Woman on a Mission
September 15, 2015

Reflecting on CESA

The Central European Startup Awards represent the biggest no-pitch, no-conference startup festival in the Central European region celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit.

In the organizer’s own words: “We do not focus solely on cool new startups, but on the entire startup ecosystem: from the investors and journalists to the founders and the developer heroes who keep on shaping our world every day with their tireless effort to create and innovate.”

Being nominated and seeing my picture among these powerful women in Poland made me shiver with excitement and anticipation!

When we created our local community in May 2013, I never dreamed it would go so far…and so fast! Hooray for startup dynamism!

So here I am, after two years of running Mission ToRun, having created the unique Hanza Cafe (known locally as Torun’s community accelerator). In the heart of the ‘old town’ some ‘just’ enjoy coffee, cake and a great magazine while others are working on their startups, coworking with colleagues across the world. Just 11 months ago, we expanded our community online, building out HanzaTrade, a community crowdfunding platform which has stretched from our grassroots in Kujawsko-Pomorskie to as far afield as Australia!

International support stretching as far as Australia
First project on HanzaTrade

If I looked at my past I would have to ask myself: did I qualify to run this community?

Perhaps, I did not, but alongside two other cofounders we had a vision of united startup ecosystem that is helping each other and being cooperative for the benefit of all. We’re entrepreneurs, we learn, we adapt, we find a way forward to deliver that all important “win win.”

However, two years ago, did I tick the boxes to be nominated as one of the most influential women in Polish startups?

Well I had no money, no substantive contacts nor connections with decision makers or local government and I have never received an EU grant.

When I started I didn’t know anybody in local media. Only 2 years later and we have visitors from all over the world addressing Mission ToRun meetings having built a network of fascinating contacts.

My future impacts all my decisions that I make today.


Mine is an inclusive vision for anybody and everybody in our community, women in particular, in Poland and throughout this fascinating region of Central Europe.

My communist upbringing, witnessing the Solidarity movement and entering the European Union zone inspired me to improve.

My corporate career, moving to London then returning to Poland, inspired me to improve. Experience overseas enhanced my skills with modern, ethical practices to help me and my network.

In some circumstances, yes, I probably surprised people by being foreign or a woman or otherwise not fitting some prevailing stereotype…but then again I don’t think there is a stereotypical entrepreneur any more than there is a stereotypical startup.

I have a vision of diverse, cooperating community that is not limited by boundaries, looking optimistically into the future – our world of opportunity. Male or female, young or old, inspiration to improve is universal. Desiring a “win win” is human nature.

Through Mission ToRun I’m focusing on all businesses, no matter how small, without exception. Even a craft business is in tech: new projects will struggle to succeed without social media or internet support.

In Hanza Cafe I work to pass on as much value as I can and be fairly rewarded.
With HanzaTrade, the crowdfunding platform I cofounded last year, I’m seeking to pass on value from myself and watch businesses / initiatives grow with the added help of my network.

Via Geek Girls Carrots I endeavour to support founder Kamila Sidor and all the other enthusiastic members expanding our community, connecting inspiring women worldwide.

Whatever the results of this week’s Polish round of the Central European Startup Awards, I will travel to Gdansk knowing that being nominated has provided welcome recognition to my efforts. As with our core Mission ToRun business, that’s a real “win win!”