Socially responsible ways to combat Christmas consumer guilt | Jo Taylor-De Vocht for

First published on written by Jo Taylor-De Vocht

OPINION: Each year I tell myself “this is the year I will keep my Christmas consumption minimal”.

I diligently put together a tidy little spreadsheet detailing the limits of my excess, and then equally diligently, put it out of my mind as I gradually slide into overdraft.

Paranoid musings like “I can’t just get my mum a book can I? She looked after our child all year! or “Do you give preschool teachers presents? Only if you don’t want your child to be neglected next year!” eventually snowball into a Christmas list that makes Santa look lazy.

Crusader Nepo Laulala works with Daniel Forman bagging recycled wood for pellet fires while helping out at Kilmarnock ...

John Kirk-Anderson

Crusader Nepo Laulala works with Daniel Forman bagging recycled wood for pellet fires while helping out at Kilmarnock Enterprises. They also produce wooden toys that make good Christmas gifts, while providing employment for disabled people.


Despite all of this, I know that this kind of consumption is terrible. It is killing our planet and making corporations who don’t care about us richer.

So, with all of this in mind, how do partially neurotic people-pleasers like myself make sure their inevitable Christmas spending spree has as little negative impact as possible?

Guilt-free goodies at a Trade Aid shop.


Guilt-free goodies at a Trade Aid shop.


Well, intentionally choosing your presents from social enterprises is a good place to start.

Here are five great socially driven present options that might assuage your consumer guilt this Christmas:

27seconds wine — Selling wine able to be ordered by the case or the bottle, this awesome little online vino company sends all of its profits to combat human trafficking through NGOs such as Hagar. Every 27 seconds somebody is trafficked into slavery, your purchase can help make this stop.

Pathway reusable coffee cups — The name might not be snappy but these styley reusable coffee cups minimize environmental waste and generate funds for Pathway Charitable Group, an NGO that helps people make a fresh start with prison reintegration, accommodation and employment.

Kilmarnock Enterprises — This amazing social enterprise sells beautiful wooden toys, children’s furniture and more. As well as creating lovely products, Kilmarnock provides enriching paid work for adults with a range of abilities and equips people with the skills they need to transition into open employment.

Trade Aid — With so many trendy homewares, toys, books and furniture options Trade Aid can really be a one stop shop for everyone in the family. When you shop here you know that your purchase makes producers’ lives better and offers new economic opportunities to people who need them.

Smiles Gifts with World Vision — If someone has everything, buy something for someone who doesn’t! Choose a chicken, a goat or a pig, give someone the chance to start a new business or fund new access health care. All will have a positive impact on this world we all share.

So don’t be guilty this Christmas, be intentional. Check out what some of these great businesses have to offer and buy presents that will benefit you and the world around you. Your purchasing choices can make a difference.

Jo Taylor-de Vocht works for Pathway, a charity that helps prisoners reintegrate into society.

 – Stuff


First published on written by Jo Taylor-De Vocht

Flaws in special education system kickstart new NZQA-based academy | Monique Steele from

 First published on and in Christchurch Mail by Monique Steele

When he was at school, Bradley Holt was bullied by his peers because of his intellectual disability. His teacher told him he wasn’t worth teaching; he would never get a job or be able to support himself.

Now, he has a full-time job working at Kilmarnock Enterprises here in Christchurch and has 56 NCEA Level 1 credits under his belt.

“Look where I am today.”

Kilmarnock training academy graduates David Graham, Allan Burns, Despina Kouloubrakis, Rachel Meads and Bradley Holt at ...


Kilmarnock training academy graduates David Graham, Allan Burns, Despina Kouloubrakis, Rachel Meads and Bradley Holt at the Kilmarnock factory in Wigram, Christchurch.

Holt was one of five graduates of the Kilmarnock Training Academy, run by the Christchurch-based social enterprise company which employs and supports people with intellectual disabilities.

The training academy, a partnership with Hagley College for one-on-one learning, was a 12-week course for five Kilmarnock employees learning literacy, numeracy and other skills through NCEA Level 1 unit standards to improve employment opportunities for those with barriers to education.

The graduates, ranging from 30 to 50 years of age, recalled their time at primary and secondary school as a struggle due to their learning disabilities.

“We were like the odd ones out and were kind of left behind,” Holt said, who gained his first NCEA credits with the pilot programme.

“The teacher once said I wasn’t worth teaching,” fellow graduate Allan Burns, 42, said. “I struggled.”

“I struggled,” said graduate David Graham, 49.

“So did I,” said Rachel Meads, 36.

Kilmarnock CEO Michelle Sharp said the pilot was successful because it addressed the need for specialised education for those with learning difficulties. She said special education was still a major issue in local schools today.

“The education system doesn’t suit everybody,” she said.

“Opportunities for school leavers with disabilities are also quite limited. And for further education there was very little out there.”

She said the programme Kilmarnock was offering was unique, and following a successful pilot, there are plans to expand the programme.

“These guys proved this is absolutely what we should be doing and on a much larger scale.

“We want to be part of their employment journey.”

Sharp wanted to expand the programme to firstly accept more students within the Kilmarnock community, then anyone in need of the programme, such as school leavers.

Kilmarnock is crowd-funding on PledgeMe for $50,000 to continue growing its programme, accepting a class of 20 students from Kilmarnock for the first year.

The second group of students, people who work in the Kilmarnock factory, will graduate in two weeks time.

Currently around 90 people work at “Basecamp” in the Wigram factory, in a variety of roles including labelling and packaging food products, building toys and in recycling depots.

This year the social enterprise celebrates 60 years of serving the special needs community.

 – Stuff

Christchurch company helping people with disabilties gain NZQA | Newstalk ZB

 First published by Newstalk ZB


A Christchurch company is asking for help in changing the lives of people with disabilities.

Kilmarnock enterprises has been running a pilot programme, helping employees gain NZQA qualifications.

CEO Michelle Sharp says they have been funding the courses themselves through income from their factory, but they need 50-thousand dollars to expand the programme.

“We’ve seen the results and seen that we change peoples lives. The confidence the graduates come out with is simply remarkable. We know we have a winning formula and would love our community to get behind us.”

Michelle Sharp says they set up the pledgeme page because they want to be part of someone’s employment journey, not their destination.

Unlocking potential with the Kilmarnock Academy | PledgeMe. Blog


Kilmarnock Enterprises believes in a world that values diversity. It is changing attitudes towards disability through education, employment, and opportunity. It has just launched a campaign that is going full throttle on its social mission of empowering people with disabilities to lead purposeful and dignified lives: the Kilmarnock Academy.

People with an intellectual disability will come out the other side of the Academy with NZQA qualifications, empowering them to find purposeful employment and a valued place in the community. Want to know more? We did too, so read on!

Why do you think this campaign is important?

We know that a lot of people with disabilities are not getting the same opportunities for education and employment as others. A lot of disabled people are leaving school with no option for further education that will suit their style of learning.

Through our campaign, we are opening up the opportunity for us – and our community – to cut to the root of this problem. We take a hands-on practical approach to helping our students develop work readiness and gain NZQA qualifications.

We ran a pilot of this programme and were so blown away by its success that we had to do more. We realised that we have a unique environment that sets us, and our students, up for success. At the start, a lot of our employees felt failed by the education system and didn’t want to get involved. It was amazing and humbling to see those very people go through the programme and come out the other side buzzing.

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

We have spent the last three years putting a lot of energy into engaging with our community. This has included working to brand what and who we are in connection with our crowd and gathering support and feedback along the way. We recently built a new Basecamp which in itself happened entirely with the support of our crowd.

We have taken courage from all this support to create an opportunity for our supporters to get involved. We have had so many people telling us they really want to back us. We really value this, but it hasn’t been the right time to take up those offers as we have been focused on using our commercial arm to leverage social impact. Now, the time is right to give our crowd a chance to build something meaningful with us.

What do you have planned for the rest of the campaign – anything for us to look forward to?

We have a few awesome rewards! We have flights to Fiji up for grabs. Every single person who pledges over $50 and shares on social media with the tag #kilmarnockacademy goes into the draw to win return flights to Fiji for two.

We also have a ‘Wonderful Wine Lucky Dip’ reward for people who love good, South Island wine. A Black Estate 2014 Pinot Noir, anyone?!

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

We would love you to join us in building up Kilmarnock Academy! We are genuinely making a difference to people’s lives by taking them through an education programme that works for them. By pledging to this campaign you are directly changing someone’s life. You are giving them the opportunity and confidence to lift up their lives in a way that hasn’t been possible before.

Success breeds success, and this is exactly what we have seen in our pilot. We had one lady who was practically ready to run in the opposite direction when we suggested she be part of our second cohort. School had failed her, and she didn’t want to go through a similar experience. We managed to get her onboard. Now, halfway through her NZQA Level One she is already saying she wants to go for Level Two.

So many of these wonderful people have been told all their life they can’t. By pledging, you are showing them that they can.

Show the Kilmarnock community that they can by pledging to the campaign here.

The rise of the social enterprise | New Zealand Listener

The rise of the social enterprise

by Sally Blundell / 21 November, 2017

Photo/Getty Images

A new breed of business, the social enterprise, is more intent on benefiting the community and protecting the environment than on maximising profit.

Brianne West, who started Ethique after a brainwave in the shower.It was a eureka moment, though it played out not in a bath, but in the shower. University of Canterbury biology student Brianne West was washing her hair when the idea struck her: why add to the world’s mass of plastic waste simply because shampoo is so diluted it needs a plastic bottle? After all, there was plenty of water coming out of the nozzle. It was, she says, “one of those lightning-strike moments”.

That was in 2012. A mountain of research, a load of experimentation and a rush of Facebook advertising later, revenue from West’s Ethique brand of solid-bar shampoos, cleansers, moisturisers and cleaners – all ingredients, down to the cardboard wrapper, biodegradable – is expected to hit $2 million this year from sales here, in Australia and the US.

A successful crowdfunding campaign in 2015 attracted the highest number of female investors in PledgeMe’s history; a second investment round this year raised $500,000 in less than two hours through crowdfunding and the same amount through wholesale investors.

“We are interested in growth because we want to rid the world of plastic bottles,” she says. A big ask, she agrees, “but it’s a goal we are completely serious about”.

West regards the goal of business as creating something that will make people’s lives better without destroying something along the way, so sustainability is important to the bottom line. Operating from a new 800sq m laboratory and warehouse in Christchurch, Ethique is certified climate-neutral and carries the international B Corporation (or B Lab) certification issued to for-profit companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance. There is no child labour in the supply chain, no testing on animals and no waste.

The business buys its coconut and cocoa butter ingredients from co-operatives in Samoa and the Dominican Republic respectively.

“People care about what we are trying to do,” West says. “They are interested in a plastic-free lifestyle, in companies that do good, and they demand authenticity: they will not continue to buy a product, and we will not change the world, if we expect them to compromise, because they simply won’t do it.”

Across town, on an inner-city corner section vacant since the 2011 earthquake, a pedal-powered trailer of green waste bins collected from local cafes and restaurants is being unloaded. Here, as part of an urban garden project called Cultivate, the waste will be turned into compost, which will be used to grow vegetables, which will in turn be sold back to restaurants, cafes and the community.

Along the way, says the project’s co-founder Bailey Peryman, young people are learning how to grow food, the neighbourhood has access to fresh produce and restaurants have solved their green-waste problems.

Peryman says Cultivate is a sign of a thriving community. “Food is a great way to grow a sense of being in nature.”

Rhea Deacon at work at Christchurch urban garden Cultivate. Photo/Martin Hunter

Rhea Deacon at work at Christchurch urban garden Cultivate. Photo/Martin Hunter

Sustainable models

West and Peryman are not lone voices. All over the world, small enterprises are tackling social, cultural or environmental issues: diverting waste from landfills, giving jobs to the long-term unemployed, cleaning up waterways and feeding the hungry. Peter Holbrook, the chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, in Christchurch to address September’s Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), says there is growing realisation that our economic models are not sustainable.

Social enterprises, Holbrook says, are part of the solution, changing the way charities raise funds and businesses do business. They are more dynamic and more innovative than conventional businesses and fairer to women and ethnic minorities: “This is not just something that deals with market failure or public-service delivery; it is something that is thriving and disrupting markets across the world.”

Ronald Cohen, who chairs the Social Impact Investment Taskforce of the G8 – the industrialised economies of the world’s major democracies – goes further: social enterprise, he has said, is bringing the world to “the brink of a revolution in how we solve society’s toughest problems”.

That may be stretching the point a little too far, says Alex Hannant, founding chief executive of the Ākina Foundation, a charity whose mission is to expand social enterprise in this country.

Cultivate co-founder Bailey Peryman. Photo/Martin Hunter


“But I think there have been some very artificial silos: a charitable sector rooted in the Victorian era over here; a post-war welfare safety net there; a massive scale-up in business as a result of technology and globalisation over there.”

Now, he says, silos are being opened up: charities and not-for-profits are stepping up their trading activities and businesses are rearranging their mission statements to include social or environmental goals. Meanwhile, Māori development is modelling a new way of doing business. “All are creating this middle place, this third way, called social enterprise, where profit-making entities put social, cultural or environmental goals at the forefront of their business plan.”

The 1600 delegates from 45 countries who attended the SEWF, hosted by the Ākina Foundation, needed no convincing. And a new generation of entrepreneurs is grabbing at the opportunities: in the UK, an estimated 80,000 social enterprises, from small start-ups to organisations with hundreds of employees, are turning over about £25 billion ($48 billion) a year. In Scotlan

d, a country similar in population to New Zealand, 5000 social enterprises employ more than 112,000 people and contribute £1.68 billion to the economy.

These enterprises are not just surviving but thriving, even outperforming mainstream businesses financially. Surveys suggest that one in three British consumers will pay more for products that have positive social or environmental impacts and 60% of millennials want to work for an organisation with a social purpose.

A report to the Department of Internal Affairs last year, “Social Enterprise and Social Finance: A Path to Growth”, says the Scottish figures suggest that by 2025, “with the right supports” New Zealand could have 4000 social enterprises – twice as many as we have now, turning over $2 billion a year.

In the US, the trend is snowballing, with investors joining in. According to Forbes magazine, assets under management in sustainable investment funds have increased by 135% since 2012 to US$8.72 trillion ($12.7 trillion).

Rhea Deacon at work at Christchurch urban garden Cultivate. Photo/Martin Hunter



Something’s brewing

London-based Rob Wilson championed his “delicious and pint-sized” response to the 900,000 tonnes of fresh bread – more than 40% of the total baked – that goes into landfills each year in the UK. His Toast Ale, an award-winning beer using bread that would otherwise be dumped, is now stocked by British supermarket chain Tesco and was recently launched in the US and South Africa. He has published his recipe so bakers and brewers around the world can partner up to replace expensive grain with surplus bread.

“We are not preachy,” he says. “We are not pointing the finger. This is a frigging beer at the end of the day. But food waste is a really fundamental issue. We don’t want to be around forever, we don’t want to see food waste in the first place, but there is a lot of bread going to waste and we see a solution to that in the beer industry.”

Elsewhere on the bill at SEWF, Andrea Chen described the Propeller Incubator, the small enterprise she co-founded in New Orleans in 2006 to help local entrepreneurs establish their businesses amid the chaos left by Hurricane Katrina. Now it supports more than 50 start-ups and not-for-profits dealing with poverty and racial inequality.

The Skill Mill in north England gives young people caught up in the justice system work in environmental projects, where they can obtain land management qualifications. Javara in Indonesia protects food biodiversity and indigenous knowledge by finding new markets for artisan products made by local farmers.

Staff of social enterprise Kilmarnock. Photo/Centuri Chan

In New Zealand, achieving social value through the marketplace is not new. Trade Aid has been using fair terms of trade to support farmer or artisan groups to break out of poverty since 1973.

For 60 years, Kilmarnock in Christchurch has worked to provide meaningful employment for people with disabilities. It has changed from a charity to a business model, competing on its own merits for commercial tenders.

“We had to turn the message from ‘please help us’ to ‘this is what we are really good at’,” says chief executive Michelle Sharp. “Now, our customers need us as much as we need them – it is a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Although 70 of the 100 staff have disabilities, there is no “them and us”, says Sharp, a former telco high-flyer who came to Kilmarnock in 2010 after finding a “huge gap” in her life on top of the corporate ladder. “We are all just one team trying to achieve the same goals and we all bring strengths to the table.”

In recently expanded premises, Kilmarnock offers food-repacking services, recycling, decanting of bulk crushed glass, wooden furniture and toys and administration services. It has big contracts with Fonterra, the Gough Group and Air New Zealand among others. Staff have access to health and safety advice, fitness and yoga classes and a new training academy to break the glass ceiling for school leavers with disabilities.

CEO Michelle Sharp. Photo/Johannes van Kan

As in the UK, however, many social enterprises in this country are relatively young. In 2010, artist and occupational therapist Juliet Arnott set up ReKindle, a venture in Auckland aimed at reducing wood waste. Following the Canterbury quakes, she moved to Christchurch and set up a workshop where timber from demolished houses was fashioned into thousands of dollars worth of furniture, jewellery and art objects. It reduced the mountain of building materials going to waste and provided jobs and training for 20 people.

ReKindle now runs workshops in traditional craft-making skills such as whittling, weaving and carving, using wood or vegetable fibres otherwise destined for landfills. It’s turning nothing into something.

Hannant says that initiatives such as these are neither fads nor commercial operations tacking a plausible social or environmental activity onto a business-as-usual programme. “We are talking about organisations that exist primarily to meet a social need but are delivering it through a business model. It is great to see more mainstream businesses finding more sophisticated ways to create social value, but when we are talking about social enterprise, we are really asking, ‘Why do you exist in the first place? It is because you exist to deliver a social or environmental benefit.’

“It is about the power relationships and democracy inside an organisation. It is about community resilience, connecting people within the community and re-orienting the economy around them.”

In 2015, Christchurch social enterprise ReKindle’s whole-house-reuse project involved taking timber from a deconstructed home in the earthquake red zone and inviting 250 people to turn it into objects “of use and beauty”.

Craving connection

Cultivating a sense of community is the driving force behind Crave, a cafe in the inner Auckland suburb of Morningside. It’s a hub for food, coffee, conversation, cooking classes, quiz nights, education nights and a twice-yearly free street feast. That idea was launched in 2010, when co-founder Blue Bradley unloaded a dead pig from his car boot. That evening, about 80 locals got to know each other over a free barbecue and a memorable community experience.

“It’s a neighbourhood thing,” Bradley says. “We’ll facilitate it – we’ll create a venue, do the PA or the pizza oven, but everybody helps out. People say, ‘You guys are creating legendary experiences our kids will never forget’, but I think all communities should be creating legendary experiences their kids will never forget.”

Bradley’s point is that everybody wants to live in a community of their dreams but they don’t just happen by themselves. Among people’s problems are loneliness and social poverty. “When we first started the cafe, there was a lot of high-density living but no social spaces where people could connect. It was a bit soulless, a bit industrial. But hospitality is something you do with your life, not just the hospitality industry, but living lives that are hospitable – the cafe is an extension of that.”

Now in its third incarnation, in bigger premises and with a staff of 45, Crave is still channelling its efforts – and profits – into strengthening the local community.

“It still has to run at a profit,” says Bradley, “but if profit is not your primary reason for being in business, everything is up for grabs.”

To make progress, social enterprises need to break into the mainstream, says Hannant. This in turn requires more Government support and more consumers using their buying power to reward initiatives that have a social value.


Crave staff Chris Dews, Sulieti Tulimaiau, Sophie Wagener, Bradley, Jess Angove and Louise Giles. Photo/Angie Humphreys

Crave staff Chris Dews, Sulieti Tulimaiau, Sophie Wagener, Bradley, Jess Angove and Louise Giles. Photo/Angie Humphreys

“It’s push and pull,” Hannant says. “Consumer demand can be triggered by options being there in the first place, providing more purchasing or service opportunities for people to choose from in their everyday decisions. But at the same time you are trying to build public awareness to create demand. If we want an ethical pension fund, for example, maybe someone will create that opportunity.”

In the US, sustainably invested assets now account for more than one dollar in five, and millennials are twice as likely to invest in shares or funds that target specific environmental or social outcomes.

In New Zealand, social enterprise start-ups find receptive audiences on crowdfunding platforms, but high-end, high-impact investment is still in its infancy, says Bill Murphy, executive director of Tauranga-based Enterprise Angels investment network. Some investors say it’s too risky, but “others are starting to wake up to the fact that we can’t keep going the way we are and they will ameliorate the commercial way of looking at it. They’re saying I want my money to make a difference – a capital D difference.”

Local authorities, too, are beginning to look at how they can make a “capital D difference” through their procurement strategies. The 2002 Local Government Act requires regional authorities to adopt a sustainable development approach to procurement practices, taking into account the social, economic and cultural interests of their communities and the need to enhance the quality of the environment.

Tania Pouwhare is the social “intrapreneur” for Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative (TSI), which aims to increase social and community innovation in South Auckland. She says that although the council’s size makes it difficult to connect with smaller businesses and providers, some arms of the “council family” are using tenders to help social enterprises meet procurement and social-outcome goals.


A mower operator for social enterprise Stepping Stones in Randwick Park, South Auckland.

“It is not just the type of nails you are going to use in the decking or the pitch of the roof,” she says. “Those things are there, but we are now buying quality employment outcomes for people far away from the labour market, reductions in carbon emissions and diversion of waste. So it’s the impact we are buying – on local communities, environmental sustainability and on wider social outcomes.”

Each purchase, she says, carries different weightings according to different criteria: the emphasis may be on gender equality, professional development, leadership, wages or, of course, cost, “but we are not about feeding the low-wage, low-productivity problem. Our job is to disrupt it.”

To help smaller enterprises compete in the tendering process, large projects can be “unbundled” into small packages. When a comprehensive creek restoration project was planned for Mt Roskill, for example, the propagating and planting portion was awarded to the local Te Whangai Trust. The trust has since set up a native nursery at Wesley Intermediate School, where vandalism has fallen, schoolchildren are learning about native plants and biodiversity and unemployed locals get training and qualifications in horticulture, says Pouwhare.

Earlier this year, TSI joined Auckland Transport, winner of the 2017 New Zealand Procurement Excellence Awards for its commitment to social and environmental outcomes in its City Rail Link project, to develop Fale Kofi, a coffee kiosk at the new Ōtāhuhu bus-train station.

The pop-up cafe, run by local Pacific youth agency Affirming Works, offers Māori and Pasifika food with a focus on high standards of nutrition and affordability. It is staffed by young students, who fit work around their class timetables, and promotes Māori and Pasifika identity though food options, bilingual signage and a fit-out designed by Roots Creative Entrepreneurs made from recycled and upcycled materials.

As a pilot social enterprise model, says Pouwhare, it’s a win for all parties: the city gets a vibrant transport station, local businesses are developed and supported, “and visitors know they are in the largest Polynesian city in the world”.

Staff at Fale Kofi in Ōtāhuhu. Photo/Gino Demeer

No easy task

“How does the Government get more value, how do we as taxpayers get more value out of things we would have bought anyway?” says Hannant.

For central Government, that win, facilitated by close engagement with grass roots organisations and community groups, is not so easy to attain. Governments have huge buying power: from big contracts for social services to paper clips and toilet paper, OECD Governments spend about 15% of GDP on procurements. But finding ways to use that spending to improve social and environmental outcomes has been a slower process.

“Social enterprise is part of our thinking,” says Margaret Pearson, chief adviser of procurement for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. “It is not saying you have to favour a social enterprise over another type of business. It is about fairness to all suppliers, which links back to our international obligations, but the principles are flexible enough to allow agencies to make those balanced decisions and take those other factors into consideration.”

Crown agencies have a responsibility to get the best deal, “but that doesn’t always mean the lowest price – economic, social and environmental impacts should all be considered as part of that procurement process. Quality of supply, ability to supply, sustainability – those factors are all taken into consideration. It may not be worded ‘social enterprise’, but the rules and principles are flexible enough to draw those three components into consideration.”


Christchurch social enterprise ReKindle. Photo/Guy Frederick

The postie cometh

NZ Post, which is now in its 177th year, has been using that flexibility to support local communities for more than a decade. It encourages its staff to do volunteer work; it is reducing its carbon footprint through the use of recycling and electric vehicles. Now, in partnership with Ākina, it uses its procurement processes to help social enterprises. For the SEWF it contributed delegate bags made from recycled billboards by Wellington social enterprise Spinning Top. It also negotiates subcontracting possibilities with larger suppliers, and is working with Ākina to set up regional social enterprise hubs for training and support.

“It is not a question of spending more,” says NZ Post head of sustainability Dawn Baggaley. “We have to manage our costs because we have to deliver a return to the Government and, as with any other purchasing decision, we look at all the criteria – cost, service delivery and the additional social or environmental value that it adds.

“For us, it is a no-brainer: we are going to buy these goods and services anyway, so if we can buy them from a social enterprise that can deliver the same product or service and deliver a positive impact in society and the environment, then that is good for us, for our customers and the community we operate in. Why wouldn’t we do it?”

But there are barriers. Many small enterprises do not have the business acumen to compete with large-scale operations; few would have the tender-writing teams to seek out lucrative local or national government procurements; some struggle to tell their story to win the interest of consumers and investors.

Another challenge is the absence of a legal structure for this new breed of values-based commercial entities. As it is, a social enterprise must operate either as a charity or a limited liability company. Neither model, says Christchurch lawyer Steven Moe, works well.

Christchurch social enterprise ReKindle.

“A charity will struggle to find investors or business support because there cannot be any private benefit. A company can be profit-making, but then it is not eligible for public-sector funding or philanthropic grants.”

Moe is recommending a mix of the two: a separate legal structure by which social enterprises must state their purpose and report on their social benefit activities. Such an entity would be required to put a cap on the level of dividends paid out and would be able to claim tax exemption for the parts of the business that are purely charitable.

As he points out in a new legal handbook on social enterprise, this is being done overseas: Scotland recognises social enterprise through a legal “community interest company” category; Canada and 32 US states give legal status to social-benefit corporations and Australia is looking to introduce something along those lines.

“So we need to take the best of what has been done overseas and apply it here. A social enterprise company structure would automatically mean people feel comfortable that you are trying to do something good and acting with purpose. As well as attracting investors, it would raise the profile of the sector in a way that is not possible if we just make do with existing structures.”

Hannant says a distinct legal structure for social enterprise would also make it easier for the Government to develop policies and financial support for those organisations, provide quality assurance to customers and investors and reduce the risk green-washing – people calling themselves social enterprises because “they feel it is a popular thing”.

The Government is looking at new ways to support social enterprise. The report to Internal Affairs proposed a cross-agency Social Enterprise Unit to address policy barriers, an intermediary body to spearhead social enterprise growth through mentoring, technical assistance and online resources, and a development grant fund for social enterprises in their early stages.

Christchurch social enterprise ReKindle.

Already momentum is growing. In 2014, the Rata Foundation, formerly the Canterbury Community Trust, allocated $2.5 million to a new Social Enterprise Fund. Last year, the then Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Jo Goodhew announced a new cross-agency working group to gather more data on social enterprises and explore ethical investment. In July this year, the Government announced $5.5 million in funding to boost social enterprise and do research into the size, scale and value of the sector over the next 3-4 years.

This year, too, Ākina announced its Impact Enterprise Fund for large-scale investors, and the country’s first social-procurement model prioritising Maori and Pasifika enterprises in local government and corporate supply chains was launched. NZ Post, meanwhile, has committed to buying goods and services from at least three social enterprises over the next 12 months.

Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Peeni Henare says the Government will be looking at further ways to facilitate social enterprise. “It is something that has really come on to the radar over the past decade and we are keen to see it grow more.” But before looking at further funding commitments, he says, it is important to see where any barriers to growth might be – whether in legislation, policy “or the mechanisms that allow businesses and the like to donate or contribute to social enterprise”.

Watch this space, says Hannant. Following overseas trends, social enterprise, he says, will raise standards across the economy. Mainstream business will be expected to create more value by including social enterprises in their supply chains, and everyday investors will be demanding more from their pension funds and savings accounts.

“It is important we see social enterprise as a tool, but it has to be led by something which has more intention around what is the community and the country we want to create. Then, within that vision, what does business look like? Rather than seeing it as a niche thing, it should resemble what wider society wants.”

In her Christchurch laboratory, Brianne West has no intention of developing Ethique as a niche brand.

“When you enter a new market, you have your early adopters – but then hopefully you branch out because your product is so good they tell their friends. I want this to be business as normal – business should be responsible. It concerns me when people ask why we operate in this way. Because you should do – it really is that simple.”


This article was first published in the November 11, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Michelle Sharp on Kilmarnock and Social Enterprises | Seeds: Talking Purpose with Steve Moe

Welcome to seeds, a weekly show where we talk purpose with inspiring people making a positive impact with their lives. This episode we learn about a childhood in Mexico, introducing the BlackBerry to Europe with Vodafone, being involved in IT start-ups in England and how all these unique experiences combined to provide a perfect background to working as the CEO at Kilmarnock Enterprises, a world leading example of a Social Enterprise based in Christchurch, New Zealand.


The show “Seeds: Talking Purpose” can be found on iTunes here – subscribe to hear future shows, leave a rave review, and share with others so more positive messages can get out.

Listen to more of Steve Moe’s podcasts


‘Every day I see something that makes me proud’: The toymaker who runs a social enterprise | The Spinoff

‘Every day I see something that makes me proud’: The toymaker who runs a social enterprise

Michelle Sharp was a corporate go-getter, working for Vodafone before co-founding a successful tech company. But the Kilmarnock Enterprises CEO says she found her path to happiness when she stepped off the business treadmill.

Steve Jobs said “the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”. I’ve always been a bit crazy.

Ever since I started my first business at age nine, the Garfield Drawing Club, I have been feeding an entrepreneurial hunger that saw me gain a great variety of experience in the commercial world. I climbed to the top of the corporate ladder, and found myself looking back at my childhood. It was there that I found my inspiration to climb back down the ladder and begin a new journey.

Nowadays, the change I fight for is a lot closer to my heart. I am very proud to be the CEO of one of New Zealand’s leading social enterprises, Kilmarnock. We provide education, employment and opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities, empowering them to lead purposeful lives. I believe that with the right support, encouragement and opportunity, we can all achieve incredible things.

Despite all the success I experienced in my commercial career, this is the first time that I believe my younger self would be proud of me.

I grew up on the outskirts of Mexico City in a nearby mountainous village. My family was surrounded by poverty, and on a daily basis I saw firsthand the many barriers that stood between good people with good ideas, and the ability to build a business that would feed them and their families. I witnessed my parents fighting to break down those barriers and give the people in our village the chance to make something of themselves.


I remember days when my brother and I would miss school because my mother had offered the seats in our car to the women travelling to the city markets to make money. I recall being upset about missing school so my mother sat me down and told me that one day away from school would not hurt me, but one day in the market could feed a woman’s family for a week.

I reminded her of this years later when I was twelve years old and we had moved to Newbury in the UK. I was being teased in school for looking different, sounding different and struggling with dyslexia. I repeated her words ‘one day away from school would not hurt me’, she stuck by her words but added that ‘running away from my problems would’. She told me to embrace my differences and that one day I would see the value of diversity.

I adapted the way I learnt to counter my dyslexia and went on to study mathematics at the University of Southampton, and later an MBA at the University of Leicester. I convinced Vodafone to sponsor my studies and I spent my holidays working in the different departments and getting to know all aspects of the business. I saw incredibly well-run units and very dysfunctional ones, and I experienced the way one person could so strongly influence the culture of a company. I credit Vodafone for teaching me the importance of ensuring every one of your employees is happy, supported and has the room to grow and develop. Because if the culture is right, the business results soon flow through.

My greatest commercial success was co-founding and becoming the client services director of Timico Ltd, one of the fastest growing business to business telecommunication providers in the UK. We were a telecommunications, data and IT supplier for the small-to-medium enterprise sector. We repeatedly won the Microsoft tech track award for the fastest growing tech organisation.

In that role, I was able to employ a number of exceptionally skilled second line support technicians on the Asperger’s spectrum. I learnt to adapt the work environment to suit the individual and as a result, some incredibly talented people who had previously struggled to hold down employment were able to excel. It was a great feeling to see my team grow in skill and confidence. But slowly I began to burn out.

I was working excessive hours in a high-pressure environment and realised I barely knew my children. My Kiwi husband and I made the decision to make the move to New Zealand in pursuit of better work life balance.

One day I was walking down Riccarton road and came across Kilmarnock Toys. I was drawn in by the beautiful wooden toys and discovered they were advertising for a part time business development manager. I was overwhelmed by the realisation that I could use my business experience to make a genuine, tangible and lasting difference to people who had experienced endless barriers to secure employment. I cannot describe the sensation of discovering a job that combined both my love of business and the intense desire to break down barriers and unlock opportunities for people who has been unjustly marginalised.

Three years later I was offered the role of CEO, and embarked on the daunting challenge of transitioning Kilmarnock from a charity-based model, to one of New Zealand’s pioneering social enterprises. I began by transforming Kilmarnock’s culture into one that is creative, aspirational, and enthusiastic. One where there is no hierarchy and communication channels are open and receptive.


As a nine-year-old in those first days of the Garfield Drawing Club I learnt a very important lesson. I knew that Garfield was popular and I desperately wanted to meet other kids my age. So I sent flyers around advertising lessons on drawing Garfield. The only problem was, I couldn’t draw. Thankfully in my first session I found an aspiring artist who could, and that day I learnt a lesson I still carry with me: that a wise leader surrounds themselves with incredible people who are strong where they are weak.

Together, my team turned Kilmarnock’s dire financial situation around by diversifying and stabilising contracts and introducing new, previously unimaginable, revenue streams. We now operate essentially six businesses in one and we’re no longer beholden to one single customer for our financial stability. We provide a number of services at a competitive price, including, collating and packing, assembly, labelling, food re-packing, shrink wrapping, woodworking, refurbishing, electronic waste recycling, and much more.

Transitioning to a social enterprise has enabled us to leverage business excellence to greatly enhance our social mission. We provide a fun, connected environment where the team is inspired to take command of their future and show the community that we all have strengths, regardless of our disabilities. I suppose this is what my mother meant when she told me that by embracing my difference, I would realise the power of diversity.

Every day I see something that makes me proud. Just yesterday one of my colleagues came to me after being invited to join the Kilmarnock Academy, an in-house training programme where employees can gain NZQA qualifications for work-related activities. She told me that she was going to decline the offer as she had done very poorly in school and was afraid to revisit the academic system that had isolated her so much in her youth. I was able to tell her that we had offered her the slot because we truly believed in her ability to succeed. I shared with her my story and now she looks forward to proving those who doubted her wrong and rediscovering the confidence crushed so many years ago.

I may not live the same high flying corporate life anymore but I have found something that is far more rewarding. Through my lifelong love of business, I am empowering people to unlock their individual potential, find social and financial independence, gain confidence and build a life for themselves that they truly value.

This content was published by and is part of an ongoing social enterprise series in collaboration with Kiwibank and the Social Enterprise World Forum.

Changing Attitudes

When Kilmarnock lost a key contract in late 2010, it cast a real shadow over the future of
this unique organisation dedicated to providing training and work for people with intellectual
disabilities. Seven years later and Kilmarnock is a thriving social enterprise operating out of
its own purpose-built premises. Kilmarnock’s dynamic CEO Michelle Sharp is not done yet in
her quest to change perceptions and unlock potential.

Read the full article in Latitude Magazine here

Global Focus: New Zealand – Pioneers Post

Global Focus: New Zealand

In every issue of Pioneers Post Quarterly, we take a look at social enterprise around the world. In our summer edition, it’s the turn of New Zealand.

New Zealand has a proud history of social innovation coupled with a unique flavour of creativity and invention which has resulted in one of the most rapidly growing, thematically diverse and resourceful social enterprise eco-systems in the world.

From being the first in the world to offer universal suffrage to establishing a nuclear-free zone in the 1980’s, New Zealanders have always been fearless and unconventional in their approach to social, environmental, cultural and economic challenges.

New Zealand has a population of 4.5 million with a 5.9% unemployment rate and strong economic growth driven primarily by the dairy and tourism industry. The country is ranked eighth in the World Happiness Report and first equal with Denmark on the 2016 Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. It is the tenth most highly rated country on the 2016 with very high scores for tolerance and inclusion.

Government investment in infrastructure is well above the OECD average, with a particular focus on rebuilding in the Canterbury region after the devastating earthquakes of 2011. Not only has the post-earthquake environment served as a catalyst for innovation, it has served to shine a spotlight on the fledgling social enterprise sector, advancing its development.

Adversity has fostered community resilience and resulted in an infectious culture of community connection, radical ingenuity and determination to build a society equipped to solve environmental, social and economic challenges.

However, New Zealand still has many challenges to face including environmental degradation, unaffordable housing and an overrepresentation of ethnic minorities and people with disabilities when it comes to unemployment, poverty and health statistics. Social, commercial and government sectors are all beginning to identify social enterprise as the mechanism best equipped to respond to many of the trials we face today.


The evolution of social enterprise

Social Enterprise has been a subtle part of the fabric of New Zealand’s society and economy for a long time. Only recently has it come to the fore as the increased use of the term ‘social enterprise’ has catalysed coherence and unity in the ‘business for good’ community.

Initially, charities transitioning to a more commercially focussed model faced criticism for their revenue generating activities. In the last few years, perceptions have started to change as the public embraced the concept that their spending can be used to facilitate social development.

A reduction in government funding and oversaturation of the charitable market has quietly forced many in the not-for-profit sector to adapt or disappear. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, donations to charities and NGOs dropped from $120 million to $102.4 million.

Organisations started to gradually evolve and transition to more sustainable and less funding-reliant social enterprise models, without necessarily identifying themselves as ‘social enterprises’. In addition, the rising social conscience of New Zealanders has seen the private sector increasingly engage with social missions.

The rise of the startup has also been significant. The OECD Entrepreneurship report identified New Zealand as experiencing noticeably high growth of emerging startups, many with a strong social mission.


The social enterprise ecosystem

The social enterprise market in New Zealand consists of community-based businesses, a range of not-for-profit organisations with trading arms, and an increasing number of social businesses. New Zealand social enterprises operate in all sectors, addressing a broad range of social and environmental issues, in all regions of the country.

There now seems to be a social enterprise for everything. If you want ethically sourced, plastic-free beauty products, Ethique has you covered. If you want to support a café with free range, fair trade, and vegan food, just log into the Conscious Consumers app and take your pick.

How about a cure for obesity and poor health for Māori and Pasifika people? Book a training session with Patu Aotearoa (pictured below). For a solution to unemployment for people with disabilities, you just need to speak with Kilmarnock. Don’t know how to ensure the most vulnerable children in New Zealand get a healthy and sustaining school lunch? Perhaps you might like to buy your lunch from one of the many organisations combatting poverty with a ‘buy one, gift one’ model.

The sector has grown so quickly that, with an estimated market size of 2,000-2,500, government has been compelled to take notice.

Patu Aotearoa_New Zealand


Constraints on growth

Over the last three years, the New Zealand government has increased its engagement with social enterprise. After forming a position statement in 2015, they have gone on to pass cabinet decisions to support sector development and have invested in a number of programmes that seek to deliver specific objectives and outcomes.

The minister for the community and voluntary sector, Hon Alfred Ngaro (pictured below), has acknowledged that access to finance for social enterprises in New Zealand is a significant challenge: “As hybrid social-commercial entities they often fall between the cracks when trying to secure funding or capital.”

Ngaro_New Zealand

Another challenge is the limited amount of data about the sector and how it contributes to the New Zealand economy. In response, the government has set up a working group to build the government’s knowledge of the sector, promote its growth and encourage the growth of social finance.

Mr Ngaro describes the working group as a big focus for his work. He plans to meet with social entrepreneurs around the country, raise awareness of the sector and ask other government departments “to look for ways they can join up to make it easier for social enterprises.”

Åkina Foundation, New Zealand’s leading social entrepreneurship and enterprise development organisation, has experienced a steady increase in demand from social enterprises seeking business development support and investment readiness services.

In the 2015-2016 financial year, Åkina provided business development support to more than 750 organisations engaged in social enterprise activity at various stages of business development. Today, Åkina is unable to meet the current demand for its services and is seeking further support from government to grow capability building initiatives, make accessible seed funding, eliminate regulatory barriers that constrain investment and implement enabling policy to grow the sector.

Åkina provides specialist advisory services in enterprise development, enabling social enterprises and entrepreneurs to achieve their goals, generating sustainable and measurable benefits. It also acts to enable social enterprises to access a full range of financing and markets. The organisation also works on sector development – catalysing and building an innovative and thriving social enterprise sector.

In order to achieve its vision for a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive world, Åkina has developed a strategic sector growth plan with the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017 at the heart.


Looking to the future

Hosting the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017 in September will be a key step forward in the development journey of the NZ Social Enterprise Sector. The forum will be used to establish a learning environment for community resilience and innovation; a place to discuss new, scalable solutions to current global problems.

Out of this forum, Åkina expects to reach agreement on an inclusive identity and national definition of social enterprise. One of the questions that will be explored during SEWF 2017 and afterwards is the opportunity to establish an organising body for the sector.

Such a body would enable Åkina to facilitate greater collaboration and knowledge transfer, acting as a representative in discussions with government, business and philanthropists on strategy, policy, finance and practical action. Åkina, in conjunction with government, some private sector partners and intermediary partners, is planning for some considerable announcements to be made at SEWF 2017 that will support sector growth.

There is no better place to host this forum than Christchurch, a city where innovative design ethic and commitment to collaboration has built back a vibrant, alive city filled with cutting-edge responses to tough challenges. The social enterprise movement has shown incredible growth in the past few years and continues to develop and diversify with an impatience and determination synonymous with the New Zealand spirit.

As legislation, development programmes and social finance systems mature, the sector will persist and thrive. As the Māori might say: “Ka koroki te manu” – we are creating our tomorrow. New Zealand is the first country in the world to see the sunrise, and so the dawn birdsong symbolises a wake-up call and a welcome to the challenges and glories of a new tomorrow.

Pioneers Post is media partner to the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017, which will be held in New Zealand on 27-29 September. For more details, see

Photo credit: Alex Hu/Pixabay

Islay Rackham and Helene Malandain 

Kilmarnock: from struggling charity to successful social enterprise | The Social Enterprise Magazine – Pioneers Post

Kilmarnock in New Zealand employs 80 people with intellectual disabilities, delivers commercial contracts for big businesses and is about to launch its own training academy. But just a few years ago the organisation was at breaking point. Marketing manager Islay Rackham tells its story.

When I first came to Kilmarnock I discovered a unique organisation, the likes of which I hadn’t seen before. Not entirely commercial, but not entirely social either. With a background in the social sciences and with a passion for the charitable sector, I was blown away by the organisation’s business acumen and massive growth trajectory.

I was surrounded by experienced professionals who had already had impressive careers in hotel management, manufacturing, sales and telecommunications. Previously a stoic supporter of not-for-profit, I became an instant convert to the business-for-good model. All it took was to see an organisation that was leveraging commercial excellence and strong business to not only provide a purposeful and valuable workplace for a marginalised group of people, but a movement that was changing hearts and minds and systematically breaking down societal barriers at a speed I had never experienced before. The potential was overwhelming. But even in my inexperience, I could see that Kilmarnock was entering a very progressive chapter of a long and not always uplifting journey.


A story of transition

Kilmarnock’s story is one of transition: from an enlightened idea, to a well-respected and well-known local cause, to a struggling charity and finally to becoming one of New Zealand’s leading social enterprises.

Today, we employ over 80 awesome people – most with some form of intellectual disability. We fulfil commercial manufacturing contracts for some of New Zealand’s biggest businesses including Fonterra, The Gough Group, and Air New Zealand. We have a comprehensive and holistic health and wellness programme that has empowered our team to gain more independence. Soon we will be taking our pilot to the public and launching the Kilmarnock Training Academy. Even five years ago, this growth was unimaginable.

There was a group of people who, through a lack of empathy and understanding, had been stripped of hope and opportunity

Over 60 years ago a remarkable woman identified a problem in her community. She saw inequality deeply entrenched into societal and educational systems and she knew that there was a group of people who, through a lack of empathy and understanding, had been stripped of hope and opportunity. She envisioned a world where the fundamental dignity of people with intellectual disabilities was respected and where everybody was allowed the freedom to aspire.

But Miss Christabel Robinson didn’t stop at just an idea, she created a solution. She harnessed the power of purpose and opened Kilmarnock, then The Canterbury Sheltered Workshop Association, where she used education and employment to bring new meaning to the lives of adults with disabilities.

To this day, Kilmarnock holds close the values of its founder. We acknowledge and respect the fundamental value of all individuals. As an employer, we are committed to providing a supportive, respectful, and compassionate environment for our team where they can learn, grow and reach their full potential. It is our social responsibility to promote equitable treatment and the elimination of discrimination in the wider community.


From success to breaking point

The founding vision has guided Kilmarnock towards some incredible successes and also kept our conviction strong through some very difficult times. In the beginning, the organisation was supported by many powerful patrons. Educationalists and local politicians sang Kilmarnock’s praise and the government provided considerable support and funding. Local businesses such as the Returned Veterans Association and a local shoe manufacturer outsourced small bits of work which kept the team busy and provided a tokenistic income. For many years this worked well but as the political environment changed, so did the government’s commitment to funding initiatives such as Kilmarnock.

After many years of dwindling income, an unequal dependency on government and a defensive relationship with the community, Kilmarnock hit a breaking point. In 2011, just a few days before the Christchurch earthquake that February, we got a call to say the Returned Veterans Association ANZAC Poppy contract was to be sent offshore, taking with it 30% of Kilmarnock’s revenue-generating activities.

For the last 33 years, assembling the commemorative poppies had been a great source of pride for the Kilmarnock team. They knew that every poppy worn on ANZAC day was made by them and that their contribution was appreciated. Kilmarnock’s pride was dented and we were on the precipice of financial collapse. As it turns out, this was the shake-up Kilmarnock needed.

Kilmarnock employees at work


Renewed passion and direction

Faced with defeat, Kilmarnock returned to the vision of Miss Christabel Robinson and, with renewed passion and direction, the organisation began a dramatic transformation. We started by forming four pillars: purpose, people, community and, the previously undervalued, commercial.

Kilmarnock’s purpose meant we had every reason to fight for survival. We knew that Kilmarnock was opening doors for uniquely talented people and giving them the confidence to pursue their idea of a good life.

At the time I joined, Kilmarnock was supercharging its culture and building back an organisation that valued diversity, inclusivity and creativity; abolishing the hierarchy that had built up over the years. We developed a comprehensive and holistic health and wellbeing programme that addresses fitness, nutrition, personal safety, budgeting, self-determination and empowerment. A structure was created that encourages professional development and the undertaking of responsibility. Now we have a culture that is envied by the social and commercial world alike.

We have an incredible team of people with disabilities who are perfectly capable of breaking down the stereotypes that exist about them

We’ve realised that a core component of what Kilmarnock has to offer is the changing of attitudes. We have an incredible team of people with disabilities who are perfectly capable of breaking down the stereotypes that exist about them. So we have opened our doors and invited the world in. With transparency as a core value, we have connected with schools, businesses, government and the community. Just like me, everyone who comes into contact with Kilmarnock becomes enthralled and inspired by the story.

With strong strategic direction, our commercially-experienced CEO and diverse board turned our financial situation around and we now generate over 85% of our revenue through commercial activity. We have honed in on our unique competencies and rapidly diversified our contract work to include collating and packing, labelling, food packing, e-waste recycling, woodworking, sewing, refurbishing, assembly, health and safety training and office services.

With newfound confidence in our abilities, we have sourced commercially viable contracts with well-respected national and multinational businesses on an equal footing. With certifications in quality and food safety, we win contracts on merit and have become proof that a diverse workforce holds the keys to success.


A social impact investment

With ambition and enthusiasm at an all-time high, Kilmarnock has made the bold decision to embark on the next chapter of this story. It took absolute determination and fortitude to secure the first large-scale case of social impact investment in New Zealand. As a result, Kilmarnock has moved into our brand new, fit for purpose premises that we call Basecamp and we are now beginning the journey to becoming an accredited training academy. The name ‘Basecamp’ came from the idea that Kilmarnock is a warm, safe starting point at the beginning of an ambitious journey. A place where people can prepare and become equipped before going on to achieve incredible things.

In working with the community, Kilmarnock has identified a metaphorical cliff for school leavers with intellectual disabilities. While many of their peers move on to employment, university, apprenticeships and training institutes, the same further education stepping stones aren’t available to those with disabilities in New Zealand. The Kilmarnock Academy will provide a bridge between high school and employment for school leavers with disabilities by providing hands-on, practical training, enabling those wishing to find employment to pursue their passions.

If Miss Christabel Robinson could see her little charity now, she would be overwhelmed by the incredible path it has taken. Far from dampening her vision, the adoption of a social enterprise model has amplified the social impact of the organisation, enabling greater opportunity, inclusion and personal and professional growth for people with an intellectual disability in New Zealand.

I know that despite the overwhelming transformation and growth experienced over the past 60 years, this is just the beginning for Kilmarnock.

Michelle Sharp, Kilmarnock, and employees

Kilmarnock’s CEO, Michelle Sharp (pictured left, centre, with Kilmarnock employees), will be speaking at the Social Enterprise World Forum 2017, which will be held in New Zealand on 27-29 September. For more details, see Pioneers Post is a media partner to the event.

Source: Kilmarnock: from struggling charity to successful social enterprise | The Social Enterprise Magazine – Pioneers Post

International business gurus tap into global network to support Kiwi social enterprises |

International business experts have jumped on board with Christchurch-based social enterprises to boost productivity and reach those in need.

Ethique founder Brianne West (second right) with her mother and SAP mentors Echo Zeng (far left), Mark Goodall, and James Lowe (far right).

 No one wants to be told how to do their job, but four Christchurch business owners jumped at the chance to let someone else take the reins.

The 2017 SAP Social Sabbatical had 12 international and local business experts mentor the founders of Christchurch-based social enterprises: Ethique​, Kilmarnock Enterprises, Science Alive, and Cultivate.

SAP, based in Germany, was a technology company providing software solutions for thousands of organisations around the world.

Brianne West said the business advice she received was invaluable.


Brianne West said the business advice she received was invaluable.

 Employees were experts in sales, finance, product and marketing, and provided pro bono advice to help the social enterprises overcome challenges and broaden their social impact.

SAP Australia New Zealand head of corporate affairs Perry Manross said the mentors became so invested in the enterprises they called contacts from around the world to help out.

Brianne West's Ethique shampoo bars are 100 per cent vegan and last much longer than what you can buy from a bottle.


Brianne West’s Ethique shampoo bars are 100 per cent vegan and last much longer than what you can buy from a bottle.

 “Without exception everyone tapped to their wider network across the world – Germany, Singapore, Silicon Valley, Sydney – all these people were dialling in to provide advice to these social enterprises,” Manross said.

The enterprises were chosen out of about 40 that applied in January.

Two Australian and one Kiwi mentor helped business owner and scientist Brianne West’.

Christchurch co-founders Fiona Stewart and Bailey Perryman started Cultivate to support the community by providing work ...


Christchurch co-founders Fiona Stewart and Bailey Perryman started Cultivate to support the community by providing work experience and teaching skills to young people in need in Canterbury.

 West discovered a way to make solid shampoos while studying at The University of Canterbury in her 20s.

Almost ten years on, her company Ethique was internationally recognised and made cruelty-free, environmentally friendly cosmetic and household products using 100 per cent vegan ingredients.

Despite her success, West hit a road block most businesses hope to one day run into: keeping up with burgeoning demand.

“The challenge we are experiencing is how on earth do we keep up with the demand we are forecasting, which is pretty significant,” she said.

“We’re expecting 25 million [orders] by 2022. It would be amazing if we can do it.”

Quality assurance was the main issue West worried about.

“Making sure we can keep up with demand for packaging. Growing is very difficult,” she said.

The mentors helped West’s team look at their manufacturing and lab processes to figure out the best way to grow the business.

“Social enterprises are so in the moment,” Manross said. “They’re resource stretched and don’t always have the capacity to take a step back and say hang on maybe we should do it this way or that way.”

“So many social enterprises are at a cross roads and what they decide now could shape what they look like 5-20 years from now.”

West valued the opportunity to take a step back.

“It’s been incredible. I was unsure to start with because having new people around can be quite disruptive, but they’ve been very good and positive, it’s been really exciting,” she said.

Every year, SAP employees were eager to be involved in the sabbatical to bring back passion and drive to the company.

Manross was always surprised at the amount of interest in the program.

“Some people have been supported by a social enterprise or charity hybrid in their lives. There are certain causes our people identify strongly with.”


 – Stuff

Source: International business gurus tap into global network to support Kiwi social enterprises |

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