Social Entrepreneur Zarah Bruhn
“I want to revolutionize social entrepreneurship”
In addition to direct placements, the focus of their integration work is primarily on skill-building projects with large companies. In this way, real career opportunities can be opened up for refugees, while at the same time counteracting the shortage of skilled workers. For this, she was honored as a TUM pioneer by TUM President Thomas F. Hofmann in December. “As a responsible technical university, we align our activities with the values, needs and expectations of society. Our alumna and socialbee founder Zarah Bruhn lives up to this social responsibility in an exemplary manner with her company,” said Thomas F. Hofmann.
Zarah Bruhn has reacted immediately to the war in Ukraine. “With my company, I have been providing sustainable integration assistance for over six years. Our support always applies equally to all refugees, but is individually adapted to the needs of each target group.” Refugees can turn to socialbee for advice and receive job offers and individual support, and companies are also supported in recruiting and integrating refugees.
Already as a bachelor student at the University of Mannheim, Zarah Bruhn worked for venture capitalists and private equity companies. She wanted to become an investment banker. But her studies in Management and Technology at TUM really made her want to start her own business. “At TUM, the entrepreneurial spirit is ever-present,” she says. “Through the hands-on seminars, case studies and the many founders, you are exposed to this spirit here all the time.”
She got the necessary backup she needed to set up the company from TUM. The master’s student was granted two semesters off in order to start up the spin-off. “I was also able to write my master’s thesis on my own start-up,” she says. “Not every university gives you this much freedom.” To this day, Zarah Bruhn is benefiting from TUM’s extensive network. Thanks to grants from foundations, her company is on secure footing financially as well.
In this way, Zarah Bruhn is able to completely focus on the long-term integration of refugees: They can participate in skills-building programs run jointly with large companies – which impress with their high chances of being hired for a permanent position afterwards. Or refugees are employed directly via socialbee and placed with partner companies – from micro-enterprises to DAX-listed corporations – for a period of no less than one year. In addition, they benefit from an integration program that combines targeted qualification, socio-educational support and language assistance.
To date, Zarah Bruhn and her social enterprise have been able to place hundreds of refugees in permanent positions. “The takeover rate is over 90 percent,” says Zarah Bruhn. “We are very, very proud of that. It puts us well ahead of many other labor market integration programs.” She now has a team of more than 20 employees and, in addition to Munich, has opened a second office in Stuttgart, with more to follow in other major cities.
But the energetic entrepreneur isn’t going to stop here. Routine puts her off. And the successful placement into jobs has already become routine. Zarah Bruhn didn’t set out to integrate a hundred refugees every year. Her goal is to socially revolutionize the entire system. “I want to create the prototype of a social empire, making the social enterprise system so compelling that it will be the preferred model,” she says. “I want to see the best talent working on the world’ s most pressing issues.” In her new role as Commissioner for Social Innovation at the Federal Ministry, which she took up in April, she can certainly make a difference here.
Master Management and Technology 2018
Zarah Bruhn graduated in Business Administration from the University of Mannheim. In 2014, she came to TUM for her master’s degree in Management and Technology. While still a student, she worked for venture capitalists and private equity companies. But the refugee crisis at the end of 2015 made her want to switch sides. She set up the non-profit company socialbee, which has since been integrating refugees into the labor market in a sustainable manner. In 2020, when the corona crisis was still in its early stages, she launched a digital platform that allows contactless shopping for high-risk groups.
Zarah Bruhn’s social entrepreneurial activities have earned her several awards, including the KfW Award Gründen, the Ashoka Fellowship and the Female Founders Award bestowed by the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany. In 2019, the business magazine Capital named her one of the Top 40 under 40. She frequently speaks as an expert on integration and Female Entrepreneurship at conferences, including the Munich startup conference Bits & Pretzels. Since April 2022, she has never been the new Commissioner for Social Innovation of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
Zarah Bruhn loves extremes, the adrenaline rush of high altitude climbing and in the waves while surfing. The successful entrepreneur likes to spend her winters in the south, thus proving at the same time how well New Work actually works.