“Over the last ten years, I’ve been involved in a variety of initiatives to build and grow social ventures,” opened Kanika Gupta, founder of TheSoJo.net. “But the thing is, I had a couple frustrating experiences where I didn’t know what I was doing. So I used my Master’s thesis as an opportunity to better understand how other people go through their journeys of building social ventures. ... What I found is that young people need more support and more resources to help develop their ideas at the very early stages of project execution, and that there’s no place they can go right now to find that support and guidance in a meaningful way that’s not cumbersome. I saw the opportunity, thought it was something that was clearly needed, and realized it was something I’m passionate about. All the pieces just came together after that.”
Soon after, Kanika, a 25 year old AIESEC alumni, who holds a Bachelor’s of Commerce in Finance from the University of Ottawa, and a Master’s of Public Administration from the University of Victoria, launched http://TheSoJo.net with a team of equally passionate youth.
“Right now, (SoJo is) a self-guided online resource that organizes content in a clear and manageable fashion. We’re targeting young people who have ideas for social good, and who need help transforming these ideas into action. The content found on the site is curated from existing and established online, corporate, and educational institutions with experience supporting social ventures. The focus of the content is on the ‘how-to’ of building a social venture, from the development to execution, as well as content for the personal growth of the person behind the idea. We’re working on the premise that if we can help people navigate through the challenges of starting up a social venture, they can then focus their energies and talents on the things they’re more passionate about, which is working with the community, figuring things out, and making a positive impact.”
When asked what makes SoJo stand out, Kanika answered, “Overall, we’re fairly unique. The reason being, we have such a diverse range of content, gathered from a large number of authors. There’s no site, to my knowledge, that physically re-publishes a variety of different peoples’ works all in one place for social ventures. It’s just very well organized. So the way we like to say it at SoJo is that we don’t have a lot of competitors, but we have a lot of collaborators. The goal is to bring the (social activism) sector together as a whole.”
But even as SoJo helps other entrepreneurs launch their ventures, SoJo is a new venture itself, and as with all new ventures, they have their speed bumps. “For me, I don’t like the word failure or mistakes. Instead, I feel there were moments where we lost focus. And this happens quite often when you feel like you’re going in a circle. You aren’t doing things as efficiently or effectively as possible, and it takes so much longer to get stuff done.
“I learned to set very clear priorities and decided on what was important. I cleared all the distractions around me, and was really able to focus and put out the first version of http://TheSoJo.net in a very short amount of time. So that’s one of our biggest lessons, one we’re continuing to learn, about keeping that focus and prioritizing those tasks. So you can see it as a failure in that time was wasted before, but I see it as an opportunity where we learned and grew.”
It’s the value of this learning process that Kanika hopes to emphasize to all budding, young entrepreneurs. “At SoJo, we really preach the whole concept of celebrating the journey. I feel like a lot of people don’t venture into entrepreneurship because it’s intimidating and overwhelming, that concept of creating something new, something that’s never been done. SoJo is about taking your first step and celebrating every day. Your end goal will always change. And that’s fine! The process and the learning that’s going to happen throughout that journey, that within itself is actually more valuable.”