Today, there’s certainly no shortage of business conferences, learning workshops and startup incubators. In fact, inspiration for budding entrepreneurs seems to be at every corner. But while some are motivational, there are very few that stand out, break the mold or champion more meaningful goals than their bottom line.
The Happy Startup School is an exception. They are the uncommon startup school that helps people bring their ideas to life. What makes them different is their focus on happy.
We had the opportunity to talk to their Co-founder Laurence McCahill last week, and our conversation left us with an inspiration buzz (stronger than from that 10% IPA we had on Sunday)! His outlook on happiness and success, love for the great outdoors and passion for the people he has the opportunity to meet and learn from are absolutely inspiring, and a business mindset that every brand can learn from.
Putting purpose before profit
The purpose of HSS is to help people redefine how they look at life and work. They take people on an immersive journey and drill deep into their innate desire to start something. You won’t find a cookie-cutter formula or leave with a formulaic business model—but rather, you’ll walk away with an understanding of the driving force behind what it is you want to do.
Their programs help people view the world through a different lens and connect with others who are on that same journey. The result has been a global grassroots movement of likeminded people who believe in their ethos and want to make a positive dent in the world.
Asking the right questions
It’s amazing how asking “Why?” and the conversation that follows always lead to a deeper discussion around the subject. HSS asks people difficult questions and gets them to have the conversations that matter. Questions like: Why this idea? Why you? Does it keep you up at night? How do you want to work (and why)? Would you want to do this for the next 10 years, forgetting the money? Forget the exit strategy, what’s your legacy strategy? What will you never do?
Laurence explains: “‘Why you?’ tends to be the most difficult question, because people focus on the business, not why they’re starting it. They fall into the common trap of obsessing about what moves the market, not what moves them.”
Tapping into their own personal story is essential if they want to build an authentic brand and a sustainable company. That spark is what HSS seeks to identify in each and every founder they work with. It’s a “tough love” approach that helps people question and think through their own ideas. As Laurence points out, “The first idea usually isn’t the one that works.” They get people thinking beyond just making money and onto other factors of success—like blind spots they aren’t aware of. “We try to help them to understand it’s a lonely road,” Laurence says, “if they aren’t equipped with the right tools.”
Keeping it real
They take a slower approach than most traditional startup incubators. Sometimes it can take years—but the results are easy to see.
Growing a community of forward-thinkers, outdoors
While HSS offers a number of retreats apart from the school, their Summercamp is by far the most renowned event they put on.
“It’s been growing on the quiet” Laurence explains. The camp started 5 years ago in September and is a celebration—an event designed to connect people that want to do business differently and get them away for their devices to learn from others. And, more than anything, it’s a celebration of people in the community and their stories—some even call it their annual AGM on a farm. “The amount of emotion as people leave highlights the power of this community.” Laurence notes “This is where true friendships are formed, not business contacts.”
No one is a hero
Summercamp brings together a hand-picked group of 150 people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences from all over the world. The camp runs for 3 days, and while it’s curated, it does allow time for fun experiences and deeper relationships. Specifically, it encourages conversations over dinner by ridding the event of any hierarchy or cliques—no speakers’ dinner here.
As a bold mix of budding entrepreneurs, early startup founders (some with ideas in their pockets), founders of successful startups and seasoned executives hoping to reignite their passion, the camp is a place to be inspired by new people and new ideas. The things that bind people together are their shared values and burning curiosity. People come to learn, open-up and be vulnerable. Very few people come thinking they know it all.
Recognizing the power of environment
Unlike so many events that Laurence (and most of us have) attended, which tend to be in windowless dark buildings with poor coffee and transit, The Happy Startup Summercamp is held completely outdoors. Inspired by camping, hiking, and festivals, the event is designed to be rich and meaningful. As Laurence notes, “You have a great experience, and the results are more successful.” The value supersedes any other event people have attended, because the setting is conducive to it. People unite. People can and do act silly. People let their guard down and share more. The outdoors accelerates the process.
Uncommon Sense Defined
HSS follows the principles of doing things differently and challenging convention—being true to what you believe in. As Laurence pointed out, this principle is often hard in business because of trends, conventions and norms, but he’s a firm believer that if things are going one way, go the opposite. Be ahead of the curve. When we do what feels right it is right.
Recommended by top media giants like WIRED, The Guardian, Huffington Post and others, The Happy Startup School has empowered thousands of budding entrepreneurs, founders and leaders through their programs and designed experiences that set people on a happier path with the support of mentors, teachers and friends.
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Photo: Happy Startup School