As a social entrepreneur, I am part of a new breed of businesswomen here in Australia. However I’m not going to stay unusual for long, as increasing awareness of social and environmental issues is also leading to a rise in the number of social enterprises.
It’s still not easy to be a social entrepreneur in Australia. In the Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector (2016) report, several obstacles to developing a thriving social enterprise were found. These are poor access to business education and mentorship; limited awareness of social enterprise in the Australian government and a limited knowledge of what we do among the Australian public. I know that Moeloco is often the first social enterprise that people hear about, and it’s only two years old!
Fortunately, things are changing, and it’s getting to be a good time to start a social enterprise. First of all, government recognition of social enterprise is improving. At state and federal levels, the value of social enterprise in fighting injustice and creating jobs is finally becoming more well-known. This means more support for enterprises needing to grow, and regulation to prevent the less well-intentioned from ruining the reputations of others.
Most new businesses, including social enterprises, need funding in the early stages to get off the ground. In recent times, the amount and types of funding has also been rising. Impact investing is growing, in a wide range of areas such as clean energy, the environment, health, the arts and social justice. Many social entrepreneurs are now using crowdfunding as a way to launch their businesses, which provides not only money, but also awareness and on some platforms an initial customer base. For example, The Purpose Hotel in the USA, which I will be sharing with you soon is using crowdfunding for each stage of their development. If they had gone to private meetings with a few investors, it would not have the publicity that it does now.
Measuring the success of a social enterprise calls for different methods besides the traditional profit and loss calculations. Our social impact, the difference we’re making, is our “why” behind our businesses and we need affordable, effective tools to measure it. Fortunately, now there is an interest in creating efficient tools and models for social enterprises to calculate and publish their impact results. As for Moeloco, our one-for-one model means that every pair of flip-flops sold donates one pair of school shoes to a child in India. This is simple to calculate and easy to understand, but other businesses have different ways of making a difference.
Moeloco is too still a startup social enterprise and I also understand how vital it is for new businesses to access the right educational programs and resources. As social entrepreneurs are becoming mainstream, there are now organisations such as The School for Social Entrepreneurs Australia and the Centre for Social Impact offering learning programs. Even some universities now provide these subjects, such as Macquarie University’s Master of Social Entrepreneurship, the first of its kind in Australia. This is more important than ever, as social enterprises are now providing many of the services that were once only found from the public sector.
I am so happy to see the beginnings of a world where businesses give something back instead of being all about competing for profits. If you want to start a social enterprise yourself, I wholeheartedly encourage you to follow your dreams.
It was interesting during my time in the states where I connected with many heart-centred business owners, some of whom were giving back in their businesses, to learn that Australia is quite progressive when it comes to social enterprise. Possibly even more so than the Californians, from those I spoke to.
Anyway, now I’m back home, I will be working on some future blogs regarding my travels so stay tuned!
Until then, keep dreaming crazy,