“They said they were looking for a manager, and I was thinking like an owner”

Aliaksandar Skrabouski, the director of the "Dobra" foundation spoke about how Social Weekend appeared in Belarus

Aliaksandar Skrabouski, director of the Dobra foundation and head of the Social Weekend, explains in the 11th edition of the ItStarts podcast! why capitalization is important to him, how the Social Weekend appeared and why you need to visit it without a clear idea.

“It was that level of surprise that gives rise to great confidence”

My first entrepreneurial experience happened when I sold chewing gum to a neighbor. The chewing gum was made of plasticine, so I had to return the money. In my third year at university, I started my first business. It was a computer club where you could come and work. But later I quit it: it coincided with a difficult stage in my life, so I didn’t explain anything to anyone.

After university, I got a job in a plumbing retail company.

By the end of the first working day, I explained to the head that this direction was not needed in this company for several reasons.

I quit again, and two weeks later I received an offer. The heads of the company contacted me and offered to participate in a research project. So my co-founding life began.

These guys were very impressed that I came, then told why the position was not needed and why this direction is unprofitable and left. They first tried to pay for it. Perhaps this was that level of surprise that gave rise to great confidence. Two or three weeks later when they needed a person who could calculate an investment project they turned to me. This for me was a decent leap in the numbers of the managed project.

Why did I do this? Well, I didn’t want to lie. I realized that I would not be interested in doing this because I was not digging.

Then the story repeated. What confused them? They said they were looking for a manager, and I was thinking like an owner. I ask: “And what’s wrong with that, we all have the same goal, don’t we?”

And he said: “I’m afraid of you.”

Remnants of this business philosophy from the 90s are still there. When you need a manager who can’t cut you out of your position. And the fact that I have no purpose to cut someone out of his position and that I am thinking like an owner about business efficiency is unusual.

“They are fanatics of the eco-friendly lifestyle, and we continue to throw cigarette butts on the ground.”

Now I have a retirement lifestyle.

Usually, people who have matured in financially enter charity. But my approach is the opposite.

When you offer value to the market as all companies do, but after all the main criterion is the amount of money you earn… I have the opposite story. I need money to carry value. Even in investment projects capitalization was my salvation, but not profit margin in the short run.

There is corporate social responsibility, and there is social entrepreneurship. These are exactly two different paradigms, for example, as an entrepreneur and artisan. Corporate social responsibility is actions from responsible business to sponsorship to the community in which the company is located. These are such acts of goodwill beyond the market, it should not be from the advertising budget. We have the notorious 300th decree, which we still cannot cancel, on gratuitous sponsorship. But “gratuitous” and “sponsorship” are at different poles. Sponsorship is a contract. And gratuitous is when you have matured and give.

There is a phenomenon of social entrepreneurship. But it is impossible to equate it with ordinary business or say that it is a panacea. I would be even afraid to say that this is a market segment. This is a niche story that varies from place to place. For example, in the Netherlands, an absolutely commercial project with a couple of million capitalizations is a separate waste collection box.

This is social entrepreneurship, but we have no such need and request.

They are fond of the “eco-friendly” standard of living, and we continue to throw cigarette butts on the ground. In our country, social entrepreneurship is flouted by the fact that it is obligatory to help vulnerable groups, there is also necessarily an animal protection activity. We say both by our competition and the foundation that charity is cool. But social entrepreneurship is not charity.

In our work, we stop dividing projects into commercial and non-commercial. Now, projects that carry value can participate in our competition. If for this they need to earn money, they do earn. If not, they don’t. But in training both at the hackathon and in the main competition we force to build a business model and find the money.

How did Social Weekend originate?

The first Social Weekend was held online on the May Sens platform. Projects were placed on the platform, they could be crowdfunding, and as they would say then — fundraising. This coincided with the fact that I was already bored after the business. It was the summer of 2013, then I met Dzianis Kandatovych, who ran the Make Sense. I told him that I can pull up resources and we can try to make Social Weekend at a different level.

In 2015, I realized that somehow we are slowly taking off: we are growing, but we are still a startup. Then I took charge of the Social Weekend.

Social Weekend is an outlet. It was possible to come being nobody and owning nothing, but try to talk about your idea.

Deciding to tell is the main barrier.

At that time, it was not customary to talk about ideas, because they will be copied. Now people come from the province with some kind of idea that they cannot formulate, but in the end, they win the competition.

The "Dobra" Foundation was created to systematize, among other things, work with business. In the business area, I had a dream that there would be no socially irresponsible business in the market. Imagine a scale where charity is on one side and a terrible mainstream business on the other, which is only money and nothing more. Social entrepreneurship is somewhere in between.

The task of Social Weekend is to extend charity to more sustainable practices, adding a startup spirit there. The task on the part of the business is, on the contrary, to wrap it in interesting stories and bring these two stories together.

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