The new face of social enterprise
Meet the 11 Launchpad finalists
AKINA FOUNDATION HAS ANNOUNCED THE ELEVEN SUCCESSFUL
socially savvy teams it aims to propel to the heights of social enterprise success as part of its latest social initiative – Launchpad.
Branching out from what was originally a focus heavily skewed towards the environmental side of sustainability, Launchpad was established to support the growth and development of emerging social enterprises looking to create transformational social and environmental impact.
Sponsored by Contact Energy and the Department of Internal Affairs, Launchpad runs from October 2014 – March 2015. It will assist the eleven successful up-and-coming enterprises with practical, hands-on business mentoring and development support, including access to funders and impact investors to help get them off the ground and transform their ideas into thriving, self-sustaining businesses.
Nancy Linton, Akina’s communications manager, says that the focus of Launchpad is to provide comprehensive development support to selected teams over six months. “Key to the programme is helping people – who already have great ideas – to get off the ground with concentrated mentoring and support from both Akina, and a range of professionals who’ll make up their support teams.”
The teams’ offerings are diverse, and meet social needs from all over New Zealand. Ventures range from responsible farming, group exercise programmes for Maori and affordable eyesight models, to novel flatting apps, reusing prosthetic limbs and community driven furniture design.
On the following pages, we’ve provided a sneak peek profile of Launchpad’s 11 ventures committed to making the next step on the social enterprise ladder. Here’s hoping within six months, with the support of Akina, they’ll be ready to transform New Zealand and create a better place for all.
Located in Kaikohe, ARCO is the brainchild of three design-minded visionaries, Ana Heremaia, Ruby Watson and Felicity Brenchley, who believe that design and craftsmanship can not only be used to create beautiful furniture but also to create positive change in local communities, the environment and local economies.
According to Heremaia, truancy, drugs, alcohol and youth offending are significantly higher in Kaikohe than of the rest of New Zealand. Youth training and employment opportunities are lacking which is exacerbated by the dearth of public transport enabling youth to access employment or training outside of the region.
ARCO aims to flip these not-so-palatable stats on their head and the town around by producing beautifully crafted, high-quality furniture items in conjunction with providing training for Kaikohe rangatahi (youth). The ARCO model is simple: Youth are the students, the creators and the makers of high-end furniture all in one. “Our goal is to see rangatahi in Kaikohe engaged in training, education or employment and to provide a safe learning environment embracing the maori concept of Ako.” Ako is a teaching and learning relationship, where educator and student learn and teach each other.
Heremaia says that through the design and production of timber products rangatahi will gain a raft of invaluable life skills currently lacking in the community. These include business skills, workshop experience, design skills, selfconfidence and, more importantly, a belief in themselves and their future.
Equally important is the company’s focus on a high-end quality product which appeals to discerning consumers. ARCO places a strong emphasis on its ability to provide New Zealanders with a locally made, well-designed, sustainable, ethical furniture option. “Everything is handmade and built to last, becoming heirloom pieces and family taonga. With each product purchased comes knowledge that you’ve invested in the future of the maker, their whanau and their community”.
And the benefits will come full circle. Profits from the sale of products will be re-invested back into the ARCO programme ensuring Kaikohe becomes a thriving model of social and business success.
2. Kiwi Optical
Husband and wife team Ravi Dass and Stephanie Hill are behind Kiwi Optical, which sells glasses and replacement lenses online and in person using an easy, single-price model that makes buying glasses simpler and more affordable. The company has also developed a novel “buyone, give-one” scheme where for every new pair of frames or lenses sold the company donates a pair to the Lions Foundation which are sent to the Pacific Islands via the charity VOSO.org.
The ‘We Help You See – and You Help Us Give’ idea emerged on the back of Ravi’s optical volunteer work overseas after noticing that families in both New Zealand and the Pacific often struggle to afford the high cost of prescription glasses for their children, which can affect
“Our business started with this core idea of helping you, and indirectly helping others. It is our way of maintaining a self-sustaining practice.”
their performance at school. “With Kiwi Optical you can focus on finding your perfect frames, while we focus on making sure you get the best lenses for your sight, and keeping your cost down.”
In addition to providing affordable prescription eyewear options to those who need it most, the company is also strong on helping people re-use their own frames with new lenses, which reduces waste and lets people keep the frames they love. “Our business started with this core idea of helping you, and indirectly helping others. It is our way of maintaining a self-sustaining practice.”
The best part of the business according to Dass? “Our customers benefitting from our glasses allows us a chance to help those who otherwise would not have access to them. Through our buy-one, give-one model you are also helping give sight to those less fortunate.”
As the venture gains momentum, Kiwi Optical also has plans to improve school eyesight screening programmes here in New Zealand and in the Pacific.
Thought-Wired designs brain-sensing technology and solutions to assist people with profound physical disabilities to lead fulfilling, independent lives. The “assistive solution” requires only the power of thought to operate by gathering electrical brain activity through sensors placed on the surface of the scalp.
Aimed to empower and help those with severe disabilities to communicate and connect with family, friends and others and more easily interact with their environment, the technology allows those with disabilities to independently control and operate electronic devices and other technologies by themselves.
The team’s solution combines innovative brain sensing technology with a training and access software application called NOUS. With a strong focus on social impact, co-founder Sarvnaz Taherian says the venture’s aim is to make the world more accessible for people with physical disabilities and envisions NOUS “will open doors for communication, education, entertainment and social participation.”
Through Launchpad, Thought-Wired aims to refine its business and commercialisation plan, establish effective business processes and prepare to raise the necessary capital required to launch the product to market.
4. The Wellbeing Game (TWBG)
Established by a team of passionate advocates for increasing mental health in New Zealand, TWBG aims to take the “itus” out of Monday and instil happiness and wellbeing into the life of every Kiwi employee.
Co-developed with Community and Public Health at the Canterbury District Health Board, TWBG is an interactive and fun web-based activity logging game designed to improve wellbeing by encouraging people to be more aware of the things they do to support their mental health.
Throwing conventional GDP indicators for “growth” out the window, TWBG is based around the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’: Connect, Keep Learning, Be Active, Take Notice, and Give. According to co-founder Carsten Grimm these are a new set of evidenced-based principles meta-analysed by the new economics foundation for the UK Government Foresight Project.
Using the Five Ways to Wellbeing to record and reflect on their wellbeing activities in an online community, Grimm says the game helps those playing it to improve their mental health and promotes easy ways to build mentally healthy behaviours into daily activities
A team of three, TWBG brings a vast array of experience and knowledge from the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand and previous academic, educational, health, and service delivery roles. The ultimate goal according to Grimm? To accumulate happiness or wellbeing, one hour at a time. “Our ambition is to successfully develop and scale TWBG into a sustainable venture to promote wellbeing in New Zealand.”
5. Food, Farms and Fresh Water Food, Farms and Fresh Water (FFFW) is developing an accreditation brand for beef and New Zealand meat that recognises and promotes responsible waterway management by focusing on the sustainability of farming practice. The organisation provides high quality and fresh red meat with an important difference – it enables consumers to support sheep and cattle farmers who are actively taking steps to look after the natural environment and reducing their environmental impact.
According to co-founder Natasha Garvan FFFW’s vision is to create a social enterprise that facilitates meaningful New Zealand wide improvement in water quality with co-benefits. This includes supporting strong rural communities, improving biodiversity, and enabling consumers to take ownership of water quality issues. “Our red meat product will be independently verified as meeting limits which provide for ‘swimmable’ and ‘fishable’ freshwater.”
Consumers will also be encouraged to be part of the solution of achieving water quality through paying a price premium for their food which will help farmers offset the costs of going greener. “We are attempting to provide a premium to farmers to reinvest in the farming practices which are delivering the environmental services that all New Zealanders want,” says Garvan.
The organisation has already achieved certification success of a 142ha beef-finishing property in Taupo restricting farming to strict nitrogen limits protecting the lake for future generations, verified by the Waikato Regional Council.
Launchpad participation will help FFFW to launch additional pilot studies with farmers in farming waterway catchments throughout New Zealand as well as further refine its business plan and financial model.
6. Take My Hands Take My Hands is a charitable organisation that arranges the collection of unwanted prosthetic limbs, orthotic and medical equipment and ships it to developing countries where it can be used by people in need.
Founded in November 2010, Take My Hands started off as a pilot project shipping redundant prosthetic limbs from the Wellington Artificial Limb Centre to the Hope Rehabilitation Society in Lahore, Pakistan. A big success, the organisation has since been working on additional projects aimed to improve the quality of living, independence, and participation in the life of their community.
The ultimate vision is to create social impact on communities worldwide by redistributing equipment and health-related materials, and to create health and wellbeing improvements for those in need.
“Basically we’re aiming to be a kind of dating agency for equipment – matching those that have it with those that need it. The impact of our work is twofold. Environmentally we’re aiming to minimise waste through redistribution and recycling, and socially we’re looking to improve the lives of people in need by making this equipment accessible,” says co-founder Janette Searle.
Take My Hand’s founders say Launchpad incubation will help the team to develop a strong plan to consolidate
“Basically we’re aiming to be a kind of dating agency for equipment – matching those that have it with those that need it.”
and grow the programme. This will include setting up a workshop space to repair and refurbish equipment and the development of a strong plan and support for expanding their work with hubs in other countries.
Raising a family is an expensive commitment. What’s more the increasingly exorbitant cost of childcare – particularly for lowincome families – more than often negates any financial benefits of going back to work. CareEd4 is a partnership between Barnardos and the Sustainable Business Council (SBC) designed to change the broken childcare paradigm and create a new, high-quality childcare and education service that better meets the needs of working parents.
Aimed to enable vulnerable families to participate in meaningful and sustainable work while achieving economic independence, the programme caters for children aged 0-14, and will offer a flexible, affordable and accessible service, fully responsive to the needs of working parents. “The model will fill a gap for working parents who have to cobble together childcare solutions for children up to the age of 14 years from a range of disconnected services enabling them to enter and stay in the workforce” says Jeff Saunders, chief executive, Barnardos.
The benefits of the new CareEd4 model for families include increased flexibility in work hours and location, affordable childcare solutions reducing tension between home and work life and, most importantly, a solution that will provide all children the best start in education. CareEd4 also carries wider benefits for New Zealand including improved productivity and a reduction in youth unemployment and welfare dependency. Penny Nelson, executive director, Sustainable Business Council says the programme will help sole parents into sustainable and meaningful work. “Without a childcare system that is responsive to their needs and the realities of entry-level work we cannot achieve meaningful change for these families.”
8. Patu Aotearoa
Patu Aotearoa is a group exercise programme designed specifically for Ma¯ ori and Pasifika that aims to inspire whanau to lead more active, healthy and enriching lives while reducing inactivity rates and waistlines.
Led by a passionate team of health and fitness enthusiasts, Patu Aotearoa is delivered by Ma¯ ori, for Ma¯ ori, using Te Ao Ma¯ ori concepts and incorporates Ma¯ ori language and tikanga or customs. The programme is offered to workplaces, schools and marae via a team of mobile trainers. “Working out together as a group is so much more motivating than working out individually, particularly for Ma¯ ori, as we are all here for the same kaupapa or reason.”
By taking exercise to people, the programme’s directors say Patu Aotearoa has been able to reach people who find it difficult to attend a gym, and offer programmes in places where they are more comfortable.
The team also have developed a mobile app for the wider Hastings region for people to download and use at their convenience and they aim to establish a nationwide franchise model of programmes allowing for a number of satellite regional gyms to be opened as a way to extend their reach and positive community impact.
With the assistance of Launchpad Patu Aotearoa aims build its franchise model and establish a number of NZQA accredited courses in health and fitness that will provide employment opportunities for community leaders.
Recognising the lack of a standardised test in New Zealand for workplaces to assess employee impairment, Wellington based Ora is developing an app and service that tests employee impairment and work-readiness in real time, before accidents happen. According to co-founder Jackson Wood, many workplaces today use drug testing as a proxy for impairment testing. However, these are generally arbitrary or ineffective and not always reflective of potential employee impairment at the workplace. Further, recent major accidents in forestry and adventure tourism industries have prompted questions about the risks in other safety critical sectors. According to Wood, Ora’s technology will paint a more accurate picture of employee impairment than current drug testing enables.
Ora’s more accurate testing for impairment technology will make workplaces safer by effectively ensuring people have their “heads in the game” while working on hazardous job sites. “A large number or workplace accidents are caused by impairment — from fatigue, stress, drugs and alcohol, or dehydration — so it makes sense to sense to ensure we are testing for the right thing to keep people safe,” says Wood.
Wood and his co-founder Catherine McCullough collectively bring experience from the political communications, justice, drug and health policy arenas. Lauchpad participation will enable Ora to build a core team with technical experience and bring partner companies on board for testing the initial product concept.
10. Rate My Flat
Rate My Flat (RMF) is a website with an online database of rental properties that are rated by their previous tenants – so future tenants know what they are getting before signing on the dotted line.
With a vision to see Kiwis living in homes that meet their needs now and into the future, the Rate My Flat website aims to provide useful, truthful and objective information so tenants can make better informed decisions when flat-hunting.
The site also provides useful home improvement information for both tenants and property owners to help landlords and tenants make their houses warmer, healthier and more energy efficient.
“Rate My Flat is determined to help improve rental housing across New Zealand and empower tenants to make better-informed decisions,” says the team of four flatmates and good friends, who are working towards completing their degrees at Otago University.
Taking a non-biased view, RMF is also committed to working alongside property owners or property managers to showcase and celebrate improvements they make in their properties. “We allow property owners to have a right of response to any feedback and ratings that their property receives.” Currently all profits are reinvested into the venture.
11. Wilding and Co
Turning an environmental problem into a commercial success, Wilding & Co clears and controls the spread of wilding pines in Central Otago, and distills them into essential oils.
Wildings pines, a native of North America, are strangling New Zealand’s natural environment and grow twenty times faster than in their native homeland. Moreover, the spray used to control the spread of these invasive unwanted trees is toxic in itself, making for a double whammy cause for concern. The Wilding team have developed a socially minded business model that harvests young wildings, and transforms them into high-value essential oils used in fragrances and other consumer products for the perfume, essential oil and anti-bacterial cleaning products industries.
With the tag line: Making Scents of Nature, clearing and controlling the spread of wilding pines across 800,000 hectares of native New Zealand landscapes is just one of the many positive environmental impacts Wilding & Co creates.
“We are in the unique position that a consumer can know with certainty that every purchase directly funds the environmental cause of clearing wilding pines and an investor knows that his/her investment is ethical and profitable,” says co-founder Mathurin Molgat. Wilding & Co’s business model also increases the value and viability of land currently infested with wilding pines, reduces potentially harmful toxins entering the environment and intends to increase awareness of the wilding pine issue in New Zealand.
Wilding & Co hopes to create a self-funding business model with multiple sales channels. “We want to scale the size of the company to match the size of the problem.”
Left to right, RubyWatson, Felicity Brenchley and Ana Heremaia of ARCO.
Ravi Dass and Stephanie Hill,
of Kiwi Optical.
Left to right: Hugh Norriss, Carsten Grimm and Philip Harper of The Wellbeing Game.
Janette Searle and Carol Searle of Take My Hands.
Mike Barton and Natasha Garvan of
Food, Farms and Fresh Water.
Left to right. Levi Armstrong, Kia Diamond and Jackson Waerea of Patu Aotearoa.
Left to right. Penelope Janes, Amanda Tolley, Richard Manaton and Cheryl Tolcher of CareEd4.
Left to right, Leander Schulz, Cade Bedford, Letisha Nicholas and Lindsey Horne, of Rate My Flat.
Left to right, Ray Gazley and Saskia van der Geest of Wilding & Co.
Catherine McCullough and Jackson JamesWood of Ora.