Investing in Entrepreneurship for Social Impact

How can we position entrepreneurship to drive change for the benefit of communities and our society? By investing in entrepreneurs who bring strength and resilience, a pursuit of success and independence tempered by a desire to create social impact in their communities.  

Entrepreneurship is not just an end goal for venture growth and profits. It is a mindset that shapes our approach to life and empowers us to create positive change in addition to job creation and wealth generation. In recent years, there has been an increasing emphasis on investing in entrepreneurship as a means of supporting both economic growth and social development. It is crucial to recognize the immense potential of young women entrepreneurs in driving significant change in their communities and beyond. By empowering these budding entrepreneurs, we can create a more prosperous future for all. 

At the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship at SFU we see a growing segment of entrepreneurs that are succeeding in bridging these two goals. Events & Community Engagement Coordinator Krysta Pallone Helm recently sat down in conversation with one such example – recent Mechatronic Systems Engineering graduate Hanieh Zahiremami, a young woman founder who has benefited from the Chang Institute’s Entrepreneurship Coop (eCoop) and Coast Capital Venture Connection incubator programs.

Curiosity, Personal Agency, and Resourcefulness  

Hanieh is on a mission to revolutionize the healthcare industry through her startup, Edee Care.  

The Digital Health company harnesses the power of AI to deliver personalized care for those battling chronic conditions, starting with epilepsy. With an aim to enhance the quality of life for individuals with chronic conditions through technology. Her journey as an entrepreneur began as a student and was accelerated through entrepreneurship programs at the Chang Institute. Hanieh shared how these programs have been instrumental in providing her with the resources and support needed to start and grow her business. “Through eCoop I got access to mentors and advisors who lived through what I was about to start. It was so valuable as it helped to give me insights and support, I didn’t yet know I needed.” This meant that even though Hanieh was starting on a new and unknown journey she was not alone. 

Hanieh Zahiremami, Founder of Edee Care

Hanieh first engaged with the Chang Institute entrepreneurial ecosystem in 2017 during her first year at SFU, when she and two of her co-founders (with a startup prior to Edee Care) won the inaugural Female Founder Award at the Coast Capital Venture Prize competition. Reflecting on that moment, she described it as one of “the craziest moments” of her life, as the award recognized their group’s potential and encouraged Hanieh to continue her entrepreneurial journey. All because she saw a need for women to work together (because of girl power!), focused on a problem that meant a lot to them, and had the courage to go for it they were able to begin to make impact. Though the startup idea and team that led to the award did not go further, that moment proved pivotal for Hanieh – “I would urge you to take the risk, take the challenge. You will learn so much, and your hard work will pay off.”

Curiosity, personal agency, and resourcefulness are three of the twelve entrepreneurial mindset attributesi identified by the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship and they also happen to be a part of Hanieh’s innovative spirit. These qualities continue to be fundamental in her day-to-day endeavors but were particularly instrumental during the inception of Edee Care. Hanieh shared how her resourcefulness, curiosity, and personal agency helped her to identify pain points early on and was vital in finding “solutions to the problem.” She embodies the type of person who breaks things to try to fix them and make them better.  

Hanieh’s entrepreneurial mindset has played a critical role in bringing Edee Care to life. Her willingness to take risks, her curiosity for using technology to improve people’s lives, and her commitment to making a positive impact have all contributed to where Edee Care is now.

Challenges and Rewards    

Women bring unique perspectives, skills, and talents that contribute to the success and innovation of the business arena.  Despite recent initiatives and programs to support women’s inclusion, barriers do persist, especially in areas of access to capital and networksii. Hanieh highlights the pressure that she and other women entrepreneurs often face both from society and themselves. Noting a lack of support and empowerment within the women’s entrepreneurship community, she feels it is essential to acknowledge and address this disconnect.  

“I think there’s a pressure that we, as women entrepreneurs, put on ourselves. We make assumptions that we need to be the best and prove ourselves worthy of being out there. There’s a huge disconnect between women in the industry.”  

When time is taken to celebrate those who are resilient and overcome barriers, it encourages young entrepreneurs to continue their journey and make a lasting impact on their communities. Most recently Hanieh has been recognized on the BCBusiness 30 Under 30 2023 list, which celebrates the province’s next generation of leaders, along with other Chang Institute coterie, Melody Lim (Mala the Brand) and Marzia Sagar (Glow Within Foundation) – Congratulations to these emerging leaders! 

Hanieh strongly advocates for the support and empowerment of women entrepreneurs, asserting that women possess inherent power and capabilities to achieve their goals. She urges aspiring women entrepreneurs to embrace risk-taking and initiate their entrepreneurial journeys today – by acting and fostering a supportive community, women entrepreneurs can overcome barriers, defy expectations, and achieve remarkable success.  

Inclusive & Supportive Culture  

Hanieh also discussed the importance of men supporting women entrepreneurs. While acknowledging that most of her advisors are men, she emphasized their supportive role in helping her pursue her entrepreneurial goals. Starting as a solo entrepreneur was the biggest hurdle she faced, but individuals like Jess Hurwitz, a member of her board of advisors, and her father, Mohammad-Reza, continued to encourage her in her focus on Edee Care. She highlighted the importance of diversity in her team and advisory board to bring in different perspectives, experiences, and ideas to the decision-making process. Creating an inclusive and supportive culture where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and perspectives is a priority at Edee Care.  Men supporting women through entrepreneurship is not just about empowering individual women entrepreneurs; it is about fostering a more equitable, diverse, and vibrant entrepreneurial landscape that benefits society as a whole. By working together to break down barriers and create a supportive ecosystem, men and women can drive positive change and build a brighter future for entrepreneurship. 

With this in mind, Hanieh welcomed a co-founder, Raaj Chatterjee, to her team almost a year ago. The two met almost 6 years ago where they first collaborated on SFU’s formula 1 club. Their paths kept crossing through their time with the Chang Institute, and Raaj brings experience both as a founder (MeaningfulWork) and PhD candidate in Mechatronic Systems Engineering with a specialization in Neuroscience. This expanded team took home not one but two awards from this year’s Coast Capital Venture Prize competition – top Research & Development and Alumni Founder.   

What’s Next 

Edee Care’s team is quickly moving these days and have just released a Beta mobile application. They are currently raising $750K in seed funding to bring their idea to life. 

With support from networks, mentoring, resources, and dedicated time, individuals can leverage the entrepreneurial mindset to drive positive change in their communities and beyond. Hanieh’s success with Edee Care exemplifies the power of the entrepreneurial spirit to make a positive impact on society. By identifying market gaps and utilizing her expertise to create a product that addresses real needs, she has established a company with the potential to change lives for the better.  

If you are interested in hearing more about Hanieh’s story tune into her featured episode on the Chang Institute limited series podcast Inspiration Station. If you would like to explore the support provided by the Charles Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship for SFU students, founders and startups, we encourage you to visit the website or sign up for our Newsletter to learn more about the resources and opportunities available. 

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