Amir Sajadi – a businessman, investor and social entrepreneur29.10.2015
Amir Sajadi, co-founder of Järvaskolan, was among the first social impact investment angels in Sweden. From entrepreneur to investor and back again, he has now refocused his efforts as a social entrepreneur in co-founding Järvaskolan, a school in a area with poor socioeconomic status, the first private school in such an area in Sweden:
“[it is] a school that will take on the challenges Sweden is facing concerning integration and education”
A career from politics to social entrepreneurship
Amir Sajadi came to Sweden as a 9 year old boy.
“I have been engaged in social and political activities since I was a kid.”
He recalls questioning his surroundings and why they had ended up in a strange new country. His parents responded saying:
“We are in Sweden, because here you can become what ever you want”
This ignited Amirs interest to engage in social development and he joined a political youth association. Outside of his political interests he started selling everything from cellular phone plans and vacuum cleaners. In 2009, Amir started Hjärna.Hjärta.Cash, an organisation that inspired youth to engage in social entrepreneurship.
“What got me in to working with social impact was the possibility to mix my interest of politics, social issues, sales and entrepreneurship.”
Listening to what other people think of you doesn’t get you anywhere
”I have never been a person that cared what other people think of me”
Amir recalls starting Cityvetrenären, a veterinarian clinic in the city centre, this in spite of the public skepticism and criticism of the established competitors. The industry at the time was characterized by cartel like price collusion, high profit margins and clinics inconveniently located far from the city centre with limited opening hours. Cityveterinären turned this on its head locating itself in the city center, with longer opening hours and lower prices
“It’s a conservative industry and no one thought we would succeed.”
The clinic was profitable from day one.
“One has to accept its its challenging to build a business but its not magic, its just hard work and placing calculated bets.”
Entrepreneurial endeavor is one tough challenge after the next, its all about attitude and thick skin
Starting a school in a socioeconomically disadvantaged area was considered unprofitable by the private school sector. But with such high profits in the sector in general, should it really be impossible?
“Lets do it, how hard can it be?”
The ambition of Järvaskolan is:
“To create a sustainable platform for bringing the kids into society and society into the school with the aim of creating a competitive role model . But where to start the endeavour? We took in as many experts and knowledge we could find and in the end we managed to hand in an application to start a school.”
But the application process was only the first hurdle.
“We got the permit, it was like on of the biggest moments in my life.”
After a while when the excitement wore down reality caught up with us again. He recalls people cautioning:
“That was the easy part, just wait until there is kids arrive, that’s when the challenge begins.”
Yet, well before that, they will have to find students in the first place – not an easy task for a novel startup. Indeed, how will they manage to gain the trust of both youth and their parents? They use imaginative marketing to get the students interested. They have an ambassador’s program involving local young role models as spokespersons for the school and work on engaging local businesses and associations to build understanding and familiarity for the initiative.
Amir hopes that Järvaskolan can encourage others to take on social issues with entrepreneurship
“What is missing in the field is people that in a early age takes on the challenge and dedicate to the feeling that they want to make a difference. […] Most entrepreneurs I know are governed by their hearts”
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