Sissa Pagels grew up in Bräkne-Hoby just outside Karlskrona in the county of Blekinge. As a 17-year-old, she and a group of friends started the environmental association Green Teens. They were frustrated at the way politicians were not doing anything concrete to deal with environmental issues, and at the way the threat of climate change was being presented in a very dull and threatening way. They felt that what was needed was an association for young people that focused on possibilities rather than problems.
– We wanted to show the world around us that we young people can do something and that it doesn’t have to be as complicated as many people might thing, says Sissa Pagels. We wanted to show that getting involved can be cheap, easy and fun, and that everyone can do something positive for the environment.
Green Teens grew massively. Sissa and her friends organised clothing exchanges, large scale environmental concerts and festivals and a picnic at which politicians would meet young people during the run up to the 2010 election. They succeeded in attracting over 250 members around the country and were awarded the Karlskrona municipality’s Environment Prize in 2011.
– Running Green Teens was fantastic, says Sissa. It became my school away from school. I was forced to make those phone calls I didn’t have the courage to make and to ask those people I didn’t dare to ask for help, while at the same time I was learning a tremendous amount about the environment. Learning becomes really fun when you put it in a context.
Today Sissa is 22 years old. She has moved from Karlskrona to Stockholm and has started the Young Innovation Hub together with a friend named Louise Lindén, from Green Teens, and Fryshuset. The Young Innovation Hub is a meeting place and platform where young people are given the opportunity to develop their dreams and ideas and to try out life as an entrepreneur.
– We are open to everyone aged between 16 and 26, and those of us who run the place have access to a broad range of organisations and businesses that we can match the young people with, says Sissa Pagels.
Where did the idea for the Young Innovation Hub come from, and why is it needed?
– We felt that there was a lack of a physical meeting place to which young people could come and be inspired, develop ideas together and meet people from other sectors. Society is becoming more and more fragmented and many young people never get the chance to meet people from other cultures or generations, and they also lack good role models and have no confidence in today’s politicians. The hub works like a bridge between school and working life.
Have you met any prejudice or scepticism as a young female entrepreneur?
– Yes, in certain contexts I have met older and more experienced people from large companies who have used domination techniques to force me into a corner. Which has led me to doubt whether I’m doing the right thing on a number of occasions. It’s tough when it happens, and sometimes it is difficult to stop thinking about it. But then you have to instead try to think about all the gratitude we get from young people who we have succeeded in helping to realise their dreams!
Since it started in September, the Young Innovation Hub has seen the birth of a number of exciting projects. Among others, Sissa talks about 16-year-old Elif, who came to the hub in October and described how angry and frustrated she was feeling about the approaching autumn and the darkness of the winter months. In under a month, with the support of Sissa and the others at the Young Innovation Hub, Elif had organised an event at which role models from both the Swedish Idol and Top Model shows gave talks.
– Elif went from being a shy and quiet girl to contacting the Stockholm City Council herself and arranging 10,000 SEK in sponsorship. During the event itself, she also gave a speech in front of the 80 participants in the audience!
What advice do you have for other young people who want to start their own business or project but who might not know how?
– Don’t think too much. Instead, give it a go and see where you end up. You’ve got EVERYTHING to gain if you dare to give things a go. Whatever happens, the journey will teach you something you didn’t know before!
Curious to find out more about the Young Innovation Hub? Follow them on Facebook and Instagram by clicking the links below!
Text: André Vifot Haas