Dobrý Anděl (Good Angel) Foundation was co-founded by entrepreneurs Petr Sýkora and Jan Černý in 2011 after successful sale of their company. As a result, they could devote a part of its financial resources to the foundation at the beginning.
The mission of the Dobrý Anděl Foundation is to offer a helping hand to every family affected by oncological illness or where the child suffers from another, serious illness, and where the family has been affected by the illness and thus entered in a difficult financial situation.
What led you to the establishment of the Dobrý Anděl Foundation?
With the idea of the Dobrý Anděl, we met for the first time in 2010. Andrej Kiska, one of the founders of Dobrý Anjel in Slovakia, came to Prague to share his life story with Czech entrepreneurs. We (i.e. Petr Sýkora and Honza Černý) were thinking about a new business at the time. We've been doing business almost a lifetime - since we were eighteen. We have sold PAPIRIUS (now OFFICE DEPOT) and so we looked around what to do next.
The Dobrý Anděl's idea immediately captivated us. We tested it in a little - about half a year on about six families that we started to help. We understood that oncological illnesses in the family are really costly and that Dobrý Anděl in the Czech Republic could be very helpful. After careful consideration, we launched it in November 2011.
How did your cooperation with Andrej Kiska, the current President of the Slovak Republic start?
The small Slovak team in the Dobrý Anjel helped us with everything - we had the know-how, the first few years also the software. Andrej was one of the founders. At the beginning we were connected almost daily, Andrej was many times with us here. The co-operation was perfect. And for free.
How does the distribution of selected resources work in the foundation?
Good angels usually help regularly, monthly, and with the amount they choose. For a whole month, money is accumulated on one bank account. On the first business day of the next month, we will divide the total amount (now about CZK 18 million) among all the families that we help. Families register through an application which is endorsed by their oncologist, pediatrician, or social worker who knows the family well.
Even though you are a successful entrepreneur, you have decided to continue studying recently - specifically philosophy. Why?
Even if we do not allow it, life is art, just like playing violin, driving a transportation aircraft, or playing golf. The philosophers have already considered a number of questions and life situations before us. Knowledge of philosophy will give you insight into life as such, on common situations as well as seemingly extraordinary situations. You begin to perceive what is important and what is essential, what is permanent and what is transient.
What kind of situation do you like to recall from your start-up in business?
Happy situations are many. I really like to remember the distribution of goods by car to customers. I had a new driving license, I had fun contacting people, and taking boxes of paper into the office. I remember that at the time I was doing a driving license (on Škoda 120), we went with my driving school teacher to deliver some paper. Or our first fax. That is, we did not have the money for the new fax. But at the same time, we needed to give our customers a fax number to fax their orders. We found out that the main post office offers a service that allows you to receive the fax, and then pick up the message. So, every day, i.e. on the way from school I went to the main post office and wondered if there's any order. Sometimes there were none, sometimes one, sometimes five.
If you had a time machine, would you have done anything different in your life?
I would learn as a child to play well a musical instrument.
You became a vegetarian. What led you to do it?
It's my personal decision that I do not impose on anyone. I'm also a vegetarian for only ten years, and I feel that I already ate my portion of steaks. And our sons eat meat. In spite of that, I decided a long time ago that I do not want to create a demand for meat products - purely with regard to the suffering of farm animals.
You like to ride a bicycle and you practice yoga for years. What other sports do you enjoy?
I like outdoor sports. Depending on the environment in which we are, I am doing them more or less. In New Zealand I like kayaking because we have it directly at my nose. In Prague I rather walk, run, ride a bicycle, and swim. And in the mountains - well, the usual things that can be done in the summer or winter in the mountains ...
You have participated, among other things, in the extreme race of the Wenger Patagonia Expedition Race. What attracts you to wilderness and challenging routes?
Here, I was specifically tempted to go on a kayak Beagle Chanel, to race in the mountains Darwin Range, in the Land of Fire. And to see places that (almost) no one saw - because each team chooses their own route in great space.
How long was the preparation for the race and how difficult it was to unite the team with which you finally finished the race in fourth place?
Lifelong. I would have to look into the records, but I feel our time was over 136 hours. I think that's about 5 days and a bit. I think that out of those 136 hours we slept about 12. This means that in 5 days a person will do more work-out than most of us for the whole year. Moreover in extreme conditions; this race has been called the world's most difficult race - among other things, because a substantial part of the wilderness a human walks, runs, or wades straight through the river because the rivers are the best navigational points in otherwise difficult wilderness. The problem (except exhaustion) is also the overall hypothermia of the organism. Therefore, usually half or more of the teams will not finish the race … New Zealanders in our team were experienced and resilient. I remember when we swam once the glacier river to the other side, our navigator Greig was already on the other side and shuddered in the cold. I asked him - Would you like to change? And he said, "I am comfortably cold.” Teamwork is complicated, among other things because it is not always easy to hear what others say in terms of fatigue or wind. And most importantly, it's a race - that means you need to keep moving forward.
Your second home is currently New Zealand. Why did you choose it to live there?
The idea about New Zealand came before the Dobrý Anděl. We wanted to let the boys to experience a totally different culture and perfectly learn English. We also get there the inspiration and we bring new ideas into our life at home. I mean, home, here in the Czech Republic.
What do you most appreciate in your life and why?
The prefix "most" is a little bit tricky. I certainly appreciate, and always appreciated the people around me. I have the long-term fortune to work, live, but also race with selfless and extremely talented people.
What are you currently engaged in and what are your plans for the future?
In the morning I walked to the Dobrý Anděl's office, in a few minutes we have a visit here. During the day a bit of work, then a moment to study. Because it’s nice outside, I'm going to run in the early evening. So - to tell the truth - I would go, even if it was not nice … Boys have some after school activities today, so we have a "longer afternoon”. And in the evening (which is not often) a business dinner. A typical, ordinary day.
As for the Dobrý Anděl, we would like him to serve us all for a while. Many people helped him and gave him confidence. Good angels help over 3,500 families. I have no other plans. I do not need to fix the world. Just keep order in oneself and in front of one's own threshold. That's already enough.
Petr Sýkora graduated from the University of Economics where he studied international affairs, then received an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona. During his studies in 1993, he co-founded with Jan Černý, company Papirius, which has gradually become the largest office supplies supplier in Central and Eastern Europe. In 2006, they sold it to American company Office Depot, for which they then worked for several years.
Five years later, together with Slovak President Andrej Kiska, they founded the Dobrý Anděl Foundation, supporting families with children who, due to serious illness of a child or parents, got into a difficult situation. At the same time, Petr Sýkora and Jan Černý together donated CZK 25 million to the operation of the foundation. Thanks to that, donors’ donations via Dobrý Anděl are handed over to the last penny for the last few years to the families of the sick. How many donors have joined the project and to how many families in what amount of contributions is going to them can be watched on the foundation's website.