The “Big Friday of Social Entrepreneurship” was hosted by the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) this February and I was invited to participate as a GLP ambassador at the event. Throughout the day, five inspirational speakers who all work in or around Australia’s social enterprise industry ran the audience through their projects and insights. This is the last in a series of articles recounting what I learnt from these speakers in short, digestible posts. Previously, I’ve discussed Susan Black, the director of projects for Social Ventures Australia (SVA), whose organization funds, mentors and partners with social enterprises in Australia; Bec Scott owner of STREAT, a social enterprise which aims to end youth homelessness in Australia; Michael Combs, CEO of CareerTrackers, an organization which arranges paid internships for Indigenous university students; and Corey Steinhauer, managing director of Community Innovations, an organisation that arranges corporate social responsibility programs for other businesses and organisations.
The final speaker for ‘The Big Friday of Social Entrepreneurship’, 2014 was Stacey Randell, the lovely co-director of EcoBag Media. EcoBag aims to reduce the use of plastic in Australia. We all know plastic is bad for our environment, yet how plastic are our lives still? If you were to calculate how many plastic bags you use in a week, or a month, or year and then do a quick inventory of all the things that you own or use that are made of plastic or have plastic in them – you can see how quickly it can all stack up. Stacey recognised this and after watching ‘Bag it’, a documentary on plastic and its effects on the environment and on humans, she realised her passion for ending plastic usage in Australia. She then started EcoBag Media with two other like-minded individuals, modelling it off an existing business called BagNews in Brazil.
Specifically, EcoBag Media’s mission (and Stacey’s), is to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags in Australian communities. EcoBag produces bags that are durable, re-usable, biodegradable, Australian made, composed of 50-70% post-consumer recycled materials and are also FSC (Forest Stewardship Council Australia) certified. On top of this, their bags advertise local businesses as well as not-for-profit organisations such as the SurfRider Organisation and Take 3. EcoBag produces 20,000 bags a quarter which are then provided free of charge to retailers so that they don’t need to use plastic bags to package their products.
On a separate note, Stacey has had no tertiary education, proving that you don’t need a university degree or a strong academic background to be a successful social entrepreneur. In fact, every entrepreneur we heard from have led very different lives from each other, and none had experience in social enterprise before starting their business/organisation. This shows that establishing or committing to a business or organisation which has strong social values is achievable for people from all different backgrounds with different life experiences. And most importantly, to be successful in this industry you just have to find what it is you’re passionate about.