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As an impact entrepreneur, you have a dual ambition; to improve the world and to build a healthy business. This balance demands a lot from leaders: Successful social entrepreneurs who are also top-notch entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, it appears that a substantial proportion of these impact-driven entrepreneurs neglect to keep their private lives in balance as well.

According to a study by the World Economic Forum (WEF), almost fifty percent of impact-driven entrepreneurs affiliated with the WEF suffer from feelings of depression and exhaustion. Pursuing a double bottom line also tends to mean double the stress. The pressure is substantial on the shoulders of those who want to change the system, who are swimming against the tide, and who strive to shift their market or business model towards achieving more impact.

The reason for this seems to lie in the enormous sense of responsibility that these entrepreneurs have. Wanting to improve the world is a never-ending task. There is often a sense within social enterprises that this mission takes precedence over everything else: You work in the service of trying to solve the larger problem.

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    In this excellent article on LInkedin, Sander Veenendaal, founder of the Heldergroen agency, mentions a number of other familiar reasons why idealistic entrepreneurs are more likely to fall prey to a burnout. Such as the high ethical standards and the distrust of consumers towards companies that claim to be doing good: that all sucks up extra energy.

    Wellbeing is good for yourself, your company and the sector

    As an entrepreneur, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce stress. I believe that devoting time and attention to building a good team is crucial. Gather together a team of people who complement each other and are even better than you, so that you can concentrate on your own qualities to build up the business.

    But the most important thing is to realize that you will not be able to create a better world if you do not take care of yourself first. Just like on an airplane, put on your own oxygen mask first before helping others.

    Working on yourself, and finding ways to recharge yourself after working hard, are crucial to your own health and consequently to your business too. It encourages more self-reflection, living in the now, and liberation from your inner critic. This in turn creates space in your head and heart for more engagement, both on a personal and on a professional level. You’ll have the courage to reflect on things and be vulnerable – which is something that is often lost when you feel constantly stressed out. Therefore, go offline regularly, make time for some real relaxation (meditation is a good tool for that) and exercise (sports!). Find ways to develop yourself (take a course) – as long as it is something that makes time for yourself and brings your stress levels down.

    This is not only good for you, but also for your business. The fact that healthy, balanced leaders have a significant influence on a healthier culture within their company has been proven many times. The Wellbeing Project, a global initiative that draws attention to and does research into the wellbeing of changemakers, states that wellbeing among social entrepreneurs also translates to this sector. By working together more closely and being open about stress, the wellbeing of each individual benefits this sector.

    In this wonderful series of articles, The Wellbeing Project shows that individual wellbeing translates into being able to make more impact as a company. Wellbeing inspires welldoing.

    This is not a problem on an individual level


    At the same time, a role is reserved for the sector: In this case, stress is not a problem on an individual level. As such, I also feel a great responsibility for us as investors. Talented, enthusiastic people are the greatest valuable asset of a fast-growing company; you have got to cherish them. As an investor, you have a responsibility to take good care of the wellbeing of the leadership team.

    At Rubio, for example, we do this by regularly doing (or have done on our behalf) a thorough team evaluation to look for focus points when it comes to culture, leadership, team structure or work-life balance. By opening up the subject to discussion, and also by sharing the experiences of other companies in our portfolio. This way, you make sure that entrepreneurs are aware of the risks that may be lurking nearby.

    Apart from that, it is important to regularly scrutinize your own working methods as an investor: Don’t make too many complicated demands and help bring into focus what is really important. It’s also important for impact investors to make sure that any reporting on impact objectives is kept simple and clear. You can then avoid a whole swath of supplementary objectives and the entrepreneur will have a clear idea of how they can substantiate their impact mission.

    The basis for a good partnership is also found in shared values. For example, we always share our Rubio mission & values with the entrepreneurs whom we invest in, and we want to match those with the values of the company. That way we know from each other what we each consider important in our partnership.

    Open and clear communication and the courage to show vulnerability are also crucial. And it goes without saying that as an investor (and often an entrepreneur as well), you have to show that you are able to maintain that balance. I am very aware of the importance of personal wellbeing, although I still have plenty to learn myself.

    Working together towards less stress


    Sharing experiences and cooperation on this issue is something that I hope to see a lot more of in this sector. Let’s face it: Everyone struggles with stress and many of the goals that we set for ourselves as impact-driven entrepreneurs are still a long way off. By being open about stress and the challenges that come with entrepreneurship, we not only help ourselves progress but also the sector.

    About this column:

    In a weekly column, alternately written by Eveline van Zeeland, Eugene Franken, Helen Kardan, Katleen Gabriels, Bert Overlack, Carina Weijma, Bernd Maier-Leppla and Colinda de Beer, Innovation Origins tries to find out what the future will look like. These columnists, occasionally supplemented by guest bloggers, are all working on solutions in their own way on the problems of our time. So that tomorrow will be good Here are all the previous articles.

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    About the author

    Author profile picture Willemijn Verloop is founding partner of Rubio Impact Ventures, the leading Dutch investment fund for impact start-ups and scale-ups, such as Olio, Mosa Meat, Skillab and Vandersat. Previously, she was founder of Social Enterprise NL, the national network of social entrepreneurs and founder/CEO of War Child. Verloop has written several publications on social entrepreneurship and is, among other things, a supervisory director at Tony's Chocoloneley.