Innocent drinks co-founder Richard Reed is not known for mincing his words. At an event in London last night hosted by Chivas Regal, Reed, along with Elvis + Kresse’s Kresse Wesling MBE, and Belu Water’s Karen Lynch, appealed to a room full of social entrepreneurs to use the current state of socio-political turmoil as fuel for the fire.
“Brexit was a bat-sh*t crazy decision. It’s like a bad comedy and it’s only getting worse,” Reed said. “It’s hijacking a country’s future by a political party to serve its agenda, and from the way the conversation has been going, it looks like we’re going to see a hard, destructive Brexit rather than a soft, negotiating one.”
Reed credits a lot of Innocent Drinks’ success to the European Union, which is why the Brexit vote is something he feels so strongly about, even now. “The reason we created so much wealth for people is because we exported to Europe. I mean, who are these people who voted to leave? Nigel Farrage, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin. Every other G20 political leader, past and present, of every political persuasion are looking at us like, ‘bad call, guys.’ But what can you do? It’s happening now.”
He was to quick to add that despite the vote to leave the EU, UK entrepreneurs are not likely to be affected. “We’re going to need entrepreneurs now more than ever, because it’s only entrepreneurs that start businesses. Politicians don’t. Businesses create wealth, and jobs and opportunities. We’re going to need to be more resilient now because it’s only going to be harder.”
For Belu Water CEO Karen Lynch, social entrepreneurs are the world’s strongest hope. “Who else is going to take ownership of problem and make a business out of it? We can’t wait for government, we can’t wait for a natural cycle to come around because that will take too long. Even those who voted for Brexit didn’t actually vote for what’s coming,” she said. Lynch stressed that instead of wasting energy on being depressed or crying about what’s been done, the best thing that has happened for her since June 23rd is channeling that energy into encouraging, inspiring, and collaborating with other like-minded people and businesses to be a force for good.
Similarly, Elvis + Kresse co-founder Kresse Wesling MBE sees both the ‘devastating’ Brexit vote and the controversial Trump Presidency as opportunities for social entreprise. “We have a Romanian chief craftsman who’s here to train under-skilled local people in North Kent, so it’s quite devastating to him personally. But I have to say, particularly with Trump (winning the American election), it made be think ‘that’s it now’. I hope that’s a catching virus among social entrepreneurs and those who want to do the right thing, because I feel virtually unstoppable now. I’m like a freight train now.”
Reed calls this the ‘Trump dividend’ where people now think ‘okay, I can do whatever I want now’. “Somehow, liberalism has become a bad word. Liberalism basically says that humans are equal, and anyone who has a problem with that has some big childhood issues they need to see a therapist about. But Trump has shown us that there are no rules anymore. So I would ask us all to appropriate that thinking of ‘who gives a f*ck, let’s do everything in our power do our best, as long as our aims are good.'”
The world’s top 30 social entrepreneurs
Chivas Venture is a global $1 million search to find and support the next generation of social and environmental start-ups that want to succeed while creating a better future for society.
Now in its third year, the Chivas Venture has to date received almost 6,000 applications across six continents from startups that are striving to use innovation and enterprise to make the world a better place. The vision of the future as imagined by this year’s finalists is a place where protein bars are made from crickets and shoes made from garbage; where walls of moss clean city air and human waste is turned into affordable cooking fuel.
This year, the 30 finalists have been invited to the UK to take part in a transformational accelerator programme created by Chivas in partnership with the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship within the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford.
During an intensive five days of learning, the finalists have the opportunity to develop leadership skills, take part in practical workshops and be inspired by global experts on critical topics that affect social startups – before travelling to Los Angeles in July to compete for a share of $1 million to make their dream of creating a better future for the world a reality.
From Monday 1st May to Sunday 4th June, the public will be able to show their support for their favourite finalist through a live vote. Over the course of five weeks, the public’s vote will determine how the first $250,000 in funding is split among the finalists. The winner of the remaining $750,000 in funding will be decided on Thursday 13th July 2017 at the Chivas Venture Final in Los Angeles, after a high-stakes pitch in front of the judges and a live audience.
Last year in New York, global judge Eva Longoria and host Trevor Noah announced the winners of the $1 million fund. Social startup Conceptos Plasticos from Colombia was awarded the largest share of the fund, receiving $300,000.