16 January 2014 | Volunteering | Back to Blog

Soy Bean Trader to Social Entrepreneur, (including becoming a property guardian!)

140116 Kevin

In January 2008 I sat in an office chair in a private bank in Zurich, Switzerland and thought about my new year’s resolution – to make my career just a little bit more meaningful. Rather than enjoying my banker’s income and trying to please the wealthiest people of the world, I quit my job and began a journey that was more thrilling than watching your soybean commodity options close to a knock-out – trust me, that is a thrilling experience.

I took my bonus and soybean-experience with me and started travelling around the world. I saw how some people survived on less than 80 pence per day and had no opportunities to use and develop their talents. I travelled around Europe, Israel, Abu Dhabi, Thailand, Shanghai, New York and ended up staying 9 months as a volunteer in the kitchen next to the California beaches at Bosch Bahai School in Santa Cruz.

It was during that time that I was able to deeply reflect on my past and decided to change my approach to business. Since I was fortunate to be presented with the harsh realities of life for those in poverty in a way that forced me to reconsider my objectives, I moved into the more socially-conscious field of social enterprise.

After returning from the United States and graduating from Southampton Solent University with a bachelor in Business with Entrepreneurship, I went full time in 2012 with BACA Jewellery – a social enterprise empowering women and accompanying them on their entrepreneurial path towards financial independence.

At first I lived in central London paying £650 for a room alone. Since I wasn’t turning over enough cash with the business I moved to a cheaper place in January. It was a flat in East London near Dalston and slightly crazier. At one point I had to call the police in April when my flat-mates started punching each other’s faces.

As I still wasn’t turning over much money with BACA, I decided to seriously look for alternatives. Luckily I found this amazing deal with the social enterprise Dot Dot Dot. They offered me a room for less than half of what I was previously paying, and is where I have been living since. It was a necessary move as I spent my last £5 to top up my Oyster card when I picked up my deposit in cash from my previous landlord which shows how close I was to having to give it all up and seek asylum at my parents house back in Liechtenstein.

Since that day, I managed to improve my situation, stacked the shelves at M&S for 3 months working evening shifts, received an UnLtd award of £8,000, won a business competition with BACA, got a cheque for a United Nations panel speech at the book launch for the Right to Development, started getupandup.com with Ariana Faustini in California and am currently in discussions with Swarovski Foundation to finance our pilot for our London programmes.

I have pivoted several times with BACA, lost my business partner Johan Sundkvist in December as he plans to go back to study electrical engineering and am now in a comfortable situation where my efforts have been acknowledged by United Nations top level individuals such as Navi Pillay, already successful Social Entrepreneurs and our charity partner in East London Elatt.

There were plenty of highlights, lowlight but most significant to me after all this is, that everyday when I wake up and I am able to pursue my career as Social Entrepreneur, I feel so enriched and satisfied that if someone were to put me back in a structured, nine-to-five office job, I would probably get a depression or; start trading soybeans again.

Read more about Kevin on his website