YourY Network is creating a community for social entrepreneurs through events and networking

Leyla Karaha created YourY Network having experienced some of the isolation founders feel when creating their business. The organisation has gone on to create 18 events and had nearly 1,000 attendees. With Your Network annoucing their first hybrid (in-person and online) event on the 28th of June 2022, I interviewed Leyla to get more background about the organisation.

  1. What’s your background before you became an entrepreneur?

My background is in accountancy. After I graduated from DCU in 2008 I worked for a short period as a trainee auditor before going back to college to study MA in International Relations and ended up working for different non profit organisations using my accountancy background.

  1. How did you get to launching YourY Network? Where did you see the gap in the market?

In early 2019, I participated at Techstars Startup Weekend event where my team ended up winning third place. So afterwards I started working on developing my social enterprise startup idea and found the journey to be very lonely. There were lots of networking events in the Dublin tech ecosystem which were open and inclusive. While in the social entrepreneurship ecosystem everything was very exclusive and members only. 

I wanted to still be a part of the tech ecosystem but at the same time celebrate my social entrepreneurship values. So when the opportunity came to organise an event at Techstars Startup Week Dublin 2019, I signed up and organised our first networking event to celebrate social entrepreneurs

  1. The Diversity and Inclusion space is hugely competitive at the moment. What makes YourY Network stand out?

Diversity and Inclusion came organic for us because of who we are. I’m an immigrant woman and my team has been very diverse over the years. It’s not something we think about or try to force, it just comes naturally because of our background. We started out by solving our own pain of having a social enterprise ecosystem that’s open and inclusive and now we are involving and solving society’s pain of getting more women to start working on their social innovation ideas. I think that’s what sets us apart, we are true to who we are.

  1. What has your impact been from when you started?

We have been able to connect people from all over the world at our networking events. So far we have organised 18 events (3 physical, pre pandemic and 15 online). We have spotlighted the work of 74 social entrepreneurs and 11 impact investors. Close to 1,000 people from all over the world have attended our networking events. 

  1. How has your previous experience with the start-up market in Ireland impacted on your current venture?

The Dublin startup ecosystem is the best, I have learnt so much from being a part of this community. I took so much inspiration from it in my work with YourY Network and my other work in Africa.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect but it’s way better than most ecosystems.  With YourY Network, everything happens very effortlessly and organic because I don’t overthink things and I know I don’t have to have everything figured out to do the things that need to be done. We just do them and learn in the process and evolve.

  1. You’ve run hugely successful events in the past. What would be your tips on how to run a successful in-person event? 

Social media plays a huge part in getting the word out there about the event. The speakers and event theme/topic also helps to get more people interested. Partnerships or collaboration with others is a big plus also. The venue location also can play a part in getting more people interested.

  1. Who are some of your favourite guests from the past events that you run?

This question will get me in trouble! They are all my favourites, that’s why I invited them to speak. I choose them carefully. At the moment I’m amazed with Fine Deeds startup journey and the work they are doing to help charities that support Ukrainian refugees. 

  1. Do you have any events coming up? Can you tell us who will be speaking at them?

Yes, we are actually organising our first post pandemic physical event on the 28th June at Dogpatch Labs from 7pm – 8:30pm. Speakers include: 

 Pauline Kwasniak – CEO of Finedeeds

Ellie Walters – co-Founder & COO of ReFunk

Rory Assandey – Founder of La Ruche Health

Catrina Sheridan – Founder of Nafasi

China Soribe – co-Founder of Umoja linn

Meneliswa Mc Donald – co-Founder of Umoja linn

Pádraig Reidy – Startup and Partnership Manager of Dublin Tech Summit

  1. How did the pandemic affect the business? What positives can you take from this time?

After cancelling our event in April 2020, we moved the events online in May 2020 and our Dublin based community ended up growing into a global community.  It was so great to still have the space to connect with other social innovators around the world. I think some of the impact we have made in the social enterprise ecosystem is hard to measure but we have made a huge mark during the pandemic. We didn’t let it stop us from keeping on living.

  1. Are there any other businesses in Ireland in the diversity and inclusion sector in Ireland that you are a big fan of?

I’m a big fan of Furkan Karayel work with Diversein