Building social enterprise know-how and networks
WHY – THE NEED
“..I want to use my skills to support migrant and refugee women to build their businesses. To do this, I need a better understanding of how social enterprise works and the different ways that projects can be funded during start-up…” Caroline McLaren
Caroline McLaren is an experienced high school teacher and mentor who also owns and runs a small food truck business (www.konjomama.com) that specialises in vegetarian Ethiopian cuisine.
Her social enterprise journey started a few years ago when YMCA offered a course at a high school where Caroline was working as a teacher.
“We travelled to Melbourne to visit Thank You, STREAT and Thesocialstudio.org so students could see how social enterprise worked. It was an eye opener. We later tried to set up a social enterprise at school but hit some barriers,” said Caroline.
In 2021 Caroline started volunteering for “Made by Many Hands’’, a project led by Migrant Women in Business – a social enterprise that works with government agencies, private enterprises and organisations to develop migrant women in business, the workforce, and in leadership.
“This project is supporting migrant and refugee women to develop their micro businesses, with a particular focus on women living in the regional areas of Ballarat, Castlemaine and Bendigo, “ said Caroline.
“We explore ways to improve sales and grow businesses, and offer support to move businesses online. The long term aim is to mentor these women to become community leaders and to grow their business to employ and support others.”
An active contributor in her local community, Caroline was recently approached by Bendigo Food Share. The organisation is interested in exploring ways to incorporate social enterprise into a program for schools in the region so that students can learn about food security and experience cooking healthy meals for those in need, whilst operating within a social enterprise framework.
This growing interest in the business model of social enterprise in her local community prompted Caroline to apply for Steps to StartUp – a guided e-learning and coaching program co-hosted by ACRE and Social Enterprise Academy Australia.
HOW – THE APPROACH
Thanks to a Victorian Government initiative, more than 200 people from across the State joined Thriving Rural Futures – a program that explores how the business model of social enterprise can address local challenges and unlock new opportunities
As part of Thriving Rural Futures, 15 places were offered to people from rural Victoria in Steps to StartUp – 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. Caroline was a successful applicant for this program.
From March until the end of May 2021, a group of changemakers from bushfire and COVID-impacted rural LGAs across Victoria 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.
Newstead, Mount Alexander Shire, Central Victoria
Caroline can already see the value of her involvement in Steps to StartUp.
“I needed support to further my understanding of social enterprise and to develop my business knowledge and acumen.”
“ Steps to StartUp helped to focus my thoughts about how things could work. In a recent ‘Open Door’ group session, we explored who you need in your core team. I recognised that I’m a technician and I’m working alongside an entrepreneur. We need to have clear job roles and identify management strategies to really flourish.”