Raven Collective offers gifts of hope
WHY – THE NEED
Family, domestic and sexual violence is a major health and welfare issue in Australia occurring across all socioeconomic and demographic groups, but predominantly affecting women and children. The impacts of family, domestic and sexual violence can be serious and long-lasting, affecting an individual’s health, wellbeing, education, relationships and housing outcomes. Limited employment opportunities and prospects to gain financial independence can severely hinder a woman from escaping an abusive situation.
‘Women who leave a domestic violence crisis may receive emergency housing, counselling and some support payments. But they need skills to be self-sufficient over the long term. Raven Collective will help to bridge this gap.” Natalie Illingworth– Raven Collective Founder
Natalie Illingworth is proudly Ballarat ‘born and bred’.
An experienced social welfare practitioner, she works with agencies that address homelessness and provide crisis housing. Natalie has regularly witnessed the direct and enduring impact of domestic violence, especially for women.
While working from home during a 2020 COVID lockdown, Natalie decided it was time to bring together her professional skills and passion for social change to create a business solution that could support women at risk.
“Like many people, I was juggling home-schooling and working’, she explained.
“In the back of my mind, I was getting so frustrated because I knew the negative impact of lockdown for people who are living in an unsafe home. I decided it was time to create something where I could make a difference.”
HOW – THE APPROACH
Natalie decided to channel her frustration into research and came across the concept of social enterprise.
“For years, I’ve had an idea about starting a business that employs women who have experienced domestic violence. I realised that social enterprise was a business model I could use to start building a solution.’
Natalie is now developing Raven Collective. When fully operational, this social enterprise will offer an online gift box service, with profits creating employment and training opportunities for women who have experienced hardship.
In a double benefit, Raven Collective will also offer new economic opportunities for female creatives.
“Since having kids I have come to realise that lots of women choose to earn income and be available for kids by creating products. I want it to be a big movement of women supporting women.”
Although she is on a steep learning curve, Natalie is using knowledge, know-how and networks developed through involvement in Steps to StartUp to develop strong foundations for Raven Collective.
Steps to StartUp is a guided e-learning and coaching program that equips participants with resources, networks and know-how to help take social enterprise thinking to the next level. The 2020/2021 program was co-hosted by ACRE and Social Enterprise Academy Australia with support from the Victorian Government.
From March until the end of May 2021, Natalie joined a group of changemakers from bushfire and COVID-impacted rural LGAs across Victoria who came together weekly with a Social Enterprise Academy Australia facilitator to review online learning modules, explore questions, share insights, and map out key actions for developing a social enterprise concept.
“I’ve realised that not everyone is my customer. I’ve also realised I need to understand my customer base and focus on building self-sufficiency. I’ve started to focus on corporate customers who I could engage with and get on board long term.”
Natalie was motivated to meet with building companies and real estate agents who often leave a gift for clients. She is exploring what potential customers would like included in a gift box, what it takes to become a supplier and sharing the mission of Raven Collective to encourage support of the social enterprise.
“ I had it in my head that we might survive on donations, but Social Enterprise Academy Australia facilitator, Matt Perfect, helped me understand that it’s ok to make a profit in this space. This has really changed my thinking. We do want to make money. If we can stand on our own two feet, the enterprise is so much more secure and takes away the pressure of chasing people for donations or sponsorship’.
One-on-one coaching offered as part of Steps to StartUp was invaluable for Natalie..
“It really helped me to keep going. When you are just starting out it can be so frightening. There were times when I thought ‘I am so in over my head’. Steps to StartUp showed me that if you have the heart and are willing to put in the hard work you can do it – you don’t need to know it all. I’ve given myself permission to remove the pressure and understand that it doesn’t have to be right the first time or perfect and that I can learn from the experience and change things along the way.”
Natalie is developing a partnership with Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre to support the training component of Raven Collective.
Through research she discovered that the Neighbourhood Centre runs a catering social enterprise that involves people with disabilities. She also discovered that it offers a ‘Ready for work’ course to help people develop confidence and skills for applying for work or further education.
“The Neighbourhood Centre has offered to facilitate the training aspect for Raven Collective. It’s a great partnership.”
Natalie is committed to addressing social issues linked to domestic violence through social enterprise and says the name ‘Raven Collective’ is synonymous with renewal and rebirth.
Raven Collective will offer a therapeutic work environment where women can rebuild social networks and also link in with professionals who can support them to find longer term housing and organise financial matters like superannuation.
“DV is a constant and ever present thing that fires me up. Women who have experienced domestic violence may have a patchy employment track record, low self esteem and minimal financial resources.”
“I dream of the moment in a few years when I meet a woman who has been part of Raven Collective and she tells me how it improved her life. Then I’ll really know we are doing something that matters.’