Clever people & Big Hearts | Visiting Melbourne's Social Enterprise Scene
Hello!, Jess here,
Some of you may not know that Jason (my husband) and I have been running a small social enterprise called FRANK for the last few years. We started out of a very small apartment underneath my parents house back in 2012 with the idea to create notebooks, journals and diaries that inspire and enable us to be great humans! In addition to this idea, we operate using a buy one, give one model. This means for every item we sell, we donate a school book to a child in need in New Zealand. You can see more about our giving and story here.
Because working your dream job at Curative and also running your dream business can be taxing, taking time out to be inspired is really important. So over the new year, we decided to pack our bags and head for Melbourne, Australia.
Artistic, inspiring, magical and delicious are just some of the words used to describe a city like Melbourne. And it does not fall short of those descriptors. We spent a total of 9 days roaming around the city, taking in all the architecture, shopping, food and creativity.
We had heard a lot about the Social Enterprise (S.E) scene in Melbourne and were really excited to visit the many cafes, clothing labels and FMCG brands operating in this space. Being involved in our own social enterprise here in NZ, it’s super encouraging and exciting to see so many S.E’s having longevity and success in Melbourne. Turns out, running a business and caring for community really do go together well.
While on our search for a cafe to have breakfast we stumbled across the headoffice of Thankyou. A socially good business that you will see in most supermarkets and 711’s across australia. The team of amazing people at Thankyou originally set out to provide clean drinking water to those in need through the sales of their bottled water. But as the movement gained traction, they expanded into Thankyou Food and Thankyou Body. 100% of their profits fund their life-changing food, water and health programmes.
After being invited in by an absolutely life filled, friendly team, we were shown around the headquarters and introduced to a few of the approx 40 employees who make their living at Thankyou.
It was so heartwarming and inspiring to see a social enterprise operating the way Thankyou does. The team culture is supportive, friendly and open. You can see each person loves what they do and are always keen to meet new people. Who invites two strangers off the street and gives them a full tour of their business?
But the most profound thing Jason and I walked away with was the reassurance, and confidence that social enterprise absolutely has a standing in the business world. Legitimate business that turn a profit, affect communities and provide livelihoods for their employees are possible and are infact thriving. The disparity between people and profits is disappearing through the deliberate choices of people with great business minds and big hearts.
One of the initiatives Thankyou support is the Salvation Army’s Hamodava Cafe. Found in the central city of Melbourne, this cafe is vibrant community centre that provides breakfast, lunch and additional support to people from all walks of life, particularly those living on the margins of society.
The cafe is not what you would expect of a community centre. Hamodava is a lively, well curated and inspiring place to eat. Run by a team of volunteers from different business around Melbourne, the cafe boasts a great reputation. They have waiting staff and individual tables where they serve meals to those who sadly might not be treated with such respect and dignity should they eat elsewhere.
With gorgeous artwork on the wall and beautifully set tables, you can feel the love and care that has been poured into creating a space that people from all walks of life can come and enjoy a meal.
It’s a magical place, and I can see why people flock to it. Something truly amazing happens when we are able to recognise our common humanity; to treat someone how we would like to be treated.
Hamodava doesn’t feel charity, it feels more community. This distinction is very important.
Melbourne was packed full of inspiration, from the mouth watering food, to the fashion, artwork, museums and street performers. If I was to tell you everything about the trip, we would be here forever! So for now, here’s a summary of learnings...
1. Social enterprise works
Most people recognise that it’s a harder way to go about “business”, but no one said that changing the world was easy. The upside is, it really does work, and I can’t help but jump up and down at that reassurance.
2. Being human is the best way to make change
Throwing your humanity into your work is what keeps your work humble, effective and human. If you are running a social enterprise, creating, working or living in any capacity, I urge you to let go of the idea of having a “work self” and a “home self”. We are one whole person, and if we are to make change through our careers and occupation, it takes our entire human self.
3. Do what you’re good at to make someone's life better
There is much need in this world, and if you’re anything like me, you can get overwhelmed with the thought of it! But, the best part about this is that you possess a particular set of skills with which to benefit the world. You can’t do it all, but you can be doing something and why not something that you are already good at? Find your talent, hit your stride and then give it away. Here’s a very cheesy but true statement “the worlds needs you and what you’ve got.”
Melbourne you were grand!
See you again soon,
P.s If you're heading to Melbourne anytime soon, be sure to check out some of these other worthy mentions:
- Grill’d - Delicious Burgers that give back!
- The Social Studio - dedicated to improving the lives of young Australians who come from a refugee or migrant background and who may have experienced barriers to accessing education and/or securing employment.
- Dear Gladys - Vintage and contemporary boutique fashion brand where every purchase made helps to fund the services provided for free by Fitted for Work.
- Lentil as anything - Pay as you feel restaurant
- Street - They offer disadvantaged youth aged 16-25 a supported pathway from the street to a sustainable livelihood through the operation of their restaurant.
- Charcoal Lane - Charcoal Lane is a Mission Australia social enterprise restaurant that provides guidance and opportunity to young people, many of whom are Aboriginal, and in need of a fresh start in life.
- Suspended Coffee Society - A suspended coffee is the advance purchase of a cup of coffee for someone who needs it, no matter why.
- Shebeen - is the first not-for-profit bar of its kind in the world.
- Karma Kegs- All proceeds go towards supporting struggling families, local charities, indigenous projects and community fundraising initiatives.
- Ladro BYO - These guys donate all $5 corkage from Mondays to two AMAZING charities that between them feed 1000’s of less advantaged people in and around Fitzroy and Prahran.
- Scarf - Bringing together young people and mentors to share knowledge and networks in the hospitality industry, then mixed in sponsors and restaurants ready to create a new kind of dining experience.