Narmin is the founder of SPEAK in Kaunas, a social business originally founded in Portugal that she decided to replicate in Lithuania. Learn about the highs and lows of replicating from Narmin’s experience, her advice to others, and why it’s all about believing in the project. We found her story very motivating and we hope it inspires you too!
What is SPEAK?
SPEAK is an impact venture that connects migrants and refugees with locals living in the same city. We organize community-led online and offline language groups and cultural exchange events.
How did you get involved with SPEAK?
I first got involved with SPEAK during my Bachelor's. I did a summer internship abroad with SPEAK in Lisbon.
I really liked their mission and the idea of bringing newcomers together with locals in such a nice way, because personally I’ve traveled quite a lot and I’ve done a couple of exchange and Erasmus programs, so I know the struggle every time you arrive in a new place.
When I was doing my internship with SPEAK, I started realizing how useful it would be to have such a community in Kaunas and how it was missing.
SPEAK Kaunas - Lithuanian language group session
What is the best part about replicating a proven social business?
The best part is that you don't have to do everything from scratch because everything on the operations side is done. This means you can focus on the main tasks.
Another great part is getting support from the central team as well as understanding their approaches for different situations.
It's most likely that whatever we are experiencing as founders in new cities has already happened in the main cities. So we can learn either from their mistakes or their achievements.
What is the most challenging part?
The main struggle was getting the word about SPEAK out to the city. You need to earn the trust of people before they will pay for a language group. That was quite challenging and maybe still is a bit because we have a lot of free events happening in Kaunas. You have to really prove yourself to ask for something in return.
Another challenge was that I had to do a lot of things out of my comfort zone.
Maybe you're not confident about something because you’ve never done it before, but then once you’ve done it, it starts to come naturally to you.
The more you see results, the more confident you get. And the more you believe in the project, the more you can convince others to join as well!
What do you wish you had known when starting out?
I wish I would have known more about financial management. For me, first comes the happy faces, then comes the money part that helps to make more happy faces. Now I have to think logically and strategically. I understand that if we want to create a bigger impact, then we also need to generate some financial sustainability.
What benefits do you see in replicating compared to starting on your own?
You already have a team. The team might not be in your city, but it's an extended team, and you get all the support that you need in the way of mentorship. You also have access to the network of other founders around the world, which is great.
Another benefit is that most things have been already thought of and done to make your life easier!
If you start something from scratch, then you need much more time to launch it, test it, validate it, and then go to market. But with replicating, you can already just start.
What doubts or fears did you have before starting to replicate?
With SPEAK, there are specific goals and targets created for new SPEAK cities and I thought, “I don't know if I can manage or not, but I'm going to give it a try because I have seen this already. I experienced being part of a language group when I was in Portugal, so I know that it is a really amazing community and a really amazing project”.
SPEAK at Fair
What advice would you give to someone who would like to replicate a proven social business in their region?
When you start from scratch by yourself, then you spend a lot of time on the project and if it doesn't work, then you have to destroy the whole work you have done. But if you’re replicating a project and it doesn't work, then it's usually not the end of the world.
If you see a need for a specific project in your city or in the country where you are living and you are not sure about replicating, I think you should still give it a try.
Kaunas2022 Happiness Day - We all smile in the same language
You don't have to be a business developer or anything! I graduated in informatics, so it had nothing to do with business.
The main thing is to believe in the idea. If you do, then the rest comes by itself.
This blog post is part of an interview series on replicating successful social businesses. Did you enjoy this post? Discover more in our interviews with Tania from SPEAK Madrid and Matovu from We Love Reading Uganda.
👉 Want to replicate SPEAK in your region? Or another successful social business? Check out the Snowball Effect programs here!