Finding Superheroes

Paying it forward to the next generation by Founder and CEO, Kaidi Ruusalepp

When I was fifteen years old, Estonia had just regained its independence. During this time, growing up quickly was necessary. In order to grow and survive, we needed to be capable and strong — both individually and as a country. Collectively, we wanted and needed to be recognised by the global powers for the value we could contribute. Looking back, this environment and the experiences which came with it were self-defining. They provided life-lessons I’ve passed on to my children, friends, and colleagues.

So when Eva, the founder of a leadership programme for 13–16 year old Estonian girls (Superheroes), came to me and asked if I could hold a seminar to teach teenage girls about how to finance a project, I immediately said, “Yes, of course!” Though, at the time it sounded insane — I’m leading a rapidly growing global startup, am a mother to a lively pair of boys (Hendrik, 9 and Teodor, 6), and am a wife. Needless to say, my most important resource — time — was at a minimum.

But Superheroes and its mission reminded me so much of when I was a teenager and of the struggles I overcame at the time. It is about thinking big and outside of the box, learning from professionals, executing plans, and being proud of one’s accomplishments. These are the kind of go-getters who happily wake up at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday to take a bus and ferry in order to learn, connect, and build their inner strength.

This is precisely why I fell in love with the group and asked Eva how I could further contribute to building the next generation of ladies seeking to achieve their dreams. It was at this time I decided to mentor a group within the Superheroes programme called The Sunny Sisters. I adore these girls because I was once just like them and I know how meaningful it is when someone with experience offers you guidance. To think I initially assumed I would pass on some of my knowledge and experience, and that would be the end of it!

But I’ve learned so much from them, and most of all am consistently amazed and inspired by the amount of work this group of girls does. For example, in February they told me:

“We’ve completed our olympiads (competitions in physics, math, geography, etc.), so now we’ll make this project BIG.”

I asked how many olympiads they had completed since we began meeting two months prior, and to my astonishment they responded, “EIGHT!” Yes that’s right — they go to school, play music, compete in their studies, and play various sports. They even find time to sleep and eat.

The Sunny Sisters’ latest achievement was an art exhibition called, “Answers,” which we hosted at Funderbeam’s office. It was their introduction to a series of art exhibitions in which youngsters share their views on various topics. This first exhibition focused on equality (gender, religion, race, age, size, etc.), where they — along with three schools in Tallinn — helped to turn our office into a beautiful art gallery. With more than 100 visitors coming to see the student’s pieces and listen to the seminar, I can’t tell you how proud I am of these girls. See photos from the event below!

It’s during these kind of moments that you feel life has treated you well. It served as another excellent reminder that it actually doesn’t matter where we come from or what our gender, age, religion, and culture is. It’s more important what our dreams are and what values we share and hold dear. Do we support those who need support and do we keep an open mind? Do we recognise and celebrate the efforts of young girls and boys in order to help them grow capable and strong without unnecessary conflicts and wounds?

The same can be said for entrepreneurship — people from all walks of life come together to see a common goal realised. We join forces to support each other during our most important growth periods to achieve a goal greater than us. As I work with teams like The Sunny Sisters, Superheroes, and Funderbeam, I’m reminded everyday that through recognising our collective equality anything is possible!