“We can't direct the wind but we can adjust our sails”
At the age of 17 Libor Hoření founded and successfully ran the largest cooking website in the Czech Republic - toprecepty.cz - for 12 years. Try and see for yourselves - I am sure it has saved your butt in the kitchen before. More than that, he co-founded the Donio website that helps people raise money through crowdfunding campaigns and most of it subsequently goes to charity. Libor's philanthropic tendencies did not end there - he also invested in the creation of the Nesnězeno application which aims to save as much food as possible from being thrown away. Later on, he took over the non-profit project pozitivni-zpravy.cz which offers quality positive newscast designed to brighten our days. Many of you associate him with his magical project Dobrokáva - a café on wheels where coffee was served to passers-by in Brno at Zelný trh in exchange for a good deed. I remember the café fondly from my own experience and am excited and flattered that a couple of years later, Libor made some time to answer a few questions for Purple Foundation.
Libor, it is quite fascinating that you decided to take control over your professional life at the age of seventeen and started a website called toprecepty.cz despite the fact that you knew next to nothing about cooking, as you have confirmed yourself. Has your relationship to cooking changed? Has it grown on you?
To be honest, it hasn't really changed. What happened at the time was that I stumbled upon the largest cooking website in Czechia visited by 100,000 people a week and I was thinking that a website about cooking shouldn't be green, that the color doesn't match food, that there could be more attractive pictures and photos of the food, that there was a discussion space missing, etc. Thus, I decided to create such a website. I didn't understand cooking then and I still don't understand until now but, fortunately, I had a bunch of wonderful cooks lending me a helping hand and toprecepty.cz came to life.
What is your decision-making process in the area of philanthropy based on? What are your criteria for choosing and starting projects?
I dare say that I am pretty skilled in thinking out of the box and I can often come up with unique solutions and ideas. Such ideas attract more attention than those people have seen many times already. Things we pay attention to tend to grow, which is why I am trying to start unique projects that gain the attention of people and thus have a huge positive effect. With ready projects, I try to intuitively support those that have the greatest potential impact on as many people as possible. On occasion I get excited about an opportunity to support young skilled people who create even more useful projects, other times I like to support Dobrý Anděl, or, for example, the Tymosia.cz project where one can arrange therapy online, which I find really useful nowadays… All in all, I tend to decide based on my emotions.
Many of us know the Dobrokáva project and I am no exception. Did you come across any memorable good deeds that got stuck in your mind? How did you deal with those enthusiasts who would come for a good deed coffee a bit too often?
Every good deed is special, since it might have motivated the person to do even more of them when they had been rewarded by joy and excitement. They might have shared their joy with others and inspire them to do something similar. The funny thing about it is that we might never know now and can only imagine the impact of Dobrokáva. :)
If someone happened to visit a bit too much, we told them that usually we hand out one cup of coffee per deed and that we are happy with how many good deeds he had done, but for their next one, we would like to see our favourite good deed completed and that is a confirmation that they had donated blood. If they couldn't donate blood, we asked them, for example, to bring a Nový Prostor magazine or a proof of a real and completed good deed. This managed to keep the swindlers away and left more coffee for those who were serious about our project.
Besides your entrepreneurial and philanthropic activities, you are also lecturing at your alma mater - Newton University in Czechia. What is your subject of choice? What are the values you want to pass on to your students and what type of a teacher would you characterize yourself to be?
I am teaching the Business and business planning class, which essentially means I am trying to guide my students through the process of starting their own business - i.e. how to find a business opportunity, how to find out whether the customers are willing to pay for their solutions, how to create a simple business plan or start their first Facebook campaign. I am trying to awaken or strengthen their entrepreneurial spirit which might come useful even beyond their businesses. I am a friendly teacher who is on first-name terms with everyone and will share any experience from my own life.
Is there a particular area of charity and philanthropy that deserves to be recognized and improved?
Every human being is trying to survive and have as high a quality of life as possible. Charity for me thus means everything that helps live beings survive and improves the quality of their lives.
Right now, I am interested in opportunities to support young and talented students. I would like them to feel appreciated and supported in Czechia and prevent them from taking their talents abroad. These are the young people that will be forming the future of the Czech Republic and if we manage to spot and support the skilled ones, they will be starting really useful projects with great positive impact in the future.
What do you consider your biggest success so far?
Being born to my parents. They have always gifted me with both their advice and freedom to gain my own experience and choose my own path. I inherited plenty of useful skills from them as well.
What, on the contrary, has been the biggest life lesson of yours?
It's hard to rate the experiences, but from time to time a project of mine failed and I had to close it, other times someone wanted to take over a company I had built and I had to fight a long and expensive battle to protect it, sometimes a relationship with a person had become a life lesson. I am intentionally trying to learn from every experience and be grateful for it, as it makes me stronger and prevents me from repeating the same mistakes.
How does it feel to be awarded the 2018 Laskavec (Kind-hearted person) award for your Dobrokáva project?
I appreciate it enormously. Anytime someone notices the effort of others to be useful, selfless or kind and appreciates it, it generates energy, motivation and inspiration to keep it up. The more kind people there are, the better the world around us.
Philanthropy is a wonderful, but sometimes emotionally (and physically) draining job. What motivates you to keep working in the area? How do you unwind?
Even when doing charity work, I am trying to do things that charge me with positive energy. I am not one of the people who are walking shelter dogs at the weekend, such deeds are not my forte. I rather prefer to find hidden potential in useful projects and then fulfill it using what I'm good at. That is what happened when I took over the NGO pozitivni-zpravy.cz (positive-news.cz), a news provider who delivers only positive news - success stories, good news from the Czech Republic, scientific breakthroughs, etc. - no violence or disturbing images. It is simply a website whose purpose is to brighten your day. Before I had taken it under my wing, Pozitivní zprávy used to have around 7 thousand readers a month and today we are reaching an incredible several hundred thousand views a month.
Pozitivní zprávy offers a variety of topics. Have you ever been in a position to choose the content? What type of content is your personal favourite?
We have a team of ten redactors, an editor, a chief editor and our social media experts who create the content. My job is to occasionally send them something I find interesting and brainstorm possible interesting news for our readers together. As for me, I like to follow Czech companies' success stories or, for example, a photo story of ZOO younglings.
Do you have any philanthropy plans in the next couple of months?
I am impressed by the Highschooler of the year award who appraises extracurricular high school activities. They do not necessarily need to be business activities - success stories in areas such as science, art, etc. are noticed and the talented highschoolers are offered support. This is a type of charity I would like to support more. :)