Rajeeb Dey - an Interview with the Social Entrepreneur
by Startacus Admin
Accolades don’t come easy to most of us. In fact it can often take your closest family and friends to give you a pat on the back before you to feel a sense of appreciation.
However one man that has rightly earned the plaudits and accolades given to him is Rajeeb Dey. Still in his mid 20’s, Rajeeb has earned a space at many a top table - and rightly so. From being the Founder and Chair of the English Secondary Students Association at aged 17, he then went on to become the longest serving President of Oxford Entrepreneurs whilst at University. Post graduation, Rajeeb then won various accolades via Channel 4, Goldman Sachs and O2.
Rajeeb is also the Founder of Enternships an online platform for graduates looking to find internships with startups and SMEs, a Co-Founder of Start Up Britain; a Government backed campaign to promote and inspire entrepreneurship in the UK, and a Trustee of UnLtd - the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs (phew, not much then!)
Just back from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Rajeeb spoke to Startacus about his ability to clearly multi-task, working in social enterprise, and the UK Startup scene in general...
Let's start with you. You have a massive array of roles, responsibilities, and business interests. How do you fit everything in!?
Multitasking and balancing a hectic workload is a skill I've been able to develop from quite a young age. I started my first venture aged 17- Student Voice (www.studentvoice.co.uk) alongside studying for my A-levels and continuing straight into University (without a gap year) whilst keeping Student Voice going on the side and working on Enternships too. The key is that i love everything I do and only commit to doing something i know I can add value to and have the time to dedicate. A lot of the activities I'm involved with are complimentary to each other and generally revolve around encouraging entrepreneurship and the intersection with education. As an entrepreneur there is no concept of 'work-life balance' so generally i'm 'plugged in' 24/7 however I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What are the main advantages of setting your business up as a Social Enterprise?
In this day and age every business has the opportunity to be a social business. Every business should consider its impact on society and the value it can add to the world. It's personally one of the driving factors of my life which is to be able to make a difference to the world I live in especially at a time with such serious socio-economic challenges such as youth unemployment. It means you have another 'bottom line' which is not just profit but also social benefit which is far more rewarding.
Do you see a lot of businesses trying to shape themselves into being a social enterprise just simply for funding support and awards?
I wouldn't say that. I personally do not call Enternships a social enterprise publicly although many people use that label and see us as a social enterprise which is absolutely fine. I think there is still a lack of a robust definition but to me it’s about having an ability to make money and make a difference and too often people regard social enterprises as charities and thus feel that for-profit entities should not be regarded as social enterprises. As mentioned previously every company should be looking at their work and their impact with the ability to move towards becoming a social business - whatever form that may take
Do you feel that the current startup industry does enough to attract 'new blood' to consider self employment as a viable career option?
I think the idea of working in a startup or setting up your own business is growing in popularity although we still have a long way to go in comparison to attitudes of those in places such as the US. Startups are often too busy with their day to day activities to consider marketing themselves as employers or to spend time evangelising about the benefits of being an entrepreneur. However with the bleak employment market and greater awareness from campaigns such as StartUp Britain (which I co-founded in March 2011 and was launched by the Prime Minister) we are seeing a change in attitudes which is encouraging.
With a limited budget, what would be your best advice for a newbie entrepreneur looking to market their business?
Social media is a great and free way of promoting your business. Make sure your business is on the main channels such as Facebook and Twitter (if you're feeling adventurous then try Pinterest and Google Plus too!) Remember though whilst they are free they require a time input to manage your communications as there's nothing worse than having a presence but not engaging with your audience. The other approach is through networking and referrals. Turn up to events, speak about what you do and remember to take business cards. You'll be surprised how helpful people usually are and if you have a compelling proposition its a great way to drum up new business. Over 70% of our new business on Enternships.com comes through word of mouth, referrals and repeat business.
Who has been your biggest influence or mentor in shaping your career to date? (name a few if you like!)
I don’t have a particular mentor but have a big network of fellow entrepreneurs who are always there should I need to ask for advice or support. I think my parents have been the biggest influence for me as its due to their unfaltering support and belief in me (and frankly letting me get on with what I wanted to do) which has enabled me to be where I am today. I think far too often our parents may discourage us away from entrepreneurship in favour for something more 'safe' but luckily despite coming from a family of medics my family has always let me do whatever I have wanted to do!