help to portray Eindhoven as an entrepreneur hub?

“Entrepreneurship is often seen in Eindhoven for the high tech companies, but entrepreneurship is all around us with the bakery at the corner of the street, the bike repair in the neighbourhood and the consultant living next to you. Having all these innovative men and women means they can come up with solutions for global challenges that we have like climate change, but also the number of refugees which will increase over the coming years. Entrepreneurship can be a way of trying to build a business out of the challenges that the world is facing. We can come up with solutions and people who are willing and passionate about the topic will take action and do something about it.”

What are the challenges that you are facing?

“One big challenge is the taboo around these people. A lot of people think that to give them a social grant, that’s it. Do we need to help them more? But we have to take the people seriously. We are looking towards a short-term project which has a duration of two weeks. But coming from a traumatic experience, people need more time. So it is quite an obstacle to convince people that the participants need at least a year in a program to be able to help a group of people who are vulnerable, who come from violence, to really set up a business plan and to take the first step. So we have to look at long-term projects in order to achieve the desired results.”

Do you look at any criteria for people to register?

“It is not like somebody has a business idea and he/she will automatically be eligible to participate in our program. People, for example, need to be emotionally stable. Having a trauma which affects you daily is not the situation in which you can start a very intensive project. If I have people from Syria and the family is still living in Turkey, I don’t know if the person is ready to build a new life. Furthermore, people need to be ambitious, passionate and you need some experience for the business you want to set up.”

How do you see the future of social entrepreneurship in Eindhoven?

“I think that we are right at the beginning. I expect social entrepreneurship will be a very hot topic over the years and many people will do something about it and it is not something that is being talked about at this moment. That is why I am currently in the process of setting up a new project with regard to social entrepreneurship, looking at the global challenges and we will focus on young people. It will be good if Eindhoven can show itself more with regard to social entrepreneurship and I hope to contribute towards that by having my project in the city.

People are able to come up with brilliant ideas and I think the city wants such a diversity. Diversity in entrepreneurship will benefit all of us. Looking at the participants, showing more confidence in themselves, building up a new life, I think that is the most successful part of my work. People walking away after our workshops and coaching, feeling satisfied and grateful. We also see that they have more self-esteem and they feel that their dreams have been fulfilled. If their business is to become a reality, they will have to do it on their own. I am only there to facilitate them.”