Social entrepreneurs behind the enterprises: Kasia Wypiorczyk, Axé Boom Boom
In this series we focus our attention on the social entrepreneurs behind the enterprise. Each year we work with hundreds of inspiration individuals to turn their ideas into amazing social enterprises. This blog series celebrates their determination and drive to make a difference in their communities.
Axé Boom Boom is a social enterprise based in Edinburgh, that aims to tackle child inactivity in Scotland. Co-founded by Kasia Wypiorczyk and her husband Grzes, the enterprise focuses on the practice of Capoeira and Djembe drumming to offer young people an alternative way of staying active.
We spoke to Kasia, to find out more about the practice of Capoeira and Djembe drumming today and how it has inspired her social enterprise!
What is Capoeira?
For those unfamiliar with it, Capoeira is a dance-like martial-art. Although its true origin is still debated by historians, Capoeira is most commonly believed to have originated from enslaved Africans on plantations across Brazil. Capoeira is seen as a combination of several traditional African dances, martial arts, and fighting techniques, adapted to be disguised as folk dance. Disguised, because it was a way for those enslaved to keep fit and practice defence and fighting techniques, which were prohibited by enslavers.
It actually is very unique… it’s not a traditional martial art, it very much looks like a dance, so you disguise the [martial art] moves, in a very fluid, dance like movement.
In Kasia and Grzes’ classes, children get the opportunity to ‘play’ Capoeira with others, practicing the movements and, as Kasia puts it, show off a little bit to their friends, without using contact. Alongside the movements, the art is accompanied by five unique instruments.
So, we have Berimbau, which is the main one, we have Pandeiro which is a tambourine, we have a drum – Atabaque, there is Reco-Reco, which is like a wooden tube, and you use a wooden stick to make a sound, and there is Agogo…it looks like a cow bell, and you have two of them and you play them by hitting with a stick. Very simple things, all of them originated in Africa, and are made of sticks, strings, plants…
Kasia herself was first introduced to Capoeira at a secondary school performance that was delivered by her now husband Grzes, and there has been no other sport for her since, having practiced it for over 15 years, and taught it for three. Although the popularity of Capoeira has fluctuated during that time, Kasia’s passion for it surely hasn’t!
I don’t know why, but I think that Capoeira has been hidden in Europe… almost 18 years ago there was a huge boom for it in Poland, and…in the UK… I think it’s been very popular and then less so… and now it’s gaining popularity again!
…When we came to Scotland, that [Capoeira] was our thing, we needed to find a place to train… so for the first two years we arranged our lives around Capoeira. Like, there’s this event we have to go, and there’s this event in Brazil we have to go.’ and we sort of like planned everything around it.
From passion to business
Like many entrepreneurs, Kasia was already running a version of her social enterprise voluntarily outside of work.
I was a fitness and life coach, with my PE experience and everything I had done with personal development, I wanted to help clients with a holistic way of looking after themselves, including body and mind. And Capoeira was always like a side gig that I loved to go to… I enjoy PE and I enjoy life coaching but it felt like work, whereas Capoeira has always been like a mission… like I had done it voluntarily for years, and just enjoyed being a part of it.
COVID had a big impact on Kasia’s life coaching business, and was the spark for her to start taking on Capoeira full time.
Covid, for all the seriousness and how scary it was, was actually a blessing because I could see what worked for me, see where I have the most joy and where I find myself actually enjoying the thing I do. During COVID, it [Capoeira] was the only source of income for me. So, when we’ve been able to open up our classes, we grew from 15 to 50 and we had so many kids and so many people enjoyed it.
…Since March we were going stronger and stronger, and that basically got me thinking that this really is the thing to move on. And by that time, we had already been talking with Anna (a business advisor at Just Enterprise) and thinking maybe we should set up a social enterprise and having it as a bigger scale than just a side gig.
And that’s just what Kasia and Grześ did, opening classes to families, and children at affordable prices. Her clients began to grow in numbers. She is now able to offer some family classes for free to families that otherwise couldn’t afford it.
From business to social mission
Kasia’s experience teaching kids voluntarily, and through her personal coaching business, meant that the social aim of her enterprise was clearly defined from the very start. She wanted to use Capoeira and Djembe drumming as tools to help young people stay active and healthy, and combat the rising problem of child inactivity across Scotland.
In general, I love to work with kids and see them develop and go through building their confidence, their ability to express themselves. Some children just can’t find themselves easily in a traditional PE class and capoeira and drumming brings so much more to the table that they can engage way better… There are many kids who are very privileged, and I feel very privileged and grateful for working with them, but equally there are so many kids that really don’t have this opportunity and so it’s amazing to share this [Capoeira and Drumming] with them, help them stay healthy and active, and build an understanding that being active for life is good for us.
Kasia, is now looking forwards to the future potential of her enterprise, focussing on some key events happening soon as well as a vision that’ll take her social impact to another level.
We secured a grant from the Edinburgh Council… it’s to run events to recover the cultural side of Edinburgh… so, fingers crossed beginning of November is our first one [event] and then the middle of June is the second one. So, we invite Brazilian Capoeira Masters who live in Manchester, to do a more advanced class for kids and adults and run one day of workshops and one day of celebrations. I’m really looking forward to them!
The November event was a great success and you can find out more information on Axé Boom Boom’s social media (links below).
So, the main purpose of our social enterprise is to help children be active for life. But I am also thinking a lot about what the next step for those children is, and I’m thinking about a leadership programme for young people that will bring all that’s best in the Capoeira and Djembe Drumming world that will bring skills to their life. Like discipline, respect, self-care and of course being active, music, joy and happiness. I want to expand form what we are doing now to have a bigger impact .
Kasia and Grześ are very excited that from the New Year they will be able to go into schools and offer Capoeira and Djembe drumming sessions for children and young people! Another step towards their big vision to find solutions to children inactivity.
Has this story inspired you to start something good? Kasia’s first step to success was registering for Just Enterprise support Just Enterprise has a wide range of webinars, workshops, and one-to-one support available for free!
Not sure if social enterprise is for you? Then the best place to start by reading the rest of our case studies! If you think social enterprise is for you then check out our ‘Is Social Enterprise for You webinar’ available online.