Social Enterprise Can Transform Our Economy

In late 2019 Startup Queenstown Lakes welcomed the Ākina Foundation's Zara Losch and Julie Youngman to the homely surrounds of The Sherwood for our first local Impact Workshop. Ākina Foundation is New Zealand's leader in social enterprise and is working with social enterprises, businesses, philanthropy and the Government to transform New Zealand's economy through the power of impact.

The two brought an abundance of social enterprise knowledge, a Mary-Poppins-bagful of impact tools and models, and a spark that has helped us to ignite the torch of social enterprise locally.

A follow-on session was then facilitated a few weeks later in Wanaka as part of our Business with Impact Social Enterprise Initiative. Barry Grehan of Urban Village and Sophie Ward of Wastebusters Wanaka facilitated the session, along with support from Startup Queenstown Lakes Business Advisor Jinene Clark.


We asked Barry to share a few key takeaways from the workshops and provide his perspective on the importance of thinking beyond profit.

Many of these techniques and lessons will be incorporated into our upcoming Co.Starters Venture Bootcamp 2020 taking place in Wanaka (Spots still available, register now!).

Like-minded people doing things differently

Evolving the way that we do business begins with bringing a mix of like-minded people together that want to do things differently. Different from the profit-maximzing-at-all-costs foundation of traditional business. And different from one another. In our circle, we had a blend of individuals who are driven by: creating more resilient food ecosystems, shifting how we share skills between generations, wiping away the environmental scourge of plastic, financially empowering more community organisations and lifting confidence through more meaningful work.

This is the beginning of a local movement

Impact is pretty broad. What does it really mean?

Super simple. Impact is the positive social or environmental changes that happen because of an activity. Meaningful outcomes.

Why should I have an impact model?

Why bother? Two big reasons. Firstly, without knowing where we want to go, how will we know that we’re moving in the right direction? When we define the impact that we want to make from the actions that we take, we create a purpose lens through which we navigate the world. We can plan and prioritise better, make purpose-led decisions, improve our approach and activities, use our precious time in the right way and know when to say no.

Secondly, to bring partners into our journey - communities, customers, funders, collaborators - we speak to our impact. With integrity we can say: this is why we’re doing what we’re doing. This is how we are doing it. These are the people or the part of the planet that we are serving. This is how we measure success. Our impact model can become the common language of those partnerships. It helps us to identify the right partners...and the wrong ones.

Combined, the fundamental reason is to maximise the impact that comes from our actions.

Outputs and outcomes

Not-for-profits have traditionally focused on outputs. How many meals did we provide? How many parents did we educate? How many plastic bags did we replace? Outputs are a good start towards articulating impact - a positive way to describe our activities. But outcomes are what we need to be focusing on. The difference between the two can feel blurry but it comes down to how people’s lives - or how a part of the planet - changes as a result of our activities. An outcome is the difference made by an output. Improved physical and mental health of those who received meals. Increased quality time spent with kids as a result of the classes. Improved water quality due to less plastic toxicity.

Barry Grehan helps entrepreneur Neal Macaloon with his business model for Bee the Change.
Barry Grehan helps entrepreneur Neal Macaloon with his business model for Bee the Change.

Want to support more social enterprise activity in our district?

Sophie Ward & Barry Grehan are building the local social enterprise community in partnership with Wastebusters, Ākina and Startup Queenstown Lakes. Social entrepreneurs in their own right, they are bringing together all who want to see impact-maximisation as the new mantra of our Southern Lakes economy.

Feeling curious or want to be a part of the social enterprise collective and bring your voice around the table? Contact Barry to get involved at In February, you can join them in developing a collective vision for how social enterprise will be woven into the local economic fabric.

Bring your idea to life at Co.Starters Venture Bootcamp 2020

Co.Starters is a nine-week action-driven, collaborative programme in Wanaka organised by Startup Queenstown Lakes in partnership with Soda Inc. that will give you insights, relationships, and tools needed to turn your social enterprise (other other business) ideas into action.


The programme is run with a small and supportive group of like-minded people led by experienced facilitators, mentors, and coaches. Barry will help facilitate a social enterprise track during the Cohort for those with an impact business model focus.

A few spots are left. Register here.