It takes a village to grow an inclusive sustainable business

A reflection on the long term commitment to supporting businesses that help to create a better future.
Anthea Smits, CEO The Difference Incubator

TDi has been committed to inclusive sustainable businesses since the early days of the social enterprise movement in Australia. We’ve partnered with NAB to start our Two Feet accelerator program for early stage social entrepreneurs and our founder Bessi Graham was behind the design of Australia’s first investment readiness grant which is now managed by Impact Investing Australia and funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services (DSS).

These were designed as part of a long-term mission to build a critical mass of successful social enterprises across Australia. Now, years on we’re seeing the real fruits of these initiatives.

There’s a saying it takes a village to raise a child. I think this saying can also be applied to social enterprise, and business looking to do good in the world. These models are tough to build, and they need support and help. Refugee Talent is a good story of how that support has kicked in at different stages of their journey to propel them forward.

We’re excited to be working again with founders of Refugee Talent, Nirary and Anna, who we met right at the beginning of their journey through our Two Feet Accelerator in 2016. Two Feet was an accelerator program working with early stage entrepreneurs in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and initially supported by NAB.

Refugee Talent is a recruitment and technology platform connecting Refugees with Employers. Nirary and Anna never had thought of themselves as business entrepreneurs, but it was their commitment to solve a problem that drove them to start a business. They were both passionate about breaking down barriers for refugees and helping employers to see the opportunity – the skills, experience and talent of people who want to contribute to the world. They recently shared how the TDi accelerator helped them at the early stage of their journey: “It was really good to learn about all the different concepts of social enterprise and governance, marketing, strategy and all these different aspects you’re not necessarily thinking about when you first start. It helped us get more business savvy and work out what we needed to do. We won the prize too, which kind of launched us.”

“It was really good to learn about all the different concepts of social enterprise and governance, marketing, strategy and all these different aspects you’re not necessarily thinking about when you first start. It helped us get more business savvy and work out what we needed to do.”

Over the past four years Refugee Talent have grown their model taking on two early stage rounds of investment and are now ready for their next big step in taking on a significant capital raise round. They have extended their business to include a Social Inclusion Recruitment Platform to support diversity in employment and they need more resources to grow and scale their impact. We are very pleased to be part of Refugee Talent’s ongoing story and to be supporting them through the Investment Readiness grant that we helped to create.
Early in TDi’s journey we realised that the market needed stimulation and help to create investment ready enterprises. We approached our partners at NAB and worked together to design Australia’s first Investment Readiness grant. Today this grant is known as the Growth Grant managed by Impact Investing Australia and has been further seeded by DSS Australian Government. With the support of the IIA Growth Grant TDi will work with Refugee Talent over the next 12 months helping them design a pathway to their future. Anna shares, “They know us, they are aligned with our work in social impact and it’s really nice to come back again and work on our future plans together. I think we really want to get clear on our business plan and best approach to scale this platform as quickly and as best as possible and continue to build a sustainable organisation.”

‘Early in TDi’s journey we realised that the market needed stimulation and help to create investment ready enterprises.’

We live and operate in an era that requires great acts of bravery, creativity and fresh approaches to entrenched social problems. We believe that business can be a powerful tool for this and we’re here to help make it happen. But it takes a village. It takes funders like NAB with a vision to catalyse a future we can only imagine, it takes market builders like IIA & Bessi Graham (TDi’s previous CEO) who are able to understand the gaps and advocate for the right support and it takes strategic implementation partners like TDi who are able to design and build. And it take difference makers like Nirary and Anna, who are committed to create a business to solve a problem that they are passionate about. At this time, more than ever before we require a chain of collaborators and actors to design and build our future. Are you part of this village? Let’s explore the possibilities together.

Social Enterprise Christmas Marketplace

If you are looking for a holiday gift with a purpose, we’ve created a marketplace so that you can #shopsocialenterprise this year. 

Two Feet Accelerator: Where are they now? Refugee Talent

TDi has been committed to inclusive sustainable businesses since the early days of the social enterprise movement in Australia. We’ve proudly partnered with NAB in a number of ways, one of which was the Two Feet Accelerator programs. These were designed as part of a...

It takes a village to grow an inclusive sustainable business

TDi has been committed to inclusive sustainable businesses since the early days of the social enterprise movement in Australia.

Two Feet Accelerator: Where are they now? YEVU

This week we’ve been chatting with Anna Robertson from YEVU – a social enterprise clothing brand designed and manufactured in Ghana.

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“Coconut has been incredibly embedded in the Milne Bay tradition – from the food consumption through to the traditional dancing.” Last year, the YuMi pilot program took us to Alotau in Papua New Guinea, where we worked with difference maker, Rhona.

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YuMi Tourism Partners (Alotau) – VilLink Tours & Expeditions PNG

“With what I’m doing, I want to encourage the other young women out there, that they can also have the chance to make a difference.  Not only in earning money, but sharing what they know, and getting other communities involved.”

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While each business owner faces their own set of challenges in response to the uncertainty and upheaval of COVID-19, we are observing a series of consistent coaching requirements emerge.

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Nemika Brunton is based in Alotau, Papua New Guinea.  We met her during the YuMi Tourism Partners Pilot program.  The program addressed starting small, testing and learning, and how to adapt and respond to market needs.  These lessons have certainly helped Nemika shift her business focus in response to COVID-19. Tourism is a key industry for the town and many of the local businesses were tourism based.  So, the impact of COVID-19 hit the town hard.  Many locals – including Nemika – have adapted quickly to totally new businesses and customers.

Supporting Social Enterprise during COVID-19

Following a tumultuous year of bushfires, COVID-19 and recent floods in Southern NSW, lots of small businesses and the families and communities they serve, are doing it tough.  One way we’ve seen people showing their support for these local businesses is through the #shoplocal #shopvictoria and #buyfromthebush movements.  We’ve been inspired by this and wanted to share a #shopsocialenterprise guide based on some of the businesses we’ve been working with over the last 18 months.