BangladeshSocial entrepreneurship

Learning from Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus

5 lessons aspiring social entrepreneurs can learn from Muhammad Yunus

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 44 seconds.

On the 16th floor of the Grameen Bank Tower, Mirpur 2, Dhaka, Bangladesh

A dream comes true

We all have those unique moments in our lives that we always look back to and still can’t believe that they actually happened. For me one of those moments was meeting Muhammad Yunus. I had the incredible opportunity to meet him in his office in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. If not the founder of the idea of social businesses, he at least made the whole concept popular to not only serve economic interests, but also to have a social impact. Awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 Yunus is internationally recognized as a leader in social entrepreneurship.

It was amazing to meet Muhammad Yunus in his office in Dhaka in Bangladesh. His aura is incredible. As a leader of the social entrepreneurship movement it was a life changing experience.
Founder of Grameen Bank and leader of social entrepreneurship education around the world Muhammad Yunus with me in his office in Dhaka, Bangladesh © Marlon

1. Success does not come with the blink of an eye

Often social entrepreneurs have to change the mindset of the people in almost any product or service they are offering. Breaking the established walls and at the same time setting up a functional business is challenging. Yunus himself started his micro-finance venture in 1976 when he gave out the first bank baked loans to rural women in Bangladesh. In 2006 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that is exactly 30 years later. 30 YEARS later. So please don’t think you change the world over night. It will take a lot of consistent effort to go beyond the pain and have meaningful impact. Social entrepreneurship is a long journey be equipped and enjoy every second of it.

“Poverty is an artificial, external imposition on a human being; it is not innate in a human being. And since it is external, it can be removed. It is just a question of doing it.” Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank

2. Get to know your customers

Often said most of the time misunderstood. Getting to know your customer does not mean that I know their average salary and their favorite car brand, but really understanding their situation. Why do they need my service or product? How do I solve their problem?Social businesses have to compete in a natural business environment and if you are not prepared your social business will fade. So find out what our customers need and how you will be able to sustain your business in the long run. Yunus went out to the villages around Chittagong where he taught as a professor in 1976. Here he realized that women are dependent on loan sharks, their only way to get a hold on money. Through those experiences Yunus understood the real problems of his future customers and how to solve them.

3. Do what you love

You are about to set up the next e-commerce platform. Let me ask you a simple question, is that really what you truly love? Because if it’s not don’t waste even a second of your precious life on this idea. Do what you love and never stop chasing your dreams. Just because it sounds cool to sell some products on Amazon does not mean it creates any meaning for you.

On the verge of the Bangladeshi independence from Pakistan Yunus was already engaged in multiple projects in the USA where he studied at that point. He felt he needed to support his country and make others aware of the Bangladeshi situation. After the independence he left all the great career opportunities in the USA behind and even risked his marriage. However, his heart knew where he belonged and what his purpose was. His purpose was to transform millions of lives in Bangladesh through social entrepreneurship.

4. Find strong partners

I know it is cool to start all on your own. It is exciting to get things done yourself. But it’s never bad to attract powerful business partners and connect with influential people that are able to adjust the winds to your advantage. We all start alone but we are able to find team partners that can push us beyond of what we think is possible and carry us on the days where we hit rock bottom and are unable to move anymore.

Yunus was able to convince powerful people in the banking industry to support his social business. He cooperated 7 years with the government owned Janata Bank before he established Grameen Bank as we know it today. Without the support in the beginning nothing of what was achieved would have been possible.

5. Start here and now

You can talk over your ideas again and again, but until you start nothing is going to change. People are afraid to make mistakes. But you know what? You will make a ton of mistakes. However, that is the only way to grow. Once you made your thoughts clear in a business plan and you are confident with your ideas you have to start. The time is now. The world is ready for you.  Stop procrastinating and go after your dreams. Social entrepreneurship starts with the first step.

Yunus was so moved by the disastrous situation the rural women were in that he lent $27 of his own money to 42 rural women. With that loan he enabled the women to get independent and create their own sources of income to sustain their lives. Micro-finance was born and until today it positively impacts millions of people in the whole world.

4th October, Hamburg, Germany

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