‘We often talk about entrepreneurs as someone who shouldn’t be afraid to take what they want, someone who should put everything, including family and friends aside in order to reach their success. I think you can be a great, successful entrepreneur and at the same time be humble and make time for friends and family.’
Anna Urombi is an entrepreneur with the ambition to make a difference in the world. We got the chance to talk to her about her business Addtruly, dressing to feel powerful, getting women involved in tech and how becoming a mother made her even more committed to her cause.
Tell us a little bit about your story and what you are doing!
International relations, global development and empowerment issues are in a way in my DNA. Growing up in a multicultural home, having a mother from Russia and a father from Uganda, shaped my interest for these questions at a very early stage. When I was ten, I already knew that one day, I would work with global development, contributing to improving lives of people and the planet.
And this is actually what I do today, helping finance incredible grassroot NGOs across the world at the same time as we help companies take social responsibility!
What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability for me is about making choices that have minimum or positive impact on people’s lives and on the environment. It is about being creative, thinking outside the box and inspiring others to make sustainable choices in their everyday lives, in politics and in business.
In 2014 you co-founded Addtruly which makes it easier for businesses and consumers to contribute to a more sustainable future. What was the idea behind the company and what is your mission with it?
After my Master’s Degree in Global Studies I got the opportunity to work for the UN and specifically with grassroot NGOs working with intercultural dialogue to promote peace and development. It was really interesting and I gained a lot of understanding on the situation that many NGOs are in when it comes to carrying out great, impactful work on extremely tight budgets.
After my time in New York and UN I worked as a management consultant in Stockholm and started to focus more and more on CSR. I didn’t know it then, but during this time the idea to build up Addtruly started to develop. As I love challenges I eventually quit my job as management consultant and embarked on the most fantastic, terrifying, insightful, scary journey of all: starting my own company Addtruly.
At Addtruly we help companies in concrete ways to work with social responsibility and to communicate their engagements in a way that strengthens their brands. An important part of our job is to connect companies with impact driven grassroot NGOs around the world and help companies to engage their coworkers and customers in different projects. In this way we create a win-win situation where NGOs get financial and sometime technical support and companies get to strengthen their brands.
Our main goal, in everything we do, is to contribute to a world free from poverty, injustice and inequality.
What would you say makes a good entrepreneur?
A good entrepreneur is someone who strongly believes in their idea and is ready to fight hard to reach their goals. I think a general understanding of an “entrepreneur” is a person who has a lot of traditionally male characteristics. We often talk about entrepreneurs as someone who shouldn’t be afraid to take what they want, someone who should put everything, including family and friends aside in order to reach their success. I think you can be a great, successful entrepreneur and at the same time be humble and make time for friends and family. Anyone can be an entrepreneur as long as you believe in your idea and struggle through the “downs”.
In 2018 you were named Female Founder of the year by the magazine DI (Dagens Industri) for you work with Addtruly. Earlier, you have, among other things, worked at FN headquarters in New York, at Ramböll creating sustainable communities and been running a non-profit project in Kampala, Uganda. What project has been the most rewarding?
It is impossible to say that one experience has been more rewarding than the other because they have all been rewarding in different ways. I learned tremendously about the global development community during my time with the UN at the same time as my interest for CSR was born during my time at Ramböll. And in Kampala, working with a NGO I got to see what the work on the ground actually looks like. So it is impossible to say which one of these experiences has been most rewarding. They have all made me to who I am today.
You have a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master in global studies, both from Gothenburg University, what has your education meant for your work today?
My education has been a good ground to stand on. Unfortunately, many academic programs are too theoretical today with limited or no possibilities to get practical experience through internship. I am very happy that I made an extra effort during my education to get some real life experience through internship and volunteer work. Other than that, I am very pleased with my two degrees.
How can women become more involved in the tech business?
I think we need to go all the way to the beginning and make sure that we awake interest of technology amongst young girls. We need to give them confidence enough to get interested in technology and there are some really interesting NGOs that do just that. We also need to create working environments that attract women to tech companies.
Where does your motivation come from?
My motivation is the progress that we have seen in the world when it comes to poverty reduction over the past decades. So many people have been lifted from absolute poverty but more work needs to be done. Also, becoming a mother has absolutely motivated me to work even harder to contribute to passing on a better world to the next generation than the one I was born into. This motivates and encourages me to move on and work hard.
Who has meant the most for you in your career?
My fiancé, father to my child and love of my love has been a tremendous support in my entrepreneurial journey. Without him I don’t really think I would have had the courage enough to start and push through with Addtruly. He has inspired me, encouraged me and cheered on me since day one and I am forever grateful for his support!
Here at Residus, we are all about making feminine dressing powerful. In your life, how do you dress to feel powerful?
In order for me to feel powerful I need to feel comfortable and confident. I actually bought my first (red) suit this fall as I was supposed to give a speech on stage and boy did it make me feel powerful! Normally I love wearing trousers and a jacket in a bright color to stand out. But occasionally I also like to wear dresses – that is when I want to feel my female goddess come out and kick some asses!
If you could give advice to your teenage self, what would it be?
There are actually three pieces of advice I would give (and that I still give myself sometimes, even today): Don’t be afraid to try new stuff. Don’t be afraid to fail. And make sure to believe in yourself. You are unique and you have everything you need to succeed.