Applications are now open for people whose socially-conscious business idea is ready to go pro. For the first time since its inception in 2010, The Crunch, a program run by the nonprofit Social Traders, is expanding to include folks with clever ideas from Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania—not just Victoria as it did previously.
The Crunch is an intensive six month program designed for people with social enterprise startups who have the potential to flesh out their idea to the point where they can obtain investment and begin trading within 12 months. Participants are given rigorous coaching, business development support and the chance to receive investment money to bring the enterprise to market.
With social enterprise becoming more and more integral in tackling societal and environmental problems, creative people all around the world are coming together to rethink how they combine business and philanthropy. Lisa Boothby, the head of enterprise investment readiness at Social Traders, spends a lot of her time working with The Crunch initiative. Boothby maintains that a social enterprise can work if it addresses a “clearly defined social or community problem” and has a “viable market” to sell a product or service in order to sustain itself.
“It’s not the panacea so it doesn’t fix everything,” she concedes, “but by their nature social enterprises have the potential to survive a long time into the future because they rely on trading for their financial sustainability rather than grants, which by definition can end after a few years.”
But even though momentum is growing for social enterprise, Boothby says the sector isn’t supported as much as others, which is why Social Traders decided to launch The Crunch.
“A lot of people going into social enterprise startups have very strong community backgrounds but don’t necessarily have the business or market orientation that they require to be trading in an open market. So we want to be able to provide those business skills. And that’s what The Crunch does.”
This round of the program also includes spots for social enterprises that have a specific social purpose or theme, such as recycling or supporting youth at-risk.
For the youth at-risk category, an idea could include staffing the company with disadvantaged young people and providing them with training. Or it could use its profits to offer programs for at-risk youth to assist them. Or it could do both.
Another startup could centre its social contribution around recycling, whereby resources are reclaimed before being dumped into a landfill and reused to create a product that is then sold in the marketplace.
“Social enterprises crop up in almost every social field and almost every trading field, every part of the economy,” says Boothby.
With so much funding being cut away from nonprofit community organisations, “opportunities are emerging for social enterprise to come in and alleviate that by generating some surpluses that can then be fed in to support those social programs,” she points out. And many existing not-for-profits are coming up with social enterprises of their own to help supplement their funding.
But, like any new business, social enterprises have the potential to fail.
Boothby says the early years of operation are very difficult for social enterprises. To help prevent one from failing, Boothby underscores how crucial it is for social entrepreneurs to receive ongoing support and mentorship through the initial years of trading. Because if the business side fails, the social impact will disappear along with it.
So, got an idea? Check out The Crunch Warmups in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, where you can present your idea for feedback from a panel of social enterprise experts.
And don’t worry if you don’t have an idea yet, you can always apply in the next round of The Crunch!
For more information on how to apply, head to the Social Traders website. Applications for The Crunch must be submitted before 4 October, 2013.
Social Traders is a not-for-profit organisation funded via the Victorian government, a private philanthropic foundation, and through partnerships and consulting work. The Crunch is partly funded by The Westpac Foundation, which is co-funding four places for social enterprises in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.
On Twitter? #TheCrunchST