Menu icon

Let's Go Further, Together

Over recent years, the status of the entrepreneur has evolved from that of economic outcast to capitalistic rebel, the brave white knight and bold pioneer of disruption and innovation.

But this vision, as mythical as it is inspiring, may soon be destined for the history books.

It is not surprising the entrepreneurs that we have relied on to carve out a new economic success story for the UK are now leading the charge in disrupting the world of business once again.

In the new rules of business, success will no longer be an asset owned and controlled by one leader- today and in the future, true value will be created by working together, not apart.

The new guard already recognise the value purpose has in today's business world and that collaboration is the key to achieving success, with both financial and social rewards. Seeking affiliation is no longer indicative of weakness; it is an indicator of genuine intention.

Take a business like TOMs, the shoe brand set up by entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie. He is an entrepreneurial revolutionary in his own right, trademarking the tagline "one for one" to describe his business model in which for every pair of TOMs shoes sold, he donates a pair to a child in need.

But Mycoskie has not done this alone. TOMs now works with over 100 partners worldwide to extend its giving initiatives and recently gave away its 10 millionth pair of shoes.

Not only has he partnered with key NGOs and charities across the globe, he has also collaborated with major corporations to create mutually beneficial campaigns such as the One Day Without Shoes initiative with AOL.

I met Mycoskie in Johannesburg last year, where we were both Counsellors to 1,300 inspirational young leaders participating in the annual One Young World Summit - a global forum for the world's future leaders.

He spoke about TOMs and I spoke about my own business, Ella's Kitchen, which I set up eight years ago to improve children's relationship with food.

As I arrived on African soil for One Young World 2013 Summit in Johannesburg, I was welcomed by a proverb that set the tone for the four days I would spend there: "If you want to travel fast, travel alone. If you want to travel far, travel together." And throughout my time at One Young World, I listened to the next-generation of leaders already shaping the world they will inherit. Any business that is not paying attention to them, should heed a warning, for these young leaders are power brokers of the future and they're saying that we are in this together.

Another inspirational person I met at last year's One Young World Summit was Emmanuel Jal - the political activist and former child soldier. We had a shared vision on the power of partnerships and the importance of bringing people together as a compelling agent for positive change. We recently collaborated ourselves, to launch our social enterprise, The Key is E.

The Key is E is committed to creating better opportunities for young people and I will be hosting a plenary session at this year's One Young World Summit in Dublin on the importance of channelling the power of education, entrepreneurialism and creativity to impact social change.

There are already signs of this collaborative attitude pervading the corporate world, proving that it is not only the minnows and young that need to swim together. Take the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan 2020, which brings together brands including ASOS, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Next, Sainsbury's and Tesco amongst others, in the name of cutting the carbon, water and waste emissions of the clothing industry. These companies, united by a central purpose, have a power that is greater than the sum of their parts.

Similarly, I'm proud to have led Ella's Kitchen as a key partner in a program called 'Made to Matter - Handpicked by Target', with 14 other young, entrepreneurial, socially led, innovative brands and our collective customer Target, the US retail giant. The initiative allowed us to launch an innovative new range of natural, organic and sustainable products in the US, exclusively in Target stores.

Made to Matter has been a unique experience whereby all together we have worked out how our brands can combine their creative and entrepreneurial energies and Target can provide their design and marketing expertise, scale and engagement with its guests, to differentiate itself as the home of the 'natural' consumer whilst raising the awareness, profile and relevance of our collective brands and products.

The really interesting output from the collaboration was that a number of us found ourselves working with our competitors during the process, and all of us, bar none, found it liberating and empowering. We compete at the usual level, as always, like our corporate lives depend upon winning, yet also found value in collaborating on a different level for a greater collective benefit. You can find out more about Made to Matter in their video, here.

I also wanted to put the power of true collaboration to the test back in the UK and so, over the last two years, I have been working on a campaign to raise awareness around and improve the nutritional health of the UK's under-fives.

This year, as a result, Ella's Kitchen launched Start Smart, a grassroots healthy eating project developed in partnership with Leicester City Council with the aim of raising awareness of the importance of childhood nutrition. The project stemmed from the Averting A Recipe For Disaster report that we launched in 2013 that highlighted many issues around nutrition, diet related disease and rising rates of obesity.

Start Smart quickly became a collaboration of organisations and brands - from retailers to global food manufacturers, charities to local authorities, that rallied to the call of the campaign, put traditional competition aside and saw the true social value in coming together to deliver one singular mission - improving the health of our children.

It is no longer the global enterprises that capture the imagination of the worldwide community; it is the mission and vision of creating something greater than profits.

The real winner in business will no longer be the lone sprinter flashing past the finish line, but the relay team that manages to go the distance.

Keep smiling,