Staff Profile: Meagan Williams Head of Programs

At The Difference Incubator, we are all about connecting with and supporting mission-led entrepreneurs and businesses that are working to build a better future.

And to do this we are so lucky to have a passionate and talented group of individuals who make up TDi, who work together day in and day out to help move forward the movement of better business.

We think they are pretty great – and know you will too.

Here’s one of our fantastic staffers Meagan Williams, the Head of Programs at TDi, sharing with us what makes her tick, why she LOVES her job and social enterprise, and what her role as head of the Two Feet Accelerator is all about.  

First up, what do you do at TDi?

My role is technically Programs Lead, but luckily I get to work in all areas of the business at TDi. Being a programs lead means that I coordinate our accelerator programs, both our public Two Feet accelerator and partner-led accelerators, and also our workshops and masterclasses. While our programs work with organisations at many different stages, our workshops and masterclasses focus more on earlier stage organisations to support them to determine their business model, their mission and outcomes focus and build a community of like-minded people.

One of my biggest responsibilities is making sure we are delivering programs that are relevant, engaging and catalytic for social entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, and that connect people and provide great opportunities to learn how you can both do good and make money.

Tell us a little bit about your background!

I am a born and bred Melbourne girl, but spent the majority of my 20’s living overseas. I completed a B.A in International Studies at RMIT in 2005 and through this course had some great opportunities to work overseas.

On top of some long backpacking trips, I did my internship at an international NGO in Amsterdam and was quite interested in the tourism/travel space – particularly around cross-cultural experiences and education. I then worked at Lonely Planet for a stint (which is no good for curing a travel bug!) and found myself teaching English in France for a year.

Moving back to Melbourne, I wanted to work more in the community, supporting people and organisations to realise their potential. I worked with Inspire9 to support the community of entrepreneurs co-working together and better understanding the startup and tech space. I then spent a number of years working with Global Leadership Foundation on a number of business projects, all the while developing my facilitation and human development experience thanks to the mentorship of the amazing co-founders and associates.

I also started up The Welcome Dinner Project in Victoria and coordinated over 40 welcome dinners for newcomers to Australia, growing an amazing group of volunteers and brokering partnerships and support within the community. 

What is your vision for the world?

I am a real dreamer – I think we have to dream and think big and we owe it to the generations that come after us to do so. My vision for the world is one where we celebrate and appreciate each other’s differences, where wounds of the past have been healed and we take care of our ecosystem and work in harmony with one another.

To bring that back to the day to day, my vision is to find new ways of working in harmony with each other and the earth, to focus on sustainability (both environmental and social) and to work alongside the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our communities, and to do this through innovative models and through the development and empowerment of people.

There is so much potential for blended-value enterprises to not only make real change but to show others that it’s possible to not have to sacrifice ‘good’ or ‘making money’ – it’s very hard but creating social and environmental change through business is possible and is happening right now.

Why are you passionate about social enterprise?

I suppose social enterprise is really capturing people’s imaginations right now and those who perhaps have experienced the excesses of corporations or constraints of not for profits see social enterprise as a real middle ground.

I think it’s also the social entrepreneurs that I love – especially those who have experienced something first hand and want to do something about it. My hat goes off to intrapreneurs who are trying, through a corporation or not for profit, to create initiatives and businesses that have a social enterprise or blended-value approach. Often those that we see at TDi have not only real passion but also a pragmatic approach which I love.

One thing I do worry about in this blended-value space is that we will start to take our focus off of the people, places or challenges we are responding too, and focus too much on the social enterprise or the founder instead. I want the beneficiary or the cause we are working to address to be front and centre and to focus more on the impact and the change we are working to create.

Favourite quote?

‘If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities’ – Maya Angelou

What is the Two Feet Accelerator all about, and what is your favourite thing about the program?

The Two Feet Accelerator is a three-month program where inspiring mission-led enterprises and entrepreneurs take part in a series of intensive workshops designed to empower them to gain clarity on their mission, refine their business model, equip their leadership team and build the networks they need to succeed.

This program has been designed to help mission-led entrepreneurs and enterprises overcome the key challenges that often block them from achieving their vision and mission, whether it be that they are not sure what business model is best for what they are wanting to achieve, or simply they aren’t sure where to focus their efforts and resources, Two Feet has been designed to help them uncover and overcome these roadblocks.

Hmm, my favourite thing about Two Feet would have to be the people and businesses I get to work with!

However, in regards to the program itself, it’s been an incredibly powerful experience, supporting and empowering people to really think about why and how they are creating change, what their sustainable model might look like, and to work with them to sustainably achieve their vision. 

Also, the people who facilitate the program and come to speak are some of the best in the business and I learn something new from them every time. 

What is your vision for Two Feet 2018?

My vision for Two Feet 2018 is to accelerate and catalyse impact with a broader group of enterprises and be better able to tell this story. I am also working hard to refine our accelerator approach based on past learnings and working in different contexts to ensure deeper impact with the organisations we work alongside with.

What is your advice to people interested in the Two Feet Accelerator 2018?

My advice would be to really look at where you are with your vision and your mission-led enterprise, and ask the hard questions. Are you really achieving the impact that you want to see in the world? Are your actions aligned with your mission? Are you creating change in a sustainable way? Do you have people around you who provide honest feedback and who have the right skills to successfully implement this vision? If you aren’t sure about any of these questions, or simply you don’t know what to do next, I’d encourage you to reach out and have a chat with us and we can give you an honest appraisal of whether or not Two Feet is the right fit for you. 

Interested in Two Feet and want to learn more about how this program can help you create and implement a sustainable social enterprise? Learn more about Two Feet here.  

Applications for the Melbourne 2018 cohort close 18 February 2018. If you need a helping hand to take part in the program, check out the ING Dreamstarter Scholarship.


9 Ethical Presents for the Holidays

Holiday shopping can be stressful…especially for those of us who are passionate about the social impact space, as we want to know that when we do need to buy new items for ourselves and our loved ones, that we are supporting ethical companies with every dollar of our purchasing power.

And, with the average Aussie spending between $500 and $600 on presents during the holiday season, our individual purchasing power can add up to make a huge impact!  

So this year we wanted to share with you 9 gorgeous and ethical products that do good with your money, making spoiling your loved ones that much more fun.

1. YEVU

First up is YEVU. YEVU is a socially responsible clothing line that is made in Ghana, West Africa. Their mission is to address urban poverty through economically empowering disadvantaged micro enterprises, micro producers and artisanal manufacturers in Ghana’s informal sector.

They sell stunning, vibrant, and ethically made clothing for men and women, as well as home goods such as pillowcases.

With their celebration of the vibrancy, colour and chaos of West African in every tailor-made item, a gift from YEVU is sure to impress.

Also (shameless plug), YEVU is one of TDi’s Two Feet 2016 alumni!

2. Clean Coast Collective

Clean Coast Collective is a not-for-profit lifestyle brand, that was started due to the number of plastics in our oceans and on our beaches.

Think about how long you use a plastic straw for, 5 to 10 minutes? Maybe 30 minutes if you’re really savouring your drink. That plastic straw, which was manufactured from petroleum, shipped around the world, placed in your drink and then used for 10 minutes, will now exist for at least 100 years…

Furthermore, plastic straws are among the top 10 items found on our beaches. Switching to the Pacific Gold straws stops plastic straws clogging our landfills, and entering our waterways and oceans. As an extra bonus, they are mighty pretty too.

It’s time to give your drink the straw it deserves.

3. Little Delish

While not technically a gift, Little Delish provides truly exquisite, not to mention sustainable, catering, that is perfect for any holiday event!

Little Delish works with local Brisbane farmers and foodies to bring beautiful, ethical grazing tables and catering packages to your events.

All of their produce is sourced from local, sustainable farms and ethical producers so you know that your food is both good for you and good for the planet.

4. Inspirationery

Inspirationery is an eco-luxe stationery label designed to unleash the potential of women and girls. Their beautiful stationery funds positive social change with 50% of profits donated to empowering women and girls through education and leadership programs.

All Inspirationery products are made from recycled paper and are printed with inspirational messages using vegetable inks.

This is a great gift for those planners in your life, who need some beautiful, inspirational stationery to help them plan out all of their big goals for changing the world in 2018.

5. Social Cycles

Looking for a present that’s a bit more hands on? Push yourself both physically and mentally with a Social Cycles tour. This is sure to be a present you or your loved ones will never forget.

Social Cycles is an ethical tourism company that provides adventure cycling tours in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Somoa, and Iran. They work with local experts to create a positive impact in the world by supporting transparent, ethical, sustainable and community-based projects and adventure.

Their mission is to educate you about the in-depth cultural issues regarding poverty in developing countries through group cycling adventures where along your journey, you will meet with local grassroots NGOs to learn more about what is impacting their communities. At the end of your trip, a percentage of your tour price will go directly to one of the organisations you visited and learned from along the way – making this trip much more about you, and more about the people you share it with.

6. Songbird

Songbird crafts ethically made necklaces, earrings, paperweights, and accessories, inspired by Australia’s beautiful birdlife, and hand-crafted by artisan groups from around the world.

Some of Australia’s most beloved birds – including the Boobook Owl, Magpie, Eastern Rosella, and Kookaburra – are featured in their collection and are made with a conscious effort to minimise the impact of their waste stream on the environment.

Also, each purchase from their collection not only supports producers directly through the crafting of each item but also supports the work of their parent initiative The Decologist – a craft and design network established to assist small-scale, ethical crafts producers.

7. Mindful Wealth Movement

Start 2018 off with these beautifully designed abundance affirmation cards, to help align your thoughts, feelings and actions to create wealth and abundance.

The Mindful Wealth Movement is an Australian social enterprise based in Brisbane, Queensland. They are passionate about empowering women with the mindset, skills and confidence to better manage their relationship with money, reduce financial stress and create happier, healthier and wealthier lives.

Give these cards to someone who could use some inspiration for 2018, or use them yourself as a daily reminder of your good intentions and goals throughout the year.

8. Moeloco

Over 300 million people in the world have never owned a pair of shoes. The simple act of giving a child a pair of shoes for school can help their health, their access to education and their confidence.

Moeloco is a one-for-one social enterprise where with each flip-flop sold, they provide shoes to children experiencing disadvantage in India, through their collaboration with the Hope Foundation, which runs orphanages in on of the poorest areas in the world.

9. Avenue

Avenue is a social enterprise that sells unique, ethically sourced products handmade by talented artisans with disability from around the world. Based in Sydney, Avenue is run by a workforce of people with disability who use their skills to create, grow and evolve the business.

Their mission is to empower people to acknowledge a person’s skills rather than their disability. Their vision is a global community that promotes meaningful vocations, economic empowerment and opportunities for all people to reach their potential.

They sell a variety of high-quality products including soy candles, handbags, gift hampers, jewelry and more!


Two Feet Profile: Speakers Bank

In the countdown to our Two Feet Showcase, we are profiling some of the teams we’ve been working with over the last six months. Next on the list is Speakers Bank – a platform of professional speakers who experience disability or old age, who aim to inspire people with their shared experiences.

We sat down with Mimi Laurilla, the co-ordinator at Speakers Bank to hear more.

What problem is Speakers Bank tackling?

We live in a world where people are defined not only by the way they look, their ethnicity or cultural background, but also on the basis of whether they have a disability or not.  One in five Australians has a disability, and 88% of those disabilities are invisible. Most of us probably already have people with disabilities in our network of friends, family or workplace and we should know more about them! Misconceptions, stereotypes, and a lack of awareness around disability still exist, and impact the rights of people with disabilities to access services that should be made available to them, including opportunities to participate in meaningful pursuits such as being gainfully employed and living their lives to the fullest.

What is Speakers Bank’s solution?

Our solution to this problem is to break down those barriers through the power of communication. Speakers Bank members are people with disabilities, older people (with or without disability) and carers who have lived experiences that are able to talk about the issues and challenges that they face. Through their stories, they can help raise awareness, provide information, and assist in bridging the gap between what the community knows and how we can further work together to create a more inclusive society.

Ultimately, we want to address different groups to foster acceptance of disability.

Is there a highlight of Two Feet you’d like to share?

What we loved about Two Feet is that the structure of the program is in a sequence that enables us to think through what we have to do without being too overwhelmed. It engages us with new ways of thinking through and analysing what we need to do, and the Two Feet team are so engaging and committed to our success as well. They are upfront and honest about their ideas and this sense of openness is something we needed so that we could challenge ourselves to dig deeper into what we want to achieve and how we want to get there.

Two Feet was very instrumental in giving us the courage to push on as it helped clarify our sense of purpose and who we want to be within the social enterprise sphere.

“What we loved about Two Feet is that the structure of the program is in a sequence that enables us to think through what we have to do without being too overwhelmed.”

What’s the big vision for your enterprise?

I will be bold enough to say that I would love to see Speakers Bank as a leading organisation that continues to promote advocacy for people with disabilities through public speaking and educational programs like training and professional development.

I hope that in 5 – 10 years’ time, we would have been able to fully establish within Victoria, and expanded to other states as well. I would like to see growth not just in the number of speakers that we support and provided with opportunities to speak, but also increased connections with other organisations and businesses who find value in the work that we do.

In doing so, I would hope we’d have contributed to becoming more a more inclusive, open society.

If you’d like to meet the Mimi and her team in person, be sure to sign up to our public showcase.


Two Feet Profile: Farmwall

In the countdown to our Two Feet Showcase, we are profiling some of the teams we’ve been working with over the last six months. First up is Farmwall – they are transforming our cities into food-growing ecosystems.

We sat down with Farmwall’s co-founder and chief communications officer Serena Lee about her experience.

What problem is Farmwall tackling?

Producing food for our cities causes a number of different problems, from climate change, to pollution, to deforestation. The inefficiencies in the way we produce food creates food waste and further waste from the plastic packaging it is stored in.

Within the hospitality industry, there aren’t a lot of options for herbs and microgreens, meaning there is a real lack in consistency and variety, and by the end of the week the microgreens served in our restaurants aren’t as fresh as they could be, and a lot of produce goes to waste due to improper storage.

What is your solution?

Farmwall is an urban agriculture company that aims to transform our cities into food producing ecosystems.

We have designed indoor, vertical farms for restaurants and cafes. Farmwalls produce microgreens that are picked on site, meaning our restaurant partners have the freshest produce possible. It only takes two minutes to go from farm to plate, drastically reducing waste, packaging and food miles.

We are also building an urban aquaponic farm that supplies naturally-grown, spray-free, fresh and delicious greens to the restaurant/cafe door while providing us with a base for delivering our social, educational and environmental programs.

Is there a highlight of Two Feet you’d like to share?

Hmm… this is such a tricky one to answer! We’ve been so lucky to have benefitted from the resources, expertise and connections that TDi has been able to give us along the way, it’s hard to pick a particular highlight.

That said, I think for myself and Geert (another co-founder) we really found the session on intent with Bessi (Graham) so inspiring. Working on that helped us frame our story as a team, and was a grounding point that we could continually go back to.

 

“We’ve been so lucky to have benefitted from the resources, expertise and connections that TDi has been able to give us along the way...”

What’s the big vision for Farmwall?

First and foremost we want to really establish ourselves in the market here in Melbourne first, but then we would love to take Farmwall to international markets. We’re also thinking how to expand beyond the hospitality sector, maybe into residential or aged care facilities.

We could even see us expanding the technology to have an even greater impact in communities that suffer from food insecurity. We’re just really excited by all the different possibilities!

Food is a real connector that binds us, and the Farmwall model is just the first step in our bigger vision for what this could be.

If you’d like to meet the Farmwall team in person, be sure to sign up to our public showcase.


Undercover at Two Feet: Investment

Welcome to the sixth instalment of Undercover at Two Feet, where we cover each Two Feet topic as they unfold. From Intent, to Funding and Pitching, to Team and Governance, our Two Feeters are covering a lot of ground this year, and we want to take you inside.

This week was all about investment with Ishani Chattopadhyay, read on to find out what was was covered…

Date: 1/8/2017

Location: The Academy, 50 Miller St, North Sydney

Facilitator: Ishani Chattopadhyay

Session: Investment

Vibe: It should come as no surprise that as soon as the topic turns to “how to get more money into my business”, entrepreneurs’ ears prick up. After the last session on Finance fundamentals, today’s session switched to viewing the business through an investor’s eyes.

There are all kinds of investment out there (equity, debt, mezzanine etc.), so it’s important to think through the pros and cons of each investment type and which might be right for your business given the stage you’re at.

The teams got the chance to play their hand at being discerning investors, grilling Ishani on a real world case study. Judging by the quality of the questions, I think we had some savvy potential investors in the room!

Lunch: Wraps and sandwiches

Playlist: Folk, rock, chill (a collection of chilled classics)

“If you take on investment without a sound business model, you may turn a paper cut into a haemorrhage.”

Key Takeaways: Nobody believes in your idea like you do. As an entrepreneur you have a vision and the drive to make it happen. For an investor, their view of your business is going to be very different. There are investors of all types, with different appetites for risk, differing focuses and different values or specialty areas.

Having a key understanding of the risks in investing in your business and demonstrating that you know how to face these challenges is paramount in helping you secure the capital you need.

At the end of the day, investment is not a magic fix. Without a sound business model and a deep understanding of your customer, investment may only delay the end rather than be a catalyst for growth.

Key Moments: The teams really got into the role play, asking very deep questions and really testing Ishani’s knowledge of the business. It’ll be very interesting to see how they handle the pressure when their own business is probed deeply in next week’s funding and pitching!


Undercover at Two Feet: Business Finance Fundamentals

Welcome to the fifth instalment of Undercover at Two Feet, where we cover each Two Feet topic as they unfold. From Intent, to Funding and Pitching, to Team and Governance, our Two Feeters are covering a lot of ground this year, and we want to take you inside.

This week covered Business Finance Fundamentals, and was facilitated by Ishani Chattopadhyay, read on to find out what was covered…

Date: 12/7/2017

Location: Donkey Wheel House, Melbourne

Facilitator: Ishani Chattopadhyay

Session: Business Finance Fundamentals

Vibe: There was a little apprehension in the room at first because a lot of people dislike numbers. That said, Ishani quickly got people in the groove with her practical and ‘real life’ view on numbers and finance. She told everyone about her love for numbers and how good numbers actually tell a story that brings light to the effectiveness of your operations.

By the end, people were fist-pumping and high-fiving, having learned how they can choose the right numbers to make decisions and were eager to get going on their own business financials. An incredible transformation really!

Lunch: delicious Japanese-style soups to warm our souls from the Melbourne winter chill.

Playlist: mood-lifters and party starters to keep us rolling through the numbers with excitement

“Don't interpret numbers, understand them and make decisions using them. Numbers don't lie, people do!”

Key Takeaways:

Using three simple statements well, you can tell a story about your operational performance, what your business is worth at a particular point in time and how funds flow through your business.
When taking numbers to project or forecast you should always be thinking about “what decisions am I trying to make?” and “how does this connect with my operations?”.
In turn, this should all help you understand risk and figure out how to mitigate it.

 

Key Moments:

People who had assumed they were terrible at numbers actually proved to know much more than they thought through learning numbers in a more pragmatic way.
Having people leave the session saying they loved it given their initial fears about numbers was a highlight for everyone involved!