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. Over the coming weeks I will be recounting what I learnt from these speakers in short, digestible posts. Last week I talked about Susan Black, the director of projects for Social Ventures Australia (SVA), whose organization funds, mentors and partners with social enterprises in Australia.
After hearing Susan discuss the current state of the social enterprise industry in Australia and how NOW is the right time to start a social enterprise in Australia I was keen to understand how someone would go about establishing a business of this kind.
After travelling to Vietnam and meeting a young homeless boy on a park bench which served as his home, Bec Scott decided she needed to do something to end youth homelessness. Responding to the statistic that there are currently around 105,000 homeless people in Australia, Bec replicated the existing business model of well-known social enterprise KOTO (Know One, Teach One), but in the streets of Melbourne.
KOTO is a social enterprise which has been running successfully for 10 years. It stands for Know One, Teach One and was started by Jimmy Pham, a Vietnamese Australian who wants to end youth homelessness in Vietnam. It is comprised of restaurants, catering services, an online bakery and a cooking class. Currently, PACE run a volunteer program in Vietnam which sends Macquarie University students to work with the Vietnamese youth at KOTO. For more information on PACE International’s Vietnam program or any of their other volunteer programs click here.
And so STREAT was born. Bec chose Melbourne because of its strong coffee and café culture and the amount of resources available to social enterprises in Melbourne. STREAT has been running for five years now and their mission is to “stop youth homelessness in a delicious way”. Sounds delightful! They run 3 cafes, a food cart, and a corporate catering service, in which the staff are all primarily homeless youth or youth at risk of becoming homeless.
The youth who work for STREAT are provided with valuable work experience in the hospitality industry as well as social support and mentoring. They start off working small shifts of around four hours, eventually moving up to longer shifts. STREAT’S goal is to become completely self-funded and help 1095 kids a year. Imagine: you go to your local STREAT café in the morning, grab a coffee and a pastry and head off to work. By the time you even get to work that day you’ve already done something valuable to end youth homelessness.
As Bec is also passionate about the environment, in particular lessening the damage that humans can wreak upon it, she also ensures that every part of the supply chain of STREAT is assessed for its environmental impact. She argues that it’s not useful or indeed right to be doing one good thing at the cost of another.
Bec has some strong advice for any budding social entrepreneurs out there: be selective with your investors. Because STREAT has always been thoughtful in accepting who they will take capital from they’ve been able to partner with philanthropic foundations and charitable individuals who will usually reinvest any profit or return they make from STREAT back into the business.
If nothing else, Bec urged the audience to remember one thing: you need to be truly passionate about a cause in order to create a social enterprise around it.