Entrepreneuring the world into a better place

I read a quote this week, that I never saw before*, but really hit the nail on the head in my opinion: “It’s better to do a little bit of something than a whole lot of nothing.”

This mindset is exactly the opposite of a very big problem: the fact that people don’t make an effort, purely because they know it wont really make a difference in the big scheme of things. While that assumption is correct, it’s premise is false. People who think this way forget one thing: it’s not because you can’t change the entire world by yourself, that you can’t make a real difference with small changes.

It’s one of the first things Sam and I agreed on, way sooner than we ever agreed on a name: If we were to start our own company, it had to have a positive impact on the world.

For us, this seemed like somewhat of a no-brainer (we later learned it isn’t). I personally feel like every single company should put effort into social entrepreneurship and having a positive impact, no matter how small it is. This, because companies and brands are in a very unique position: Not only are they already actively building and engaging with an audience for commercial reasons, they also have a much bigger economical impact than individual people do and on top of that, in some cases, this economical impact translates to political influence as well. If you’re already working on all those different levels, why not use it every once in a while to spread some awareness, or support a certain cause?

With Rockhopper, we try to live by this rule of social entrepreneurship: with every business-decision we make, we ask ourselves: what are our options, and which ones could be beneficial beyond our own personal economical interests? Although this sounds a little heavy, it’s a simple mental test that makes real difference over time.

Take last december for example, we heard about a problem that apparently surfaces every winter: homeless people living in the cold without wearing any socks. Good quality socks are truly important; Not only to keep your feet warm, but also for hygienic purposes. So: we looked at our inventory and decided to donate 400 pairs of socks. How? By selecting designs or sizes that were selling slower than our more popular ones. All together, that’s €4000 worth of socks we gave away…

Think about it: we’re just two students who started Rockhopper as a hobby, because we wanted to do something fun, and it got big enough for us to be able to afford a donation worth €4000. I still can’t believe how crazy that is, but it’s a testament to what we believed in: that our effort could actually make a difference.

We didn’t change the world. We didn’t even change a life. The people we helped are still homeless. They could still use a lot more help than we were able to give, but that doesn’t mean our help was useless. We made a bunch of lives a little bit better, and we’re damn proud of it. On top of that, we spammed the sh*t out of it, which hopefully spreaded some awareness about the homeless living in Antwerp.

It’s better to do a little bit of something, than a whole lot of nothing, so we’ll just keep on doing little bits of little things, like cleaning the oceans one plastic bottle at a time 🙂

*apparently it’s a pretty common one, so I must have been sleeping under a rock.

Why I meditate

Having an entrepreneurial mind is a blessing and a curse. Often, it is really hard to find that off switch. That can lead to stress and anxiety.

This is why it’s important to find a way to calm your brain, and give yourself a moment in a relaxed state of mind. This can be something I really struggle with. I really love my brain and all its crazy ideas and activities, but sometimes, it gets a little too much. In times of stress (good and bad), it can be really hard to find that ‘off-switch’, which often has negative effects.

Whenever I don’t manage to control my thoughts for a longer period of time, I start having trouble sleeping and getting headaches. My body will start to feel more and more painful and tired. My energy levels go down, and I generally don’t feel very good. This is just my body reflecting what is going on in my head: stress and anxiety.

So what’s the solution?

There are many things that can help. For me, I know that sports and physical activities are a great way to ‘escape’. Writing also is a great help, hence this blog. But what I most recently discovered is meditation. This ancient technique actually isn’t what I presumed it would be.

Meditation - Asian wooden statue

I always thought meditation was some kind of weird activity. I imagined people sitting with their hands in their laps, making humming sounds and imagining a ‘higher sphere’. Turns out that this is not the entire truth. (These people do exist.)

A friend of mine told me to download Headspace. A meditation app that guides you through short sessions and helps you to become more mindful. I’ve tried it for a couple of weeks, every day, before I went to bed. What I found is that it really helped me fall asleep, because mindfulness is a great way to escape from my thoughts.

Mindfulness

For those of you who don’t know: mindfulness is being fully aware of your thoughts, feelings and surroundings in the present moment. This might sound pretty easy, but actually being fully aware of everything in the present is a pretty hard thing to do. This is also why it works: if you are focussing on everything around you, and within you, in the present, you leave no room in your brain for other thoughts and troubles.

Training this awareness really gives me perspective and reminds me that my thoughts are just that: thoughts. Nothing more. It reminds me that I can caught up in stuff that isn’t really that important at all, and is a way to ‘reset’ my brain to a more healthy state. It can best be compared to cleaning your desktop: deleting unnecessary files. Organizing the others, and leaving you with a good overview and understanding of where everything is, so that you can be more productive.

Give it a try! 🙂

Why travel is a form of entrepreneurship

As a traveler and an entrepreneur (in the classical sense of the word) I look at entrepreneurship in a very broad way. Here’s why I think you should too.

Most people consider ‘being an entrepreneur’ to mean: running a startup. And although running a startup is a very entrepreneurial thing to do, I would argue that there are many examples of entrepreneurship that have nothing to do with business or startups.

broader definition of entrepreneurship

I have always considered myself an entrepreneur, long before I started Rockhopper Socks. I felt that I had pretty good leadership skills, and I had a knack for taking initiative whenever I felt like something needed to change. It sounds so corny, and I almost want to hit myself for writing it down, but being an entrepreneur is about having a certain mindset. It really is.

So: let’s look at travel and entrepreneurship. When planning a trip, and going abroad, you are actually doing something pretty similar to starting a company, with a pretty similar drive.

You are doing something out of curiosity, or because you want to change the status quo. You come up with an idea like “let’s go on a surftrip” (which I definitely recommend), and start doing research:

What are the best surfspots? How much are flights right now? Where can i stay? …

You come up with a plan, and then you go for it. You jump into the unknown, with the belief that it will work out. Just because this is what you want and you prepared your trip well.

Be honest: doesn’t that sound pretty familiar?

Why you should add Helsinki to your travel list

Granted: a trip to Helsinki isn’t cheap, but here are a couple reasons why you should go and visit the capital of Finland anyways:

  • It’s perfect for a short getaway

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    Helsinki is one of those cities that’s big enough to be entertaining for a couple of days, but not so big that you are hurrying from one ‘must-see’ to another.
    Explore the city center, which is actually quite nice and calm, take a boat to one of the islands and enjoy the views and the nature, or go to a hockeygame and see all the Finns go wild!

  • Culture

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    Finland has a mix of Russian and Scandinavian influences, but has a very unique culture as well. The Finns are really proud of their country, and will enjoy telling you about their history, so don’t be afraid to talk to locals! I had a local guide that showed me the city for about half a day and told me all the stories and history. Internet will probably be able to give you the same information, but hearing it from a Finn definitely makes it a little more fun and interesting 😉

  • Sauna’s

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    In case you didn’t know: Finns LOVE going to the sauna! Finland actually has more than a million sauna’s throughout the country, and they only have five-and-a-half-million citizens! Think about this for a second: they have enough sauna’s to fit the entire country at the same time 😮
    Seriously: sitting in a small wooden cabin with a naked overweight Finn who’s trying to raise the temperature higher and higher is an experience you just have to put on your bucketlist.

  • The Finnish language is awesome

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    Have you ever tried to read a Finnish word? It’s impossible.
    Finnish is nothing like the other scandinavian languages, and nothing like Russian eather (it can actually best be compared to Hungarian). When walking through the streets of Helsinki, just entertain yourself and your company by trying to read signs or advertisments out loud. You will have a lot of laughs, I promise.

  • Combine Helsinki with Talinn

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    For around €25, you can do a day trip with a ferry from Helsinki to Talinn and back. Talinn is a wonderful city for a quick visit; It often gets described as ‘fairytale like’. Combining two cool cities in one trip is always awesome if you ask me!

The 4 best things Antwerp has to offer

Since Antwerp is my hometown, I feel like it’s only right that I make this ‘Koekenstad’ the subject of my very first post.

Antwerp is a gem with a lot of history and a big port, that can best be described by the Dutch word ‘gezellig’. I only recently realised how nice and beautiful my city actually is, and how much character it has. My guess is that me moving to Amsterdam for a couple of months (more on that in the future ;p) kind of opened my eyes to things I considered normal in the past.

So, here’s a list of 4 not-too-obvious things Antwerp has to offer, that you should definitely check out if you have the chance!

 

  • De Kerstmarkt

    kerstmarkt

    De Kerstmarkt is a yearly Christmas market in the city center. It offers activities for all ages, like iceskating with a view on the Scheldt or the Cathedral, but mostly there is just a very cosy wintervibe. People enjoy the warmth of hot chocolate or good gluhwein and eachothers company. Definitely a fun place to be!

 

  • Zomer in Antwerpen

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    I’ll just skip the rest of winter and spring and go straight to the Zomer van Antwerpen, which literally means ‘Summer in Antwerp’. Every year the city comes to life and starts organising events, activities and workshops. If you know where to find them, you can discover multiple pop-up bars throughout the different neighbourhoods. Zomer van Antwerpen means an abundance of culture, music, dance, sports, drinks and just amazing summervibes. My personal favorite? Salsa nights in Bocadero!

 

  • Kroegen

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    Although Antwerp also has fun clubs, I personally feel like my nightlife is better spent in one of the amazing beer café’s that Antwerp has to offer. Even better? Go from café to café and enjoy different Belgian brews in every one. Seriously: there are SO MANY amazing beers here! Just sit down, order something you haven’t tried yet, and have some good conversations with the company you are with. Heads up though: Belgian beers can be pretty strong. Don’t expect to drink 5 Duvels and feel fine the morning after…

 

  • Hidden spots

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    Okay, this might sound stupid, but hear me out.
    A lot of tourists stay in the historic center, because most of the must-see or must-do things can be found there, but if you are looking for something a little different, there are definitely some places that are worth checking out. Take a tram to ’t Zuid and enjoy the fancy boulevards and squares, or the many art gallery’s and museums. Even better: try some hip & tasty food or coffee bars.
    Dageraadplaats in Zurenborg is another place worth checking out. Walk through the Cogels Osylei and admire the houses, or take a guess which famous musicvideo was shot there.