Jump Start

Since I started Social Venturers, I have had many discussions about when a good time is to introduce social entrepreneurship to young people. Ed Freeman at the University of Virginia explained to me that while he wants PhDs and MBAs to dive into social entrepreneurship as part of their higher education, “Students at that stage want to start earning some money. They invested so many years and student debt into getting to that point in their career. They are unlikely to start a social enterprise and continue to live such a frugal lifestyle to experiment with social entrepreneurship.”

Susan Cohen, professor of entrepreneurship at University of Richmond, is finding ways to introduce social entrepreneurship early on in her undergraduate classes, “Students should learn from the jump that there is a different way of being a successful entrepreneur. It’s not all about Silicon Valley and becoming wealthy quickly by launching another tech startup.”


Imagine how thrilled I was to meet Tom Allen of Seven Positive on a sunny afternoon in Brisbane! Tom runs the Jump Start project, teaching design thinking and social entrepreneurship to students of Pimpama State Secondary College in Queensland. As we were sipping iced coffee in the courtyard of the Queensland Library cafe, Tom told me about Jump Start’s beginnings: “I was between guest lecturing and tutoring at Queensland University of Technology and Griffith University and other projects when I met Adam Jefford – Head of the Department of Creative Industries at PSSC. Adam was initially interested in having me participate in a workshop at the school. This lead to more conversations about how we could collaborate on further design thinking projects in the school. We applied for an Arts Queensland grant to run a pilot project and were successful. It was great assistance in getting Jump Start up and running. We were keen on taking design thinking one step farther. I wanted to introduce the concept of social entrepreneurship to make sure the course outcomes were translatable into real-life projects after the course. I wanted to bring startup mentality to the classroom.”

Social innovation in the classroom

Social innovation in the classroom

In 2015, Jump Start ran as a 12 week intensive program for 15 Year 10 students (check out their outcomes!). Thanks to the pilot’s success and feedback from students, teachers and parents, in 2016 Tom and Adam were able to expand Jump Start’s reach and worked with over 115 students from Years 7, 8 and 9. In 2017 the program will continue to grow. The 12 weeks are now stretched out over the entire school year with content integrated into their Design Excellence classes instead of being run as a stand-alone program. Jump Start covers three key elements:

  1. Understanding: developing a strong understanding of self & surroundings and capability to confront personal, group and community challenges confidently.
  2. Design thinking: They then learn how to use design thinking to empathise strongly with their target demographic, research, observe and understand the problem they’re tackling. This leads to a redefinition of the problem. Students then develop a multitude of ideas on how to tackle the issue. They go through various quick learning loops of prototyping, testing and iteration until they find a solution that sticks.
  3. Social entrepreneurship: Last but not least students learn a range of social startup skills to transform their solutions into environmentally and socially responsible business ventures.

Tom explains: “It’s important to ignite a passion in the students. I see great value in helping students understand what success means to them (setting goals and completing them, taking risks and being rewarded when it works out). I set them up to embrace risk and failure. My role is to lead them through these projects, to teach them the tools to work on them, and bring in role models from industry and academia. This is crucial. At their age, many don’t know what’s possible. But by inviting industry experts, academics and university students that are passionate about tackling wicked problems, we give them inspiring people and case studies they can relate to.”

Aspiring social entrepreneurs at work

Aspiring social entrepreneurs at work

Throughout this conversation all I could do was vigorously nod my head in agreement and repeat “Yes! Yes! You’re so right!” I felt like Tom had not only recognized but acted upon an obvious gap in nurturing the next gap of changemakers. The question is not how many social enterprises come out Jump Start. The greater value created is the breeding and nurturing of mindsets in young people that recognize and rethink social issues, develop human-centered solutions through a lean process, ask the right questions, are not afraid to fail but tackle issues with a healthy attitude towards testing and iterating until they get it right! In Tom’s words: “If we can send a multitude of students out there with the mindset of a social entrepreneur and experience in using design thinking, it opens up an incredible pool of possibilities to create an enormous amount positive social impact!”

Jump Start recently won an Australian Good Design Award in the Education Services category – one of Australia’s most prestigious design awards. Way to go!



Spotlight: Tom Allen


What drives you?

I am passionate about social entrepreneurship and empowering people, organisations and enterprise to create positive impact. There are an abundance of wicked problems we are facing now and into the future. Social entrepreneurship allows us to turn these problems into opportunities. That’s what I find exciting.

How do you define social entrepreneurship?

Creating enterprise/s that are able to identify problems within a community or the world, and find ways to create positive social impact in these areas in a sustainable way. It’s not about building charities, it’s about building viable business models so that the impact can be sustained over time.

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

I was in Barcelona for 8 years and only returned to Australia 3 years ago. From that I would say that the perception of social entrepreneurship has changed: The value it creates is becoming more recognized, both from a business perspective and more conscious consumers.


“After studying two semesters of design, I took a gap year and spent a year travelling around Europe. I ended up in Barcelona for the last few months and once I had completed my degree in industrial design, I was back there within ten days. I was considering a graduate degree, I wanted to learn Catalan and Spanish, get work experience in Europe. I completed a Masters in Product Design in Barcelona and got a corporate job designing large printers. I began to understand that my morals and ethics were not aligned with doing that kind of work. From there I set up my first design studio, The Emotion Lab and spent 2 years designing furniture, lighting and accessories. I quickly learnt how to run a viable business by diving in the deep end. During those 2 years, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t so interested in creating products (for the sake of making products… many of which end up in landfill), but about helping businesses develop effective solutions to create positive change. I began consulting to a range of small businesses and startups who shared a common vision. After 8 years in Barcelona, my wife and I felt it was time for a change so after more travel, we settled in Brisbane.”



Spotlight: Peter Ball

peter ball

What drives you?

Change. There is so much we can do which isn’t difficult, it doesn’t have to be super bold or super innovative. We can create change by looking at how we do things.

How do you define social entrepreneurship?

Trading to solve an issue.

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

In 2009, Melbourne co-hosted the Social Enterprise World Forum which helped raise public awareness of social entrepreneurship. Secondly, the Federal government launched SEDIF – the Social Enterprise Development Investment Fund – which brought new capital to the space (learn more here).


Peter has a background in banking , investment and finance. In 2007 he launched his first startup whose profits went to charity. In 2012, Peter was invited to speak on social finance and impact investing at SOCAP. “With all the people I met and connections I made at SOCAP, I extended my stay by four weeks to follow up and learn more about the space. I returned to Australia and started a social enterprise. This shoe shine business employed refugees, troubled youth and homeless people. As Australia’s first social franchise we soon had 16 franchisee shoe shine stands in the biggest office buildings in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. I handed this business to a foundation because I wanted to focus on how to help people with an idea. Senior executives, politicians, graduates – people from all walks of life – approached me asking “Can you help me with my social enterprise idea?” So I took a few months to design the program, found a space, opened the first round of  applications in August 2014, and have been running Impact Academy since then.



Impact Academy

My first field visit in Brisbane led me to Impact Academy which had only just moved into a new space on top of Roma Street Parklands – a little oasis that gives you a tiny hint of skyscrapers while you walk under palm trees.

Peter Ball, founder of Impact Academy, rushed in from closing an investment deal for one of Impact Academy’s Alumni. The sparsely decorated board room we sat in gave away little of the hour that followed, packed with discussions about impact metrics and business feasibility of acceleration programs.

Impact Academy is a 20-week acceleration program for social entrepreneurs from early to growth stage, followed by tailored Alumni support. Applications open every six months for ventures that prove

  1. Demonstrable social impact
  2. Commercial sustainability, and
  3. Scalability.

Impact Academy provides access to potential investors as well as networks of partners and customers while focusing on developing participants’ business skills. Content is tailored around the needs related to business development and strategic planning, distribution and market access, leadership skills and business acumen. Peter elaborates: “The first three weeks we focus on design of the business – value proposition and business model – before launching into 12 weeks of workshops with industry leaders who talk to participants about anything from legal issues to HR. The last 5 weeks we drill down into market and investment readiness. I believe that any given entrepreneur doesn’t have to be an expert in all of these topics, but (s)he needs to know something about all of them, be it legal and IP issues, governance, or tech. For two hours on Monday afternoon they learn from experts, and I catch up with each team for an hour and a half afterward to see how they apply the workshop knowledge to their ventures.”

Impact Academy' model

Impact Academy’ model

At this point you should know that when I met Peter, he was running the show by himself. It was Impact Academy’s fourth program and he was looking for new members to join the team. He was running the accelerator alone spending an hour and a half with each current cohort member, and was still deeply engaged with a number of Alumni from previous programs. So… how exactly does one person run the show? “It is very time-intense but I feel that this is where Impact Academy makes a contribution – tailored support for each participant. I have developed a solid set of templates and processes which helps a lot!”

Alumni. I haven’t met many (any?) support organizations that get that part right! Alumni bring valuable insights and experiences to the table, but engagement doesn’t happen magically. Alumni need guidance. Immediately after any program, they focus on building their businesses and are dispersed into whatever direction that takes them. It is difficult to stay engaged and few organizations devote the resources necessary to do well. But if you think about it, just because participants graduate from a program doesn’t mean they don’t need ongoing support to survive these first years. Most importantly – in my experience – they are crucial to building a community around a program. I know we all run programs on stretched budgets but engaging Alumni is a long-term investment in the entrepreneurial community you are trying to build.

Peter’s take on Alumni: “A lot of of our Alumni engagement depends on how we close the accelerator. At the end of 20 weeks, we assess their support needs over the next 12 weeks. It’s irresponsible not to know what they need in the next year, so we identify that before they leave.  It may be unstructured but at the same time it’s very specific. Every startup is different so we develop a plan according to their individual requirements. They know they can ring at any time. With some of them I check in once a week, with others I catch up every few weeks. It really depends on where they are in their development.”

Impact Academy's showcase 2015: Jenna from Care Passport (carepassport.com.au), a digital platform providing on-demand support and education to target improvements in the personal wellbeing and resilience of unpaid, family carers,

Impact Academy’s showcase 2015: Jenna from Care Passport, a digital platform providing on-demand support and education to target improvements in the personal wellbeing and resilience of unpaid family carers.

Impact Academy is not a nonprofit – another rarity in the social enterprise support space. Peter’s dedication to metrics and take on investment speaks volumes for this entrepreneurial approach: “In week 2, participants define their MVO – Minimum Viable Outcome – that they want to achieve with their venture. When you’re a social entrepreneur, you want to make sure that your outcomes are being achieved, otherwise your business misses the point! Their MVO is crucial in defining the impact they are trying to make, it guides their decision-making. At the same time, Impact Academy has metrics in place to assess our outcomes. If our companies aren’t successful, that means we are not. We only teach what we can translate into metrics and measure. It’s costly right now, it’s a high investment but as an accelerator need to know that what we do is relevant. A  group of economists is helping us measure Impact Academy’s outcomes and how the participants are performing.”

Another unique element of Impact Academy’s approach is their take on investing in accelerated companies. “I struggle with the view that you can demand equity from day 1, before you have demonstrated capability and benefits as an accelerator. If you go to YCombinator, for example, you hand over 5-7% and the expectation is that everyone is valued at the same amount of money. I don’t understand why an entrepreneur would accept these conditions! Secondly, I don’t want to invest in all the entrepreneurs that come through. The lore of history tells us that not all of them are going to succeed, and that costs money. I don’t want to hold 5% equity, I want to know that what we  provide is more than 5% worth. At the end of 16 weeks, I sit down with each founder; we look at what they have achieved, and what is is that they need. We offer and only take equity if the both sides – the founder and I – think that it adds value. It must work for both sides. We have had deals from 2.5% to 50% (only one). We don’t invest ourselves, we help them fundraise. Investors bring a lot more than money, it’s understanding, it’s networks. We haven’t exited and have had no profit share from an income perspective.”



A new chapter

After eight guilty months, this Thanksgiving I finally made the time to start publishing content  I had collected and written up in March of this year during my trip to Australia. I used the early morning hours to nurse a cup of coffee (or three) and start editing posts that had sat silently in their folders for way too long. And as I was reading through all the background research and interviews that I had done for each visit, I got genuinely re-excited about all the knowledge, connections and experiences I collected over the last two years of working on Social Venturers! I was overcome by a sense of elation and gratitude as I reflected on the great conversations I had on my most recent trip to Australia alone:

I spoke with Kaitlin Tait – Co-Founder of Spark* International – in a cozy social enterprise cafe in Richmond, Melbourne, about their journey from Tanzania via Cambridge to Papua New Guinea and Australia.

I spent one late afternoon at The Difference Incubator in Melbourne discussing the next big thing for the social enterprise sector, vehemently nodding my head in agreement with Isaac Jeffries thinking to myself “These Australians really get it!”.

Another time I found myself talking to Tom Allen outside the Queensland Library in Brisbane’s tropical sun soaking up every word he said about bringing social entrepreneurship into middle and high school classrooms, all the while filling me in on his international lifestyle and passion for using design thinking for social good.  


Social enterprise cafe STREAT was founded in 2009 by Rebecca Scott & Kate Barrelle

I have learned so much from Social Venturers in Australia, Europe and the United States, and I can’t thank them enough for making time to critically and openly talk about their programs and share their outlooks on the world of social enterprise at large! With that said it comes as no surprise that I was disappointed with myself for not sharing any of these insights and  experiences until eight months later. It doesn’t look like much on the site itself but it takes about an hour for each post (Spotlight and Field Visit) to be edited for online publication and go live; and it wasn’t even about making the time, it was about everything else that was going on.

Once I received my greencard for the United States in March 2016, I jumped into local work projects with both feet: I ran two rounds of a 12-week pre-accelerator for university students, took on the role as B Keeper for Central Virginia’s B Corp community, launched Virginia’s first social enterprise mini-accelerator in collaboration with Unreasonable Institute, started to advise small businesses and startups with a social mission one-on-one and helped run a co-working space. I joined an incredible network of ecosystem builders called Startup Champions for which I help run communications and outreach, and I supported a local accelerator for high-growth companies as mentor coordinator. I loved every minute of my work locally, and still do, but inevitably Social Venturers was pushed into the background.

This is the moment where I am supposed to say “But that’s all going to change now! Now that I remember how important and invigorating all the research behind Social Venturers is, I will make it a priority and magically fit another five hours into my 50-hour week! Boo-yah!”. I have made these types of commitments before and know It. Doesn’t. Work. As much as I have always enjoyed Social Venturers, the travel, the research, the conversations – right now is not the time.

I have answered many of the questions I had when I launched Social Venturers. I have seen many different support models for social entrepreneurs, not around the world, but at least on three continents. From the very beginning I was very aware of the fact that the landscape of social enterprise support is transient and ever evolving. I never fooled myself into thinking I could capture it all; because “all” will be different a week from today.

My first field visits for Social Venturers took me to Europe in January 2015

My first field visits for Social Venturers took me to Europe in January 2015

Instead of focusing my efforts on the big questions, I have shifted my attention on social enterprise support in mid-market sized cities. When life dropped me off in Richmond, Virginia, I declared it a testing ground for social enterprise support in mid-tier cities. Having learned so much about support models in metropolitan areas like Berlin, London, Amsterdam, New York City, and Melbourne, I became more and more curious about the power, opportunities and challenges of social entrepreneurship in smaller places with less awareness and infrastructure for these type of changemakers.

In September 2016, I launched Unreasonable Lab Virginia with a group of startup ninjas, and it gave me some first insights into the differences for social enterprise support between large, established ecosystems and emerging ones (Read more about early lessons, our definition of success and next steps!). It is a first step into a new direction for Social Venturers. Not only do I get to apply everything I learned from other support organizations in different countries, I am also expanding my toolbox venturing into the world of B Corps, honing my skills in startup acceleration and community building, and growing the foundation of Social Venturers. All in all, a pretty exciting prospect for 2017!

Join me on my journey! If we have not met yet, drop me a line to anika@socialventurers.com! If we have met, let’s catch up for coffee again next time I’m back in your neck of the woods (Germany and Australia are coming up!). If you know of a social enterprise support program that I could learn from, especially but not exclusively in mid-tier cities, I want to be in the know! Let’s connect via Twitter or LinkedIn. Stay in touch and stay critical.  

Spotlight: Mark Hemetsberger


What drives you?

Feeling like you are achieving something that is bigger than you.

How do you define social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurs are people that are socially minded, want to make difference and start a business to achieve that impact.

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

Recognition. Awareness and visibility have increased over the last years but we have a long way to go. Having national activities and research helps. Most Social entrepreneurs still don’t identify as such – the sector needs to recognize itself.



I’ve always had a strong sense for social justice and the power of markets. I was lucky to have a strong mentor in my first job who was generous with his time and knew what I needed to do. We found a great way to do that collaboratively.  I went from selling paintball in London in my mid-twenties to working for the Commonwealth Business Council in London, UK. I returned to Australia and started working with the Australian Broadcasting Organization – ABC – which came with a lot of international travel. I got to work at the crossroads of culture and media which really helped me understand how content works in an authentic sense – not just as a tool for marketing.  In 2015, I joined Social Traders as the Head of Marketing and haven’t looked back!



Spotlight: Isaac Jeffries


What drives you?

My belief that you can solve tough social problems by running a business.

How do you define social entrepreneurship?

Running a business that can make a positive difference to a social issue. You don’t simply give away profits, your business needs to do good to do well. If in the process of manufacturing a boring product, you employ the homeless, long-term unemployed, indigenous communities, asylum seekers – that’s great. Even if you don’t make a profit one year, you are still doing good!

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

The push towards scale and investment. A few years ago it was all about grants, now everybody wants to meet investors. Investors, on the other hand, say there isn’t enough deal flow. The truth probably lies somewhere in between; we need more communication and to manage expectations.


I started my business at 12 and ran it for 6 years. We were the competitor to our high school canteen: they were charging AUS$1.20 for cans of soft drink and were only open on lunch break.

My friend and I decided that we could beat that, so set up our own shop, and ended up building a bigger business than our rivals.

Towards the end of school, I realised that I loved the business world, and wanted to get a business degree. At ANZ (Australia New Zealand Bank) I did paid internship and worked in strategy. After that was over, I changed my co-major to entrepreneurship, as part of which I took some courses in social entrepreneurship. After uni, I went and worked in community housing and was in charge of the finance of day-to-day operations (payroll, etc.). I met TDi’s founders Bessi Graham and Paul Steel  just before they launched TDi. I the meantime I took a few other jobs in tech startups and when they launched TDI, I joined the team as their first employee.

In three years at TDi I’ve personally worked with over 150 enterprises across Australia, and have had the chance to travel to India, Singapore and the USA.

Now I’m also working at Business For Development, where I am designing and building a social enterprise in Papua New Guinea.

Since our interview in March 2016, Isaac has moved on to Business for Development where he works as Financial Analyst. Make sure to check out his blog where he shares his insights from the field. Great stuff!




Social Traders

I kicked off my second week in Australia with an event at the Melbourne Accelerator Program’s Compass where Mark Daniels from Social Traders spoke about Social Entrepreneurship in Australia. Leading up to my trip downunder I researched the sector online and the best (and only) resources I came across was published my Social Traders (check out their report Finding Australia’s Social Enterprise Sector).

That night, I got a pretty good insight into the developments and state of social entrepreneurship in Australia, and learned more about Social Traders which Mark had co-founded several years earlier. A few days later I met up with Mark Hemetsberger to talk learn more about their programs.

Let’s start with Social Traders’ definition of social enterprise: “Social enterprises

  • Are led by an economic, social, cultural, or environmental mission consistent with a public or community benefit
  • Trade to fulfill their mission
  • Reinvest the majority of their profit/surplus in the fulfillment of their mission.”
The spectrum of social enterprise, copyright: Social Traders

The spectrum of social enterprise, copyright: Social Traders

Mark introduced me to Social Traders as a “full-service organization that offers

  • Enterprise development,
  • A portfolio that invests in social entrepreneurs,
  • New market opportunities (social procurement), and
  • Advocacy and leadership in the social enterprise sector (lobbying and advocating)”

More broadly speaking, their objectives are to

  1. Grow the visibility, voice and value of social enterprise
  2. Build the pipeline of innovative and viable social enterprise
  3. Open new government and corporate markets

Let’s dig a little deeper into what that actually looks like.


Social Traders strive to achieve these objectives through a multitude of services designed to build sustainable social enterprises. They run everything from a half-day workshop on social entrepreneurship to 4-months market validation programs, through the Crunch. Social Traders also is the organizer of Australia’s Social Enterprise Awards, Social Enterprise Masters Conference and  initiated the Good Gift Campaign in 2012 – which has now morphed into a dedicated social enterprise online marketplace called Good Spender – as well as promotes social procurement among Australian consumers, corporations and government.  

Let's talk about social enterprise

Let’s talk about social enterprise


The Crunch is Social Traders’ capacity building programs for social entrepreneurs at different stages of the process. Crunch for early-stage founders is a 4-month long acceleration program delivered through workshops, group sessions, mentoring and online learning. It aims to help startups design, test and pilot potential solutions for social issues while polishing their business skills and providing access to a community of business, investment and social enterprise professionals, and offering the opportunity to pitch their ventures in front of investors at the end of the program. With a similar set-up as the early-stage program (2 days/week, workshops, group sessions, online learning & mentoring), a second Crunch program focuses on the needs of later-stage social entrepreneurs (due diligence, network access). Crunch Market Access is designed to assist social entrepreneurs looking for investment and access to new markets and customers. Learn more about Crunch in this video.

How Crunch works

How Crunch works


Social Traders second area of activity focuses on the provision of appropriate capital. Social Traders’ Social Investment Portfolio provides a source of patient capital and support for social enterprises that would otherwise find it difficult to secure investment from other sources

Social Traders’ Portfolio provides business advice and appropriate capital to high potential, charitable social enterprises.

The support provided includes business coaching, financial monitoring, sales coaching and access to networks, workshops and events. The Portfolio offers capital to selected social enterprises as grant and patient loan hybrids with business support and advice over 5-7 years.  More information on Social Traders’ Portfolio is available here.

Social Traders has very strong views on the type of capital that is available and provided to social enterprises.  A fantastic article written by the Head of Advisory & Investment, Libby Ward-Christie is available here.

Connect: Social Procurement

Social Traders third large area of activity focuses on developing new markets by promoting social procurement with corporates, the government and the Australian consumer (watch Buy Social – It’s a no brainer). Through Social Traders’ Connect, companies and government institutions have access to a network of certified (!) social enterprises throughout Australia. Social Traders assists in social impact evaluation and reporting of procurement contracts, benchmarking and internal communication, thought leadership and networking for social procurers. Check out their case studies on public procurement in Australia as well as their report specific to corporate social procurement. In order to promote social entrepreneurship to Australian consumers, Social Traders partnered up with Australia Post to launch Good Spender – a social enterprise e-commerce platform to buy anything from Mobile Phone Plans that support people with a disability to sustainable apparel and locally produced chocolate, wines, coffee, jams etc.

Good Spender

Good Spender

Like The Difference Incubator, Social Traders charge participants for their programs: AUD $5,000 for the Market Validation and AUD $30,000 for the Market Access program; fully and partially funded spots are available for the latter. Mark Hemetsberger explains: “It is our way of assessing whether or not participants are serious about the program and their ventures, and defines that we are offering something of serious commercial value in the market.”

This was not the last time I would meet this entrepreneurial attitude towards social enterprise support. If you are interested in to learn more about Social Traders, I recommend perusing their website – they have some seriously great resources available!



The Difference Incubator

Melbourne’s first social enterprise cafe Kinfolk is located in a beautiful old building from 1891 on the corner of Bourke St and Spencer St. Formerly the headquarters of Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company, today donkey wheel house is home to Hub Melbourne, Kinfolk and The Difference Incubator (TDi) – which was one of the interviews I had been looking forward to in Melbourne.

Kinfolk inside donkey wheel house, photo credit: Josie Withers

Kinfolk inside donkey wheel house, photocredit: Josie Withers

I sat down with Isaac Jeffries, who has been part of TDi since day one; time flew by as we chatted about the program (business-driven), social entrepreneurship in Australia (sexy and growing) and his personal background (first-time founder at age 12).

The first thing that stood out to me was that TDi focuses on investable social enterprise instead of “just” social enterprise, the latter being defined as an organisation that makes intentional positive social or environmental impacts using a sustainable business model.

An investable social enterprise, then, is an organisation with a central social or environmental mission, a commercially viable business model, and the right management to deliver on the mission and model.

TDi’s programs focus on leveraging the three key elements: Mission, Model and Management to get a social enterprise ready for investment. Watch this video to learn how founder Bessi Graham and Paul Steele define the term of Investable Social Enterprise.


Program Structure

TDi offers different services for social entrepreneurs at different stages. The two-day business model workshop builds on the business model canvas for idea-stage as well as established social enterprises – never too late to revisit your basic business model, right?

Two Feet kicked off the day I was visiting. During this 6-month programs founders get together in group sessions every two weeks and have one-on-one mentoring sessions with the TDi team once a month. Topics covered through Two Feet are

  • Intent
  • Value proposition
  • Strategy and Operations including Piloting and Prototyping
  • Branding and Marketing
  • Business Finance
  • Investment 101
  • Designing for Success – Funding and Structuring options
  • Pitching to Investors
  • Theory of Change
  • Social Outcomes measurement
  • Governance
  • Whole of Enterprise reporting.

Other services TDi offers include consulting for social entrepreneurs and an investment readiness program.

Prototyping workshop

Prototyping workshop


Talking to Isaac I got a good sense for TDi’s approach to service provision in the social sector.

“We have a rule here at TDi: We don’t do anything for free. When people pay for the program, they come early, stay late, ask good questions, and challenge us to make the best possible program. It makes them sophisticated customers, we don’t get away with an average program. Remember that not all entrepreneurs are only just starting out, most of them have some money and consider it part of their startup costs. Very early-stage participants tap into personal savings, crowdfund, and find sponsors.” Isaac explains.

TDi values their program at AUS $15,000 and with the support of their corporate partner National Bank Australia (NAB), the cost comes down to AUS $5,000 per team.

“We wanted to be self-funded within 5 years. Sidney Myer Foundation and Donkey Wheel were our early philanthropic funders, and have been great supporters. In  Year 1 we were 50% self-funded, in year 2 65%, and this year, year 3, we are at 98%. At the end of the day, I believe that support organizations that operate like businesses instead of nonprofits develop better programs.

Business modelling at TDi

Business modelling at TDi

Look at this way: Most social entrepreneurs are not very good at watching their financial metrics. It is our job to eliminate the grant-dependent mindset. In order to do so, we have to show them how it’s done; we have to eat our own cooking.

Ensuring we are doing something that people value keeps us operating like a business. Click To Tweet

We know people value our programs because they are willing to pay for them. Any support organization should ask itself what their value proposition to social entrepreneurs is and how much these founders are willing to pay for it. At TDi, we need to make sure that we are doing something that people value, it keeps us operating like a business.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.



Spotlight: Kaitlin Tait


What drives you?

Seeing this latent potential in people and help them develop their own belief that they can make a difference, help them understand they can have a huge impact.

How do you define social entrepreneurship?

We try not to. There is a lot of talk about it, we just say we are entrepreneurs that change lives and support entrepreneurs changing lives.

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

The B Corp movement has been excellent to watch. One of the biggest challenges for social ventures is that they often don’t fit nicely into a nonprofit or a for-profit legal structure. In Australia, we have our first 40 to 50 Australian companies that are B Corp-certified, we don’t have the corporate structure of Benefit Corporation in place yet. It’s a start.


I grew up in San Francisco, in a very socially engaged family.  At university I studied psychology and traveled in between; I built houses in Tijuana and volunteered with native American communities. I was keen to find a solution to these problems and help these people but didn’t know how to go about this.  After Aaron and I met in Spain, we spent 2 years in East Africa at a secondary school for street children. We learned quickly how to do international development. As part of this experience, we sat down with students and teachers and learned that local development and buy-in were key.  We understood that the only thing more valuable than ownership is authorship which gave the first impetus for Spark*. We spent a year in the UK – while Aaron studied at Cambridge – and developed the first Spark* program. We returned to Sydney in late 2010, and launched our first trial in Papua New Guinea followed by South Africa in 2012, Kenya in 2013 and Bangladesh and Australia in 2015.