In February we launched for the first time the Hub Academy, a year-long program creating successful businesses which are responsible and have positive impacts on our communities. This exciting and unique course is helping 22 aspiring entrepreneurs, who are not yet ready to give up their day jobs, to take their passion for business and dreams to operate responsibly with positive impact and turn them into reality. Throughout the year, the participants will fully understand their customers or beneficiaries problems, build a positive solution, develop a strong business model, create a prototype and marketing campaign and understand their finances and investment opportunities.

In this article, we will update all the news from the sessions of the Hub Academy, stay tuned !


Session 1 February 13thAnalysis of the problem and needs:IMG_6383

On this first day our 22 passionate participants got to discover each other and received the details about the adventure they were about to begin: the first edition of the Hub Academy !

Team Up! After a presentation delivering insights about what exactly is social entrepreneurship and responsible business, some of the most passionate participants pitched about the social/environmental issue they most strongly wanted to solve. The group then created teams around these issues, on which they would later elaborate solutions during the program.

During the month’s break, teams began to research on their chosen issue. In the afternoon we welcomed TI Cambodia who told us about their work and the importance of responsible, transparent business. A first day filled with discovery and inspiration, that allows us to be confident for the future: what a great group!


Session 2 March 19thDesigning the solutionIMG_6395Today, we started to understand the problem and develop a solution. This used the Problem Tree tool to really try to understand the root causes of the problem and its consequences. Only by truly understanding the problem could we start to develop an effective solution to it.

We then flipped the Problem Tree to create an Objective Tree, which helped us to understand what interrelated steps we’d need to achieve to reach our desired impact. From this, we had our theory of change.
We ended the session with feedback on the initial solution drafts of each team.

We welcomed Ian Jones (from Agile Development) who presented on how human design thinking is a fantastic tool for developing solutions which focus on the real lives of people and how by working directly with people we can help them achieve improvements in their lives.


Session 3 April 23rdInnovation:

Our focus today was innovation and lean processes. We looked at the definitions of different types of innovation and what makes for good innovation.
We illustrated these with some case studies and then a more in depth case-study on innovation – Play Pump, a South African water pump designed as a merry-go round which received millions of dollars of support but ended in failure – because it didn’t meet the criteria of good innovation. We had the participants role play as stakeholders (which they fully embraced!) To see innovation in the real world, our speaker was a product designer from the US who is working on an innovative project to tackle the opposite issues of obesity and malnutrition.

In the afternoon (after using balloon innovatively to stop an egg from smashing when dropped!) the teams worked on finalizing their solutions and we had the other teams then question this solution to help each team think more about their assumptions. Another great day of innovative fun !


Session 4 May 21st Ecosystem exploration:Hub Academy2

This session we looked at the bigger picture and then in more detail at our beneficiary:

We looked at the ecosystem and saw that to create significant, long lasting change, we must understand and often alter the social system that creates and sustains the problem in the first place. Teams developed their stakeholder, SWOT and PESTLE analysis.

We then used empathy mapping role play to better understanding our beneficiaries – teams took turn to role play their beneficiary and the other members questioned them to gain insight into their lives, how they felt and what challenges they were facing. This ensures the solutions are best suited to the lives of the beneficiaries.

In the afternoon we arranged for the teams to meet with ‘experts’ working in the relevant fields, to help them further investigate the wider ecosystem and for them to have the chance to test out their solution. We had great feedback from these ‘experts’ and they are happy to continue working with the teams.

Session 5 – June 25th Customer exploration:IMG_5114
This month we looked at how to create products and services people want, by building our value proposition canvas. This considers what jobs, pains and gains our customers experience and what products and services we can create that creates gains and relieves pains of our customers. When these two aspects fit is where we have a strong value propostion.

Having developed strong ‘product-solution’ fit on paper, we then discussed the importance of validating our assumptions through the process of customer discovery. Following discussions on how to have a strong interview (stop speaking, start listening!) the teams went out to begin interviewing target customers. The aim was not to sell their solution, but instead learn about the true needs of the customer. Only then can they build strong and relevant value propositions.

Over the next month teams will be conducting more interviews and creating survey questionnaires. Next month the teams will start to look at creating their business models which will allow them the deliver and communicate their value propositions to customers in a financially sustainable model.


Session 7 – July 16thDeveloping Your Business Model Hub academy
 This session we looked at how to create a sustainable model from the value propositions the teams had created in the previous session.

We began by reviewing the results of the Customer Discovery process which teams had undertaken outside the classroom. This had involved the teams interviewing potential customers and circulating customer surveys to allow them to validate their customer profiles and value propositions which they had created in the classroom. Some results were very surprising to the teams, other results confirmed their assumptions, allowing them to continue to iterate their value propositions for strong customer fit.

We then started to develop our social business model canvas (SBMC) which would allow the teams to successfully create, deliver and communicate value to the customer and beneficiary. The SBMC takes into account the impact focus of the teams’ ventures and includes aspects of beneficiary identification and how impact will be created. We looked at a couple of Cambodian social venture examples to help understand how the segments of the SBMC interact together.

In the afternoon we looked at another vital aspect of any successful business: high performance teams and strong leadership. With experienced trainer Chhunny Noem (co-founder of Anakot Asia – itself a successful Cambodian Social Business), the participants learnt the skills of effective leadership and team creation. In the next session on 30th July, the Hub Academy will move onto the importance of marketing and how to create a vision and mission which will drive their ventures forward.


13932826_10153796042298730_8524718305791881270_nSession 8 – July 30th – Marketing

This session focused on the message from Simon Sinek – ‘people don’t buy what you do, but why you do it’. We saw that to create a powerful marketing campaign our teams will need to focus on the key identify, vision and mission of their business, rather than simply the product or service they are selling.


The teams started with a fun task, selling a product to ‘customer’ in a market setting. The teams tried to sell everything from their own jewelry to their own USB keys, some tried discounts to achieve sales, others made posters to attract the customer’s attention, while some chose products that the customer had no interest in at all – the lesson being to research your customer! This task helped us identify 4Ps of the marketing mix – product, price, place and promotion – and teams began to think about their own marketing strategies.

Now experts in marketing, the teams created consulting agencies and visited Friends International’s shop, Friends n Stuff, where they reviewed the current marketing mix and came up with recommendations – everything from rearranging the store layout to varying the product mix to attract Cambodian customers were suggested.
In the afternoon the teams developed their own vision and missions and got creative with their own marketing campaign – very artistic company logos and excellent acting in 30 second TV advertisements!

14434850_10153920366933730_7931116482376981982_oSession 9-  September 17th –  
Rapid Prototyping

This session our entrepreneurs saw that they could learn quickly and cheaply – how? Through the power of rapid prototyping. We started with looking at the theoretical aspects of rapid prototyping – a small scale model of our product/service or experience which can be used to test with customers – and what benefits if could offer – the chance to validate assumptions, increase the focus and quality of our business and gain acceptance from stakeholders.

We then heard from Tom Chi, one of the creators of Google Glass, to see examples of how these skills can be used by entrepreneurs and that by asking customers/users interact with prototypes, our entrepreneurs could quickly validate the key assumptions in their business.
Our teams then experimented with these tools and practiced rapid prototyping aspects of building an imaginary cafe business – from menu design to in-store purchasing processes. Teams saw how inexpensive prototypes allowed them to test their ideas to understand what their customers liked and didn’t like in super quick time.


img_7879Session 10-  October 8th – Impact & Finances

This session kicked-off with an informative presentation about the commercial implications of corruption on business from Transparency International Cambodia.  We looked at various examples of corruption and worked in groups to create ways of reducing the risks and challenges which situations of corruption can create.

We then looked at one of the most important aspects of our social businesses, impact; how and why it should be measured and monitored. Teams looked at case studies of how impact has been validated through social impact indicators and how management decisions should be informed by such data. After lunch we moved onto a topic most entrepreneurs fear the most – finances. The teams calculated key financial figures and then entered the ‘Dragons Den’ or ‘Shark Tank’ – presenting their business and financial plans to a panel of ‘investors’ (role played by fellow Hub Academy participants) to try to win investment. The investors had tough questions, but the teams had strong answers and were able to get the investment they needed!

Session 11 – November 5thScale and time to reflecthub-academy_pitching


This session we looked at the ambition of every social entrepreneur – scale. How to grow our ventures so that we can have a greater impact and solve the social problem which we care so passionately about? We looked at what it means to ‘scale deep’ or ‘scale up’ and models through which we can grow. The teams created their growth strategy, considering the key risks associated with each model and their dreams for the futures of their ventures.

The Hub Academy has been a long journey, so we took time to reflect and share time to be inspired by other social entrepreneurs in the movie ‘Who Cares’. Our entrepreneurs thought about what continues to inspire them to be change-makers and to keep seeking impact.



Session 12 – December 5th Pitching


In our final session of the Hub Academy we put everything together to create simple, inspiring and memorable pitches. From starting with a ‘hook’ to capture our listener’s attention, to tips on how to explain complex business models in a few words, the teams took time to practice their ‘elevator pitches’ in front of the other teams for feedback.



hub-academy_wrap-up-1Awards – December 15thWrap-up party!

To mark the successful completion of the Academy we came together to celebrate and look back at our incredible journey together. Starting from a room full of individuals and ending in awesome teams, our entrepreneurs have shared everything, used 1000 post-its, 50 coloured pens, brain-stormed ideas, prototyped, created advertisements, eaten 500 cookies, danced, heard from a range of speakers, pitched and listened, all in one crazy year! Impact Hub will continue to support their dreams to see positive impact come true – let’s wish them luck!

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