3 Questions With: Erick Bouwer, CEO, CIRCOS

Name: Erick Bouwer

Role/Function: Founder & CEO, CIRCOS

What He’s Currently Working On: CIRCOS is a sustainable kids clothing subscription service that grows with your kid. By borrowing and swapping instead of buying clothes, we help our customers save time, costs, space and resources, whilst helping our product brand partners transform their business towards a circular economy.

Currently, I am full on with the final stages of our first investment round, running our pre-launch campaign on Indiegogo, establishing brand partnerships and preparing for our service kick-off in September 2019. Gift Cards are now available to order at special prices here — they are a perfect gift and/or an excellent way to kick start your CIRCOS subscription. We are also on the lookout for ambassadors.

1. What was the “aha” moment that sparked your interest in social impact?

After nearly two decades in corporate life as a creative strategy and economics executive in pricing management and commercial management, I went on a sabbatical and took time to explore my next move. 

Through my business network, I met some pioneering impact entrepreneurs and investors. At that time, the concept of ‘impact’ was fairly new to me, but I soon grasped what the combination of “People, Planet and Profit” could mean — and my sense of urgency to address particular social and environmental challenges grew as well.

I also started to realize that many of the entrepreneurs did not know how to raise the capital necessary to turn their brilliant impactful ideas into successful businesses. As a result, they would run out of cash, often way before the market had seen their product. In parallel, too many relied on grants as main sources of cash inflow. Although grants are great to get things like R&D going, I do not believe they always serve well as a business’s main funding source.

As a pricing strategist, my job was to translate products into profitable, monetary value and I had extensive exposure to complex product and service development for large organisations. 

So, I thought, why not deploy the skills, network and knowledge I acquired in my previous career in a more meaningful way, to big challenges where the stakes are high?

2. How did you break into the social impact space?

Impact investing is generally considered ‘patient capital’, with less pressure to achieve returns on capital invested compared to regular venture capital investments. However, impact investors still require a good business plan and great team before making an investment. I genuinely struggled to find founders with the ability to qualify and quantify an opportunity and develop products that address a problem worth solving for a sizable, serviceable market.

That was the beginning of Voyage, a Venture Studio I founded to join entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs and investors in creative and collaborative efforts to build scalable, profitable and sustainable ventures for this new, impact-oriented economy. Fast forward four years, and I’ve helped 60+ social and environmental impact ventures move forward as an advisor and interim executive, assisting leaders with strategy and execution in support of commercial success.

3. What most excites you about social impact these days?

I get excited when I meet people with great ideas to make the world better, but who struggle to find a profitable business model for it.

That’s why the rise of ecosystems like Impact Hub and Fashion for Good in Amsterdam (where I live) also get me excited — I mentor companies in their Investment Readiness programs for start/scale-ups.