St Andrew’s entrepreneurial spirit this year is vivified by the prevalent presence of Enactus. Though the society is not new to St Andrews, they have transformed rapidly within the past few months, an effort that placed them in the final three of Enactus UK’s Summer Action. Curious to find out what lies ahead for Enactus, The Saint sat down with President Theo Kong for an interview.
The Saint: What is Enactus in a sentence? How does it work at the global level and the St Andrews level?
Theo Kong: Enactus is a global network of students and advisors trying to achieve the United Nation goals through social enterprise, a business model that employs commercial strategies towards social causes. We teach a man how to fish, rather than give him one. The former is more sustainable. In this worldwide network, students are mentored by educators and business leaders in their mission of solving complex social issues. Currently, at Enactus St Andrews, we have three local projects and one international one.
TS: Can you talk about the impact of your four projects: Remeducate, Green Start, Dine for a Dime and Moda X?
TK: Right now all our projects are still in their early phases. Our international project, Remeducate, operates on the idea of medicine redistribution in Kolkata, India. This project has been similarly implemented by SIRUM in the United States. We aim to create an online infrastructure to connect surpluses of unused medicine with safety net clinics or local communities whose low-income patients cannot afford their medicine and at the same time deliver much needed educational workshops on personal hygiene and health.
Our first local project, Green Start, aims to tackle the issue of homelessness and assist those in supported accommodation in St Andrews. The plan is to create a system where vulnerable people will collect waste like glass, cardboard and plastic to transform them into products which can then be sold either here in St Andrews or in Fife. In turn we equip them with basic manual and business skills so that they can eventually find employment in the long run.
The next project is Dine on a Dime. There’s a big problem with food waste in local restaurants, so we want to create a system which allows customers to pay less and restaurants to waste less. Customers would buy a subscription card, and use this card to get a better deal on the restaurant food that would have otherwise gone to waste, quite similar to the “reduced price” yellow stickers at Tesco, but for restaurants.
Moda X, our last project, is about embracing sustainable fashion. We’re hoping to hold a series of workshops which turn used garments into new products. Since there’s an issue with female loneliness in St Andrews, we also hoping to connect lonely elderly women with students to strengthen the town and gown relations.
TS: Enactus emphasises entrepreneurial action. Can you walk us through how your members execute their entrepreneurship action plans?
TK: Enactus defines “entrepreneurial action” as taking the opportunity to develop innovative business models based on risk, commitment, and a willingness to follow through. In order for us to propose a solution and implement it, we have to know where the problem lies. Such information is collected through a procedure called a needs assessment.
Needs assessment is a survey that helps us determine the root causes of the problems, its magnitude, and where the possibilities are. For example, with Green Start, the team would need to conduct surveys on whether there is a need for recyclable waste to be collected, and whether homeless people would be up for the tasks, under what conditions, etc. We take notes of the needs of the community, and sit down together to discuss and collaborate. We only take action when we have devised clear strategies as to how they can enact effective changes. The end result is to equip the project beneficiaries with the knowledge, skills and confidence to move from dependency to independence, with or without Enactus.
TS: Your team has been shortlisted for The Summer Action. Tell us more about it.
TK: Last year, Enactus went through an idle period so I started building it from scratch. We now have more projects and more passionate people. Our finance is a lot more secured. In the process, we have been connecting with the wider community of St Andrews. Enactus UK has recognised such transformations and placed us as one of the three most improved teams. The next step is to create a video to prove why we deserve the award.
TS: What do you appreciate the most about Enactus?
TK: Enactus as a society is not just a place where we discuss issues and increase awareness. We take action. It is the perfect platform to create meaningful, measurable and lasting value. You improve the lives of the people around you in a sustainable way, and accumulate the skills to continue after university. Enactus creates leaders who see beyond the status quo. As president of Enactus this year, it is my pledge to bring imagination and ingenuity to approach today’s challenges.
TS: What have you learned since joining Enactus?
TK: I’ve refined my resilience, adaptability, pitching skills and professionalism. Enactus has given me more hands-on business experiences and taught me the importance of communication in the business world. Enactus has also given me the opportunity to speak to like-minded people all over the globe who also care about shaping a better tomorrow.
TS: What is Enactus working towards this year?
TK: Our main aim is to empower people and create sustainable, long-term solutions to problems. Every year, there is a national competition among all Enactus teams in the UK, followed by a world competition for national winners in their respective countries. We hope to participate in the national competition in London in April, as this provides incentives for us to work harder, and at the same time meet and learn from our peers.
TS: How can people get involved with Enactus?
TK: Anyone can join at any point. If you want to join, pop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or have a look on our website! You should definitely decide what team you want to join first and what projects appeal to you. If you don’t want to be a member but still want to be involved, keep an eye out for our events or come to our workshops.
TS: Anything else you would like to add?
TK: We apply our passion, our talents and ideas to impact as many lives as we can. Rather than just handing out help to people in need, we work side by side with them to create opportunities. Enactus is all about the following cliche: we’re less about feeding the hungry man for a day, and more about teaching him how to fish. With a head for business and a heart for the world, we live our values of integrity, passion, innovation and collaboration.