Ukrainian social entrepreneurs in the spotlight

Tom Dinneweth |
Social entrepreneurs are a resilient bunch - there is very little in this world that makes them slow down in their resolve. This hunger for positive change was on full display during the Impact Business Demo Day in Lviv, Ukraine.

The Demo Day is a full one day event, mainly consecrated to the different business pitches of different social entrepreneurs. Their missions cover a wide array of social impact causes, including sustainable food production, social employment enterprises, inclusive healthcare and heritage protection. All of these building blocks contribute to a better post-war future for the country and its people. 

The room is packed, with many more following online. This is unsurprising, not only because of the amount of entrepreneurs, but also because of the number of people involved in making Demo Day a reality. A lot of those people are women - in fact, one in two new businesses in Ukraine has a woman at the helm. Among those present are the people of Impact Force, who initiated the Impact Business programme this Demo Day belongs to. There's the folks of SILab Ukraine -our local partner in the region- as well as an online delegation of Impact Europe (formerly EVPA). But there's countless other partners, including the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation. Collaboration at its finest.

The pitches

For all those pitching, the Demo Day is in many ways a testament to a busy year. All of them have enrolled and participated in the Impact Business acceleration programme, designed to support and educate social entrepreneurs and to help them grow. From 100 applicants, 25 were selected. Over the course of nine months, they have received elaborate mentorship, access to tech resources and professional coaches and other non-financial support. In the end, 23 social enterprises finished the programme in full.

Demo Day is exciting for them, though, because two entrepreneurs will be selected to receive a cash grant from the Ukrainian Social Venture Fund. This fund is established under the Collaborate For Impact programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by Impact Europe and SILab Ukraine.

First off, though, some honorable mentions. We can't go into all of the participants, but still - we like to give you an idea of what was on show. There was the Tepla Hora Foundation, which offers rest and recovery opportunities in the Carpathian Mountains to those affected by the war. Cardiac AI takes on the mission of providing cardiac diagnostic services across Ukraine, lowering the threshold to quality medical services in rural regions. Another medical intervention is offered by CheckEye, who aim to provide vision-saving medical aid to 600.000 people in a three year time span.

Social enterprises like Vilni, Anzy Home and MustHave link traditional Ukrainian methods of production to employment opportunities by teaching women how to sew and embroider and by subsequently selling the result of their labour. UPARKS and Green For You Food are engaged in developing and democratizing agricultural efforts. And that's just skimming the surface of the many excellent pitches on display.


The two winners pose with their grant cheques. Photo:
Faina Polyana and NO WASTE Ukraine

It's a bit of a gruelling task, but in the end, the jury picks two winners. Both of them receive a grant of 20.000 euros from the Ukrainian Social Venture Fund.

The first is Faina Polyana. They operate as an agricultural cooperative, helping small farmers in Ukraine stabilize and grow their plantations and their income, which in turn offers employment opportunities to the local community. In the rural areas where Faina Polyana works, levels of entrepreneurship and employment are typically quite low, resulting a migration away from the country side. This, too, is mediated by the solution offered by Faina Polyana.

The second winner is NO WASTE Ukraine. Their efforts center around recycling. Too little of this is done in Ukraine - only 4% of household waste is sorted, resulting in ecological stress and a loss in secondary materials. Their Sorting Capsule Network offers an innovative approach to sorting that should not only make recycling possible, but attractive to local Ukrainians.

A nice bonus, too - our member Impact Ventures and its CEO Elemer Eszter decided on their own accord to award coaching to a select group of entrepreneurs who pitched during the Demo Day, including eco brand Rekava. It echoes the words of jury member Martijn Blom of Impact Europe: that Demo Day does not simply mark the end of an acceleration programme, but the beginning of even better things to come.