Helping to create sustainable social enterprises with impact

A group of Kick Starter participants

12 May 2020

The Kick Starter Program, a collaboration between the Macquarie Group Foundation, Macquarie’s Learning and Development team and the non-profit Sefa Partnerships, is a 12-week social enterprise support program built on Macquarie’s commitment to social innovation. It offers mentorship and small grants to budding social entrepreneurs across Australia’s diverse social enterprise ecosystem.

“Social enterprise has the power to connect communities and link those communities to the economy. Significantly improving the economic status of individuals, families or other groups is integral to the business models Kick Starter explores – and to Macquarie’s approach to work and giving,” says Hannah Miller, Capacity Building Program Manager at Sefa Partnerships.

Through the program, entrepreneurs develop and test their business models, build sustainable business plans and gain exposure to commercial practices. Macquarie directors are paired with entrepreneurs to act as mentors.

“We act as a sounding board for their ideas and challenge their business plans to help them focus on the right things,” says Samuel Keefe, an Associate Director in Macquarie’s Sydney office, who participated in the program last year.

At the end of the program, a separate panel of judges reviews all business plans. Two or three organisations are then awarded with philanthropic grants of up to $15,000 to go towards executing their plans.

“My mentee [Playwave] ended up winning one of the grants and securing funding for their enterprise, but the improved understanding they gained about their business and the updated business plan were in many ways more valuable than the cash prize,” says Samuel.

In 2019, Trek Learning’s ‘5 Acre Project’ was another of the participants awarded a Kick Starter grant. The project offers young people who have disengaged from education or employment a new way to gain skills in a supportive farmstay environment.

Project founder Meg Yates says Kick Starter was invaluable to turning her idea into reality.

“I was able to get a non-emotional snapshot of my capabilities and develop a plan around those strengths and weaknesses. For me it was a great process to distil an idea into a genuine business.”

Sefa Partnerships measures the impact of its programs in the community for the 12-18 months following Kick Starter, and a comprehensive review of the Kick Starter program was undertaken in 2019. Since 2011 the program has seen more than 200 Macquarie leaders provide over 3,500 hours of mentoring to over 130 social enterprises. It has awarded participants over $A360,000 in grants.

But arguably the most important impact of this program is a societal one.

“These organisations are now delivering powerful impact across a range of critical social challenges, from disability employment to mental health and sustainable manufacturing,” says Hannah.