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The Young Entrepreneurs Awards: four life-changing reasons to enter


The Unilever Young Entrepreneurs Awards recognise and support brilliant young innovators tackling the planet’s environmental and social challenges. There are many reasons to enter. Here we look at four, in the words of previous winners and an expert mentor.

Young Entrepreneurs Awards 2018 winners

Inspire, support and reward

At Unilever, we believe the world will only succeed in delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) if we all start to think and work differently. Recognising and collaborating with a new generation of the world’s most brilliant young changemakers is just one way to do this.

As Unilever CEO Paul Polman explains: “The entrepreneurial mindset of youth is continually inspirational. And the truth is that many of the boldest and brightest ideas on how to tackle the world’s challenges come from young social entrepreneurs. They are the changemakers who are challenging ‘business as usual’ and who are the future of sustainability. They, and I with them, are always asking – how can we do more? How can we go faster? What can we do to really make an impact and drive change at scale?

“I see a huge opportunity in bringing together the agility of entrepreneurs with the reach of big business, to revolutionise how we partner and collaborate. To really unlock entrepreneurial talent and unleash power towards tackling the SDGs.”

Since 2013, the Awards – run in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) – have engaged almost 3,600 entrepreneurs, reached over 100 countries and produced 29 winners. Entries range from digital healthcare for female-only clinics in Pakistan, to a network of high-quality, low-cost daycare services to help women get to work.

Each past winner has brought a new perspective, an exciting opportunity and unbridled passion. And each had their own reason for applying...

Scaling your idea for impact

“The Awards added to the visibility of our business and helped get national and international recognition,” says Dr Sara Saeed, 2016 HRH Prize Winner and co-founder & CEO of Sehat Kahani. “The funding allowed us to build and sustain operations. And we got to work with Unilever Pakistan. Sehat Kahani has now impacted more than 600,000 lives.”

Ultimately, our goal is to help scale your initiative and grow the impact it has on the environment and society. We want to see you succeed, and every aspect of the Awards is geared towards this.

Through education, exposure, funding and mentoring, we help you grow sustainably, raise your profile to the next level, and use the prize money where it is needed most. The growth of previous winners has been incredible to watch over the past four years.

Developing on a personal level

“It was a life-changing experience,” says Naadiya Moosajee, 2017 Winner and founder of WomEng. “I was feeling very low at the time, and this came at a tipping point for me: to either stick with my venture or go back into the corporate world. It was the affirmation I needed to stay in the game.”

A big challenge every leader faces is maintaining motivation and growing as a person, when professional life becomes inseparable from personal life. The accelerator programme has sessions that focus on motivation and building your confidence as a spokesperson for your business.

You will join the Unilever and CISL entrepreneur networks, and connect with people facing the same challenges as you. What’s more, the pitch process offers an exciting opportunity and invaluable insight into what others think about your initiative.

YEA Elizabeth Letham

I saw how much Unilever really wanted to help this take off. If you become a winner, they really do believe in you.

Elizabeth Latham

Building connections and relationships

“When I got to Unilever, I saw how much they really wanted to help this take off – it was more than just a story for their website,” says Elizabeth Latham, 2017 Winner and co-founder of the Sustainable Protein and Environment Initiative. “And if they can’t help you, they’ll find someone who can. If you become a winner, they really do believe in you.”

The Awards will expose you to people who can provide inspiration and support, and give you the right introductions to take your initiative to the next level. The accelerator programme connects you to successful entrepreneurs, experts in business growth and scaling, and leaders in sustainability.

You get to pitch to a high-profile panel in London, where we bring in judges who could help with your next step. You’ll have the chance to network and meet Unilever’s CEO. You’ll also be the special guest at the prize event, giving you unrivalled recognition and exposure.

Invaluable mentoring

“Even indirectly, the Awards confer credibility on the winners, which can open up conversations with others. Mentoring is a way to channel this in the right direction for entrepreneurs, to achieve scale for impact,” explains Dr Nicky Dee, Mentor and Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership Fellow.

Mentoring means many different things; sometimes it’s more akin to therapy, other times it demands specific input on a business or organisational issue. We focus on what entrepreneurs need, when they need it, rather than prescribing upfront what the process should involve.

From issues that are expected, to the unexpected, we help however we can over the course of a year (and sometimes more). After all, it is often when the elation of the Awards Ceremony begins to fade that the really exciting stuff starts to happen.

How to enter

The 2018 Unilever Young Entrepreneurs Awards are open for entries until Friday 29 June. If you’re tackling the world’s environmental and social challenges, we want to hear from you. You can find out more and apply here.

There’s over €100,000 up for grabs, along with tailored business mentoring services for 12 months provided by experts from Unilever and the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. Winners also receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Cambridge and London, UK, to learn and connect with experts from CISL, Unilever and guest speakers over a five-day programme.

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