Ana Rita Magalhães on Entrepreneurship, Social Impact, and Empowering Change

Meet Ana Rita Magalhães, the visionary founder and CEO behind SODIGITALLY, a tech venture with a heart for social impact and humanitarian action. From humble beginnings sparked by a high school idea to becoming a finalist in an entrepreneurship competition, Ana Rita’s journey embodies determination, passion, and a drive to make a positive difference. In this interview, she shares insights into her entrepreneurial path, the challenges faced, pivotal moments, and valuable advice for aspiring changemakers in the realm of technology and social change.

Can you tell us about your journey and how you started SODIGITALLY? What motivated you to venture into this specific field of developing software solutions for humanitarian action?

I usually say joking that SODIGITALLY started with me filling out a form for an entrepreneurship competition at my university’s innovation office. The truth is that the original idea for SODIGITALLY came up in the last year of my high school, but it was only two years later when we were selected as finalists for the business ideas competition for that contest that I filled out the form, that I decided to start SODIGITALLY seriously.

Nevertheless, SODIGITALLY has always had as its core the social impact or the pursuit of combining technology and software with positive changes. Initially, the idea was to respond to a present need due to the public health calamity of Covid-19, and then, in a later phase, to focus more on projects related to the Sustainable Development Goals and humanitarian action.

Fundamentally, SODIGITALLY reflects not only my passion for Human Rights and social causes but also the mission of wanting to contribute to ensuring and achieving a fairer world where we can minimize the negative impacts associated with violations or humanitarian tragedies.

What challenges did you face while establishing and growing SODIGITALLY? How did you overcome them?

Although many may not immediately reflect on this kind of issue, the truth is that entrepreneurship is an inherently challenging activity in terms of the amount of work you have to undertake to leverage an idea and turn it into a business, and initially, without having anything guaranteed in terms of whether it will work or not. Adding to that, and ask anyone, there is also a common denominator for those who want to stand out or deviate from the conventional path, not only in terms of the discipline required but also in terms of avoiding being hit by potential criticisms or discrediting that will surely arise.

In addition to that, as a young woman in the business world, it is impossible to deny that the idea not only associated with gender stereotypes persists a lot but, in my personal experience, it is also very much related to so-called ageism. Thus, as a young person, it is common that either one is not taken seriously or one is quickly biased towards my enterprise or my achievements being attributed to a family with great financial support or even experience in the field that allows me to be successful, which is not the case at all.

Therefore, and this is something I often advocate, the best way to overcome the challenges that arise during the entrepreneurial journey is undoubtedly to believe in ourselves and our mission so much that everything else becomes almost background noise amidst the passion we have for it, making us always continue towards our goals.

Furthermore, I believe it is essential to surround ourselves with good people who can serve as a base of emotional support to us.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of running your business so far?

One of the aspects that brings me the most fulfilment is experiencing that it’s possible to start with an idea and develop it into something relevant and cohesive. As an entrepreneur, I also love the creative process and strategy development part because I consider myself a very creative person, and having the opportunity to use that skill is something that fulfils me.

Despite this, I think that, beyond what fulfils me, what also motivates me is the fact that, above all, with SODIGITALLY, we have the possibility to impact lives and transform the reality associated with social causes and Human Rights.

Could you share a specific moment or experience that stands out to you as a turning point or milestone in your entrepreneurial journey?

As I mentioned before, I believe the decisive moment to start my entrepreneurial journey was indeed the bold decision to enter the business ideas competition organized by the Innovation Office of the University of Porto. This is because, after receiving several emails presenting the competition, I decided to pick one of the ideas I had been collecting since my high school days to participate.

However, what was amusing is that literally everything was just an idea and a concept, which I worked on and only managed to produce a video to submit with the application.

So, the announcement of the finalists came as a great surprise, and the training days within the scope of the competition and the moment of project presentation were highly significant for me because, between the time of the results and the start of the competition, which was about a week, I challenged myself to program the app and to do all the work on branding, marketing, and business model.

So, yes, perhaps if we hadn’t been selected, I would never be doing half of what I am doing now.

As a young entrepreneur, what lessons have you learned along the way that you believe are crucial for others starting their own ventures?

This entrepreneurship competition example was a great lesson for me because it taught me that besides moving forward with an idea to materialize it, not letting it just sit in a drawer or put aside, it also doesn’t require large initial financial investments to start building our dream. In fact, I am a strong advocate that the path is made by walking; what matters is to start and progress gradually as projects and businesses evolve. This is how all true entrepreneurs begin their journey: trying to make their dreams tangible.

So, for all the young entrepreneurs reading this, my biggest tip is to participate in many business competitions, validate your ideas, study extensively, and above all, try – because the more you try, the more you learn, and the more the margin shifts from “no” to “yes.” You lose nothing by adopting this strategy; on the contrary, most of the time, I can assure you that if you persist and work hard, it will take you where you want to go.

How do you balance your passion for social impact and technology within SODIGITALLY’s mission and operations?

As social impact, Human Rights, and technology are closely linked with my vision and passion, it becomes very easy to transpose that essence into SODIGITALLY’s mission itself. In fact, one thing I take pride in is not only developing a business with this focus but also it being a continuation of my area of interest. This, believe it or not, allows for a huge alignment of personal values and the company’s, ensuring that we are cohesive in what we aim for as operations and corporate strategy because, fundamentally, it’s already so deeply rooted that it simply flows naturally.

What advice would you give to other young people who aspire to create positive change through entrepreneurship and technology?

Learning to program (laughs).

Jokes aside, I myself do not have a background in technology, but as a CEO and Founder, I believe what is necessary, as I mentioned earlier, is to research extensively on the subject, have a foundation in business management, public speaking skills, and then launch yourselves into the world seeking people who will support you in developing the technology and your company.

And never ever give up.

What role has mentorship played in your journey, and do you believe it’s important for budding entrepreneurs to seek mentorship?

The truth is, I am a very self-taught and curious person, so I always enjoy studying and learning more about certain subjects on my own. The reality is that the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey has always been marked by trial and error, learning, success, and further learning.

Nevertheless, having mentors is also very beneficial because getting to know and having contact with professionals who have gone through similar experiences gives us a sense of belonging and understanding and helps reduce the initial and common mistakes that any young entrepreneur may face.

How do you stay motivated and resilient during challenging times in your business or personal life?

Not all times will be easy; as in everything, there are always dualities in life. However, I think one of the things that motivates me the most is my dreams and the desire to build them.

So, I believe that besides having our dreams and purpose in mind, it is important to accept that there will be challenges, to deal with emotions naturally, and to prioritize activities such as sports or hobbies, watching a movie, or reading a book, to process emotions and then get back to the fight and work.

Looking ahead, what are your future goals and aspirations for SODIGITALLY? How do you envision your impact on the world evolving over time?

My goals for SODIGITALLY essentially revolve around evolving and growing the company. Additionally, we aim to focus our operations on developing predictive models with Artificial Intelligence for use in humanitarian contexts, which would bring a tremendous impact to organizations working on the field.

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SODIGITALLY: https://www.sodigitally.biz/

by Harness Editor

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