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I recently celebrated a milestone - five years of freelancing. And while I love the freedom to do what I want, a relatively flexible schedule and the opportunity to pursue other interests, the entrepreneurial road hasn’t been easy. Aside from cutting my spending budget, figuring out my own retirement options, doing my own taxes and paying for my own healthcare, I’ve had times where I wondered where my next check was coming from. I keep telling my mom that the day I sell my car is the day she can officially start worrying.

Most entrepreneurs will tell you the road it isn’t easy, but they wouldn’t trade the uncertainty for a cushy corporate gig. And while some fall back into being an entrepreneur or have a crystallizing moment that pushes them in down this road, others become entrepreneurs to change the world. And to do it, they need support. Not financial support or mentoring guidance, although that certainly plays a part, but emotional support.

I recently had a chance to chat with Daniel Karpantschof, head of global affairs at Sandbox, a globally supportive family of like-minded entrepreneurs determined to change the world. It helps young entrepreneurs express, handle and cope with the personal and professional challenges of being an entrepreneur.

What is Sandbox?

We started Sandbox in 2009 to support people that were just like us: young, entrepreneurial and passionate about building new things. Our mission is to identify ambitious young people and to help them become global leaders by connecting them to peers and mentors.

Who is Sandbox for?

We work with phenomenal people and ensure they get pushed forward. Our members are entrepreneurs, designers, opera singers, investment bankers, academics and much more – but they are all driven by a desire to change the world for the better. The common denominator is their playfulness and willingness to create and be creative and we help provide the power and support to build and make something happen.

 

 

What makes Sandbox unique?

We encourage deep relationships among our community, so there has to be huge level of trust. It’s a global community and a place you can go, but the people take care of you. They would walk through fire for you and that inspires a lot of trust and confidence. We’ve had people who barely know each other connect on a very personal level. Because it is so tight knit, the community isn’t for everybody.

How do they connect?

We connect them online and through more than 150 yearly events. There are hubs in cities where people regularly meet. And we just introduced outpost where like-minded neighbors in a city can meet even if there isn’t a hub. And while there is a large online component, the goal is to get away from the screen so the online discussions enhance offline events and vice versa.

How do you get in?

Membership of Sandbox is by application only. We recruit a new class of 20-30 fellows in each of our hubs every year. If you are selected, you will be expected to be an active member for three years. After this time, you may be eligible to become a Sandbox Alumni and mentor. We just redefined the process, but we’re getting five to seven applications per day.

 

 

What do you look for in an applicant?

We take a very humanistic approach to being an entrepreneur. We look for vulnerability, a willingness to share and give more than they get, a purposeful company and committed to changing the world. The purposeful narrative is really big component. We focus on co-creation and inspiration. The main requirements are:

 

           you are under 30 at the time you apply.

           you are entrepreneurial and curious, and have already shown excellence and dedication in your field.

           you are dedicated to having a positive impact on the world through your work and projects.

           you believe that the Sandbox community can offer you meaningful support for your vision and goals.

           you will be an active member of the local and global community, and are sure that you can attend a substantial amount (at least 75 percent) of all local events during your active membership of three years.

 

How is the community governed?

The community is self-governing. You get what you give. If you give a lot, you’ll get a lot in return. If you constantly take, the community will stop giving.

Where is Sandbox?

It is in 28 cities now and opening more as we speak. We have a presence in 50 cities and 43 countries.

Tell me about the events.

Locally, we host small gatherings, even fireside chats in some cases that feature guest speakers. They may include things like a venture capitalist, a party chairman in government that discusses what it's like running a country, personal coaches, etc. We bring in people with external expertise. The sessions are a mix of personal and professional development. We also have regional retreats that a bit larger and this year, we’ll have our Global Summit taking place from October 11-13, 2013 in New York City, and brings together 300 Sandboxers and 150 guests from all over the world.

 

 

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