You need a personal ‘drive’ to work at Rabo Foundation, explain Nynke Struik and Nanouk Grootendorst. Both women do everything in their power to sustainably strengthen social enterprises in the Netherlands. Why? “The profit these entrepreneurs earn can’t be expressed in euros alone. It’s much bigger than that.”
Why does Rabo Foundation support social entrepreneurs?
Nynke: “Many social entrepreneurs have rock-solid ideals, but they could use some help with the business side. Their main priority isn’t necessarily to make a profit as fast as possible, but rather to make an impact first. They strive to build a better world, and they have a social mission. As a result, they’re often much more critical about their operations: how can I purchase as sustainably as possible? How can I give vulnerable people a chance in my company?”
Nanouk: “Social entrepreneurs show that you can run a profitable business that is both sustainable and socially responsible. They’re also transparent about what they do, how they deal with their own compensation and with the money they earn. In our opinion, they’re the entrepreneurs of the future. That’s why Rabo FoundationRabo Foundation is the Rabobank social fund, and its mission is to make people self-reliant, both in the Netherlands and abroad. Nynke Struik and Nanouk Grootendorst are both program managers for Social Entrepreneurship in the Dutch market. Read more about Rabo Foundation. is proud to help them. Our mission is to make people self-reliant, and social entrepreneurs facilitate that.”
Nynke: “There’s a lot involved in social entrepreneurship. Things like mentoring employees and negotiating with government agencies like the UWV and the municipality. Plus, you have to take care of all the things involved in a ‘standard’ business, like a well-organized administration, good management, HR policy and a marketing plan. Social entrepreneurship is a rewarding calling, but it’s also a challenge.”
How do you help social entrepreneurs?
Nynke: “We aim to strengthen the company as a whole. We offer a variety of training courses, like our mini-Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship, and we have scholarships for accelerator programs and the Social Entrepreneurship Learning Track at Utrecht University. We also provide financial support with loans and the occasional donations.”
Nanouk: “NNynke and I also give guest lectures at the training programs. They often deal with financing: where can you apply for it? For many social entrepreneurs, it’s difficult to obtain standard financing because they don’t have a ‘standard’ profit-first earning model. We inform them about alternative forms of bank and non-bank financing. And we help them get started by bringing them into contact with other funds and lenders, or by evaluating their business plan. With all of the other start-ups out there, how do you convince funds and investors to finance you?”
Nynke: “The strength of our mini-Master’s and training courses is that entrepreneurs can come into contact there. If you spend all of your time pioneering in a small town in the provinces, then it’s great to have a chance to exchange thoughts with like-minded people. We bring them together. Social entrepreneurs often share many of the same goals, so they appreciate being able to exchange knowledge, and sometimes even materials and machinery.”
Nanouk: “We don’t just connect entrepreneurs, by the way; we also provide a strong network of lenders and coaches. We work together with the government, but also with big companies like IKEA and Heineken. That enables us to connect all sorts of parties to social entrepreneurs to help them move forward. And in return, the social entrepreneurs can inspire the big companies.”
Nynke: “Our collaboration with local Rabobank affiliates is also growing stronger. They call us to ask if we can help a social entrepreneur from their area find their way. That’s the power of our cooperation! Stronger together. We also regularly join with the local bank to provide funding. We hope that in the future, more local bankers will be able to identify social entrepreneurs and introduce them to us.”
When do you decide to join forces with a social enterprise?
Nanouk: “When a company wants to make an impact and guide people to paid employment. A sustainable business model is also important, though. If you’re entirely dependent on a subsidy, then you’re in an extremely precarious position. We finance social entrepreneurs in a very early phase and give them the space to test new and innovative earning models.”
Nynke: “One great example is De Koekfabriek: a social bakery where people with poor job prospects are hired to bake cookies. The goal isn’t necessarily to make as much profit as possible through the sale of cookies, but to give as many people as possible a job. The more cookies they sell, the more people they can hire.”
What drives the two of you?
Nynke: “There are people who have trouble participating in society through no fault of their own. I think that’s terrible. Sometimes they just need one chance to grow. Social entrepreneurs can offer them that chance. And I like to help whenever they need it. Nobody deserves to be stuck at home because they have a physical or mental disability. If we utilize each and every individual’s talents, we can make the world a much better place.”
Nanouk: “Absolutely. Creating opportunities for them – that drives me too. Often, companies don’t have much room for people who need extra supervision, despite all the other things they have to offer. Social entrepreneurs give them that chance. The profit these entrepreneurs earn can’t be expressed in euros alone. It’s much bigger than that: they help vulnerable people build more self-confidence and a social network, which also increases their self-reliance and life satisfaction.”