Small start-ups: big social change with heavyweight ideas
The biennial I WILL Get in the Ring competition, held by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), awards a €15,000 prize to the year’s best social enterprise start-up. The 2018 competition had two winners for the first time ever: Juvoo, a platform that uses smart technology to give back 105 hours of caring time each year to nurses drowning in administration, and Boxrs4All, a clothing company that donates a pair of locally-made underwear in Tanzania for every pair sold in the Netherlands.
Story by Imogen Moore
A friendly football game during a humanitarian school trip to Tanzania gave Thom Uildriks an insight into a small problem with big consequences. ‘I went to get the football equipment. There was a Tanzanian boy showering using a bucket and when he got dressed he didn’t use any underwear. Later we asked why that was and the answer was pretty simple – they can’t afford it. If you have the money for two shirts or one shirt and some underwear, you buy the two shirts. It’s all about status.’
“Let’s do something”
When Thom returned home to the Netherlands he began researching. ‘Worldwide, a hundred million people want underwear but they simply can’t afford it. It sounds like a small thing but not having underwear can lead to infection, sexual dysfunction, and for women means they can’t go to school or to work when they have their period.’
Spijk Geene was also on the trip to Tanzania and is now Thom’s business partner. A phone call between the two (‘Why don’t we try to do something about this?’) was the beginning of Boxrs4All. Over a beer at a café in Eindhoven the idea was mapped out and eventually pitched to the European Commission. ‘We won that pitch and that’s when the idea really started rolling. But we were always behind. First we had media attention but no website; then we had a website but no boxers; then we had boxers but just one simple design.’
Stimulating local economy
Another couple of pitches and a crowdfunding campaign saw the first batch of boxer shorts go on sale in the Netherlands. Every pair of boxer shorts sold in the Netherlands means a pair of boxer shorts donated in Tanzania. ‘This is crucial to Boxrs4All. Every pair of boxers donated in Tanzania is also made in Tanzania.
There is no big factory making them: we work with a foundation in Tanzania that works with an orphanage. One of the orphans’ grandmothers is the person who makes each pair of boxer shorts that we donate. We get the order, she gets the order, she makes the underwear and it is distributed. So we’re not only helping with hygiene and health but also stimulating the local economy; that was always really important for us.’
Boxrs4All has gained a lot of media attention, notably from 3FM, BNR, Elsevier and Quote. ‘The CEO of supermarket chain Jumbo is now an investor and mentor,’ Thom enthuses. ‘We’ve presented so many times that I won “Best Pitcher in the Netherlands” – March was crazy for us!’ Winning the I WILL Get in the Ring competition is the icing on the cake, especially as Thom, just 19 years old, was the only first-year student in a competition full of MBAs.
The strategy seems to have worked, and Boxrs4All are expanding to manufacturing women’s underwear, something that Thom considers an important move in the business’s growth. ‘Women buy a lot more underwear than men; they even buy more men’s underwear to give as gifts.’
The next phase in growth involves retailers and moving away from only selling online. ‘The retailers we work with have to believe in our project. They have to acknowledge that there is an impact that they’re paying for. We’ve walked away from some that are only in it for the profit.
‘Our vision is to have a full line of 4All clothing and accessories so that when someone buys one of our toothbrushes or a pair of socks they know that someone else is being gifted the same item. We could stop what we’re doing right now and have plenty of money, at least for students. But that’s not what we want; we would like to make this our full-time job after our studies.’
Juvoo – saving precious time in healthcare
Based on juvo, the Latin word for “giving aid”, Juvoo is the brainchild of MBA students Roopesh Santokhi, António Faria and two experienced healthcare professionals: Mark Venekamp and William Gomes. António started by studying medicine (but swapped to business studies) and Roopesh had previously developed a community app designed to give ordinary people easy ways to help the elderly in their neighbourhood. This background naturally led to finding solutions for issues within eldercare.
‘There is so much precious time lost to non-caring activities that could be spent in taking care of our elderly! Protocols are important of course but a carer’s time should be spent caring, not writing down what time a bed was made. We have sensors for that,’ Roopesh and António explain.
Smart technology: more care, less stress
Juvoo is a platform that uses smart technology to track activities that would otherwise be manually recorded by a caregiver. ‘For example, after a meeting with a client a caregiver has to run back to a desktop computer to write up the meeting notes then run back to be with another client. It breaks the flow of the relationship between patient and carer, and it’s inefficient. Speech-to-text technology can be used through Juvoo to take the meeting notes and automatically update the patient file,’ they say.
The platform aims to deal with some significant secondary issues as well. ‘Dutch healthcare is understaffed by around 100,000 people. The staff we do have take higher-than-average amounts of sick leave. A lot of this is due to stress from being overworked and having to spend so much time on the administrative tasks that take away from the core role. Using Juvoo, we can foresee less stress for nurses, which means less sick leave. We want to bring the joy back to the job.’
Juvoo is currently being trialled in the Stichting Humanitas Rotterdam. ‘The proof of the pudding is, as they say, in the eating. This trial is an excellent opportunity for us to see how Juvoo works in the real world, with real users who will give us feedback on what is working and what we can improve,’ they say.
‘We were really excited to introduce Juvoo to the staff. The biggest challenge in any new system is resistance from the people who will use it, so the biggest question the nurses had for us is whether Juvoo will take even more of their time. When we demonstrated how it works, they immediately saw how it could make their lives easier. One nurse in particular had the biggest smile on her face – we were so happy when we saw that! We really felt like we could help in a meaningful way.’
Prize money and investments
Juvoo has the capability to become an integrated platform, bringing together the many disparate systems already in place in healthcare. ‘A nurse will normally use multiple systems, each handling a different set of tasks. This means they have to log in to one, log out, move to another, input information there, move to yet another, all via a desktop computer. We want a carer to be able to manage their administration from an iPad.’
Roopesh’s presentation of Juvoo during the on-stage I WILL Get in the Ring final round of the competition won the audience prize of €2,000 and saw them taking home the grand prize of €15,000. It was the first time in the competition’s history that both prizes have been awarded to a single start-up. ‘We want to use the prize money to make the platform even better. We have so many ideas – we have a call every morning at 08:00 to discuss them! – so we need to prioritise. To be honest, we have the whole thing mapped out; we just need the investment to make it happen,’ they enthuse.
Fun and exciting
Both Roopesh and António have their eyes fixed very much on the longer term: ‘The whole world needs a more efficient healthcare system, especially for eldercare. We will have to go through this ourselves one day; do we want to get there and realise this is still the same system we saw 20 years ago? We shouldn’t have nurses and doctors becoming demotivated by working in an old, slow and unmoving business. It can really be so much fun, just as exciting as working for Uber or Google. For us, enabling positive change is the best prize we can get.’
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl
For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.