Ye! Social Entrepreneur, Benjamin shares his story of connecting with a Ye! Coach to bring fresh growth to his company.
By Benjamin Constable
If you’re building your passion project, it is almost inevitable that you are going to feel anxiety. Anxiety about your decisions, anxiety about the use of your time, and ultimately, anxiety about the future success of your project. But anxiety can lead to positive changes. My passion project/social enterprise/startup - FreshBox - can often be the source of anxiety in my own life.
South Africa has one of the highest levels of inequality in the world, with about 55% of children belonging to households living under the ultra-poverty line of $1.90 a day. This includes approximately 10 million children who do not have access to nutritious food. I often feel naïve when experiencing anxiety over running a business. There are so many individuals in South Africa who have problems vastly more severe and tangible than my own.
Why Social Entrepreneurship?
I started FreshBox with the desire to sustainably and effectively help children at-risk of malnutrition. If a child falls victim to malnutrition, it can lead to grave consequences later in life, potentially even death. A malnourished child is 10 times more likely to die from an easily preventable or treatable disease than a nourished child. Children who do not suffer from malnutrition in South Africa complete nearly five more grade levels in school, go on to earn 21% higher wages, and are more likely to sustain healthier families of their own.
I envisioned FreshBox as a solution to malnutrition and a way to change the future for these at-risk children. FreshBox combats malnutrition by selling “subscriptions” - weekly supplies of quality fruit and vegetables, retailed via an e-commerce platform. For each subscription sold, we give another to a child at-risk of malnutrition. While Freshbox brought sustainable, healthy food to children, it also sustained my lack of sleep.
FreshBox was showing strong growth. Our subscribers grew to over 80 people and we were feeding over 100 children. Yet, as our numbers grew so did our worries about customer satisfaction, employee mistakes and funders’ perspectives on FreshBox. All these issues fed into my anxiety. I needed an outsider’s perspective.
As a member of the Ye! global community of young entrepreneurs, I decided to scroll through the list of mentors. While searching the coaching community, I looked for someone with experience in the non-profit sector; someone who could guide me through my anxiety, to provide an objective perspective based on their own past experiences in business. While searching through this online network of mentors, I found Yolanda Sing. Her bio stated,
“A Senior Human Resource Executive who has worked extensively and internationally in 15 different countries. Yolanda is a professional coach who inspires people to connect with the latent leadership qualities within themselves.”
On top of all that she was from South Africa! This gave me hope that she would understand some of the localized issues I was facing.
Two emails later we had our first coaching session scheduled. Just before the first skype call, I became nervous at the prospect of discussing my business and emotional issues with someone I barely knew.
The Value of a Coach
Previously, I had played professional basketball. Most of my basketball coaches did more to increase my anxiety, than alleviate it. A coach was someone who yelled at me for missing dunks, not someone who probed deep into a social enterprise to address malnutrition and rethink the food supply. I did not want someone to tell me what to do, or pinpoint what I was doing wrong. Instead, I was looking for someone to empower me; someone to help me understand with greater clarity, the issues I was facing at FreshBox and brainstorm solutions for addressing them. Someone to help me identify my own role in solving these problems, in order to better understand what I could and couldn’t control. Someone to help me to discover the answers myself, not hand them to me.
During our first skype meeting, I learned that these coaching sessions could not be more different from my basketball practices. I did most of the talking, while she listened. She offered pointed comments only when she felt it necessary.
She told me, “We have over 60,000 thoughts a day, it’s important to remember you can choose which thoughts to follow through.” We agreed to three actionable points:
- Research if FreshBox needs a “push or pull strategy”
- Write two sentences clarifying the values of FreshBox
- Identify suburbs from most desirable to least for FreshBox to operate
Identifying three actionable goals became a fixture of our weekly sessions. These goals provided a targeted focus of the most important issues I needed to address within FreshBox. These action points allowed me to manage my time and helped alleviate my anxiety.
After a few more sessions of reflection and goal setting, FreshBox began piling on new customers, hiring new employees, whilst also upskilling our current staff. Humans may be awful at recognizing causation, but it seemed to me as though these coaching sessions were reducing my stress, increasing my focus, and directly impacting the growth FreshBox.
From these coaching sessions, I began to comprehend where my anxiety came from and how to fight back. I learned that these anxieties could be hugely powerful when controlled and a weakness when misunderstood. After each coaching session, I felt able to step away, identify action points, create goals and address the reality of each complex situation. Anxiety was a nervous, excited energy that had to be managed to guide me through solving a problem.
Yolanda never explicitly stated these ideas. She did however, understand exactly what I was saying and through listening and helping me work through my anxiety, she allowed me to solve these problems myself with her as my guide. Working with Yolanda made these anxieties not only manageable, but empowered me to understand them and turn them into strengths.
Prior to Yolanda’s coaching, anxiety was a blindfold, now, it’s a compass.
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Benjamin Constable is a member of the Ye! Community and a Social Entrepreneur. His organization Freshbox offers monthly subscriptions of healthy food. When a Freshbox is bought another is given to a child at-risk of malnutrition.
Are you ready to fight hunger? Learn more about the FreshBox Hungry 100 campaign and begin fighting hunger today.