Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Yonca Braeckman, founder and CEO of Impact Shakers. Let’s see what she is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Yonca! Tell me, what challenges are you addressing through your organization?
Yonca: It’s great to be here, Spiffy! We are on a mission to change who gets to build businesses, how they do that, and what for. We want anyone regardless of their background, skin color, ethnicity, or gender to be able to start their own business with the goal to tackle societal and environmental challenges and to do that while caring well for themselves as well as the people helping them to build and grow their business.
Spiffy: That’s great! What motivated you to do it?
Yonca: The conviction that business can be a force for good, and be used as a tool to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges, but that one crucial element was missing to unlock its full potential. And this was the fact that people using entrepreneurship as their way to tackle problems weren’t diverse at all. They were the same gender, came from the same socio-economic layers, got the same degrees, and even predominantly attended the same schools. How can we solve any of the complex problems we’re faced with when we don’t have any diversity of perspective among the people coming up with the solutions?
Spiffy: How would you say that your organization is working towards a more equitable world?
Yonca: We work towards a more equitable world by building more equitable businesses. Entrepreneurship is such a powerful way to contribute to a better world. It empowers and offers opportunities for more inclusive employment, generational wealth, and social mobility. If on top of this, we use it to actually tackle societal and environmental challenges, the potential impact is enormous and systemic.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does it make on your audience or community?
Yonca: I'm so happy that now, we can finally invest in the companies we work with and already supported with access to knowledge, network, and capital. Offering access to all of these is great and necessary, but as long as we can not financially support the businesses we work with with actual money, our impact remains limited. Supporting diverse entrepreneurs is popular, but that still doesn’t mean they receive investment on top of the support, and to make a huge impact, we still need investment to make sure that the business can reach its full potential.
Spiffy: Tell me about an inspiring startup that your organization has helped to advance its impact.
Yonca: Vyld is building the “algae-verse.” The founders are such inspiring women, from filmmakers to founders of a business that makes period products out of seaweed—one of the oldest and most sustainable plants in the world. The first product is a seaweed tampon—a “kelpon.” The most inspiring part is how they think about building the business, and how to make it sustainable, equitable, and caring from start to finish.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Yonca: If you are considering becoming an entrepreneur, I can only say it’s the best and the worst at the same time, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world! If you want to have an outsized impact on the world and you are a problem solver, you’re resilient, and you can adapt to change easily, consider becoming an entrepreneur and help to tackle some of the issues you understand best!
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Yonca—it’s been an honor!
Yonca Braeckman is the founder and CEO of Impact Shakers, a global impact ecosystem tackling societal and environmental challenges through inclusive entrepreneurship. She is a mission-driven entrepreneur and investor in underrepresented founders. She helped build the Belgian and European tech startup ecosystems and is a sought-after startup mentor and jury member. (Nominated by Josef Scarantino at Hubspot Ventures. First published on the Ladderworks website on January 19, 2024.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.© 2024 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Sujit Kunte. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.