Angela Achitei, president of Close to You Foundation and CEO of UtilDeco Social Enterprise in Romania, took part in the "How to Reach Your Potential" initiative, an interview series featuring leaders who inspire Alex Rascanu and whose insights can help you reach your potential.
Angela Achitei is the President of Close to You Foundation – a national organization specialized in social inclusion services through which have been offered, in 15 years of activity, social, educational and employment services to over 150.000 children and adults.
She is also the CEO of the UtilDeco Social Enterprise, established in 2008 as a solution for the creation of sheltered workplaces for people with disabilities and from vulnerable groups, especially young adults. In 2017, she received the ”Social Entrepreneur Of The Year” Award within the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year competition.
Angela invested a lot in the development of the NGO sector in Romania. During 2012-2014 she set the basis of the NGO Committee in Iasi and in 2014, together with other 9 NGOs from Iasi, she established the Federation of Nongovernmental Organizations for Social Services.
Starting with 2017 she is an active member of the Europe Club, developed by the European Commission, ensuring feedback of different European topics of interest.
Alex: What is your life’s purpose?
Angela: My life’s purpose is to build beautiful things for the people around me, things that really matter and bring added value now and in the future! I love challenges, innovation, team spirit and to do things in a very responsible manner!
Alex: What are the three things you’re most passionate about?
Angela: I am passionate about my family, and the balance and personal fulfillment it brings every day! I love what I’m doing at the foundation and try to make even small changes in the hearts of thousands of underprivileged children and teenagers! I also love to travel; maybe this is how we came up with the idea of developing the WISE.travel project that we recently launched.
Alex: How do you stay healthy? What’s your main health-related goal?
Angela: I can’t say I’ve found a recipe for success, but for me seeing the full half of the glass works all the time. Sometimes it’s better to stay away from negative influences (a story comes to mind, that of a deaf frog who managed to climb to the top of the tree because it couldn’t hear the “you can’t do it” shouts from fellow frogs) and never stop questioning your strength. I try to make the best of my spare time – going out with friends, travel and spending quality time with my family.
Alex: How do you build wealth? What’s your main financial goal?
Angela: I believe “Heaven” is here on Earth and we should live it as best we can! I am also convinced that what makes you truly happy are the relations you establish with people around you. I have no personal financial goal, but I have aspirations in regard of increasing the success of our social enterprise. This way, I will be able to help many people through social and educational programs, but at the same time, create workplaces for people with disabilities or from other categories at risk. If the people around me are happy… I am happy, and have the energy to face any challenge!
Alex: How do you balance work and family life?
Angela: It’s something I am still working on! Although I always try to not work at home, I don’t always manage to do so! When at home, I try spending quality time with my family and fully enjoy my wonderful role of wife and mother.
Alex: How do you enjoy spending time with family and friends?
Angela: We love to go out, attend concerts or charity events, or simply meet with other fiends with children in the park or for a barbecue! Lately we’ve been traveling a lot, even just for short out of town trips, but when you travel with 8-10 friends the moments you spend together are unforgettable! We have lots of friends and we try to invest in these connections as much as possible! It’s wonderful to have your home filled with family members and dear friends.
Alex: What has been the most fulfilling role you’ve ever had, or the most fulfilling project you’ve been involved with so far?
Angela: The most fulfilling for me was the role of social entrepreneur I took 15 years ago, when an American organization I was working for, after ending their operations in Romania, proposed to establish a Romanian foundation with me as its coordinator. I was 26 and full of enthusiasm. I did not know the $20,000 USD they had allocated would be over soon, especially since we were providing social services, which didn’t generate any income. But we made it…. and in 2008, during the economic crisis, we established the social enterprise UtilDeco, creating the first workplaces for young people with disabilities who could not find their place in the labor market. This was our first contact with the social economy… we didn’t know it was a new trend in Europe. It was a success and now we’re the biggest work integration social enterprise in Romania.
Alex: What’s one career planning lesson that has made a significant difference in your life?
Angela: I learned that any business, even if it is a social-purpose one, must be planned and lead with business instruments. The most important resource an institution has is the people working there. That’s why you must continue to invest in their professional development, to offer them opportunities to growth and stay motivated, to reward them for their effort and make it part of your vision to be innovative. People don’t adhere to an organization, but to its mission statement and values.
Alex: What would you like your legacy to be?
Angela: My vision is that our model of social entrepreneurship will continue to exist here in Romania and set a standard for the new generation of entrepreneurs in the country! I would like more people to become aware of the fact that what we do today practically shapes our tomorrow! We are living proof that even a social business can be sustainable while changing the life of others. Why won’t this inspire the classic businesses around us?
Alex: Angela, thank you for taking part in this interview! You’re making a big difference in so many people’s lives and are such an inspiration! Thank you for sharing your insights with us.
Did you find one or more of Angela's thoughts helpful? Are there any ideas or resources that came to mind as you read the interview?
Please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below, and consider sharing the interview with a friend via social media or email.
Also, consider checking out the How to Reach Your Potential interviews with Trina Boos, Hamza Khan, James Tjan, Vlad Rascanu, Drew Dudley, Alexandru Holicov, Andrew Mizzoni, Christa Dickenson, Louise Adongo, Sarah Chaudhery, Jake Nicolle, Andy McIlwain, Busola Akin-Olawore, Rebecca Laramée, Richard Obede, Bailey Parnell, Cerys Cook, Blake Snow, Sean Cooper, Toota Nihal Hassanien and Kulwant Bangar. Thank you.