Social enterprise initiative announced for Wanaka

On 26 September at Wanaka’s popular coffee stop Urban Grind, more than two dozen entrepreneurs and socially-minded community members gathered to learn about social enterprise – business models that serve a purpose beyond profit. 

The event was part of the monthly Entrepreneur Coffee Jam series organised by Startup Queenstown Lakes. The lively discussion featured advice and expertise from Sophie Ward of Wastebusters and Barry Grehan of Urban Village.

Liew, Ward, and Grehan chat about business beyond profit to make a social or environmental impact. (Watch the Facebook stream)

“Social enterprise is on everyone’s lips right now,” said discussion moderator Richard Liew, publisher of NZ Entrepreneur Magazine. “We are becoming more and more aware that when you decide to go into business, there are other motives besides profit and world domination.

Akina Foundation, New Zealand’s leading entity on social enterprise, defines the concept as “Social enterprises use business models as a tool to help solve social, cultural and environmental issues. They are often profit-making businesses, but they invest the majority of their profit and expenditure in positive outcomes (their impact). “We use our business to achieve our mission of getting to zero waste in our community,” said Ward. “All of our decisions are not about making more money, but will the action help us better achieve that mission.”

Locally, there is a strong interest in creating businesses that impact society and the environment. “We have seen a very strong representation of entrepreneurs in our workshops and programmes who are motivated by making an impact in Wanaka,” said James Burnes, CEO of Startup Queenstown Lakes. “There is a strong sense of community-first here, and we’d like to help those locally who want to make an impact do so.

Grehan (right) speaks about an effort to launch affordable housing, a major social concern, through a unified ownership model.

Burnes announced at the event “Business With Purpose: A social enterprise initiative for Wanaka” to be run by Startup Queenstown Lakes with support from Wastebusters, Urban Village, and Akina Foundation.  “Over the next 6 months, starting iwth today’s conversation, we’ll be hosting several workshops and programmes with a social-enterprise focus. Our goal will be to help those who want to create a sustainable business model also achieve an impact.”

The timing is right noted Liew. “Creating business solely for profit is becoming increasingly old-fashioned,” said Liew.  “Many founders are looking to achieve the triple bottom line: good for shareholders, good for customers, and good for society and the environment. This is as good of a place as any to do it.

Businesses like Wastebusters, Urban Village and others are starting the movement – and it doesn’t require government funding or support to do it.   “I love the way we can combine business with purpose to make an impact. We’ve stood entirely on our own since the beginning,” said Ward.

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