Background Image

Navigating New Terrain: Real Stories of Social Enterprises Expanding to New Locations

Do you get the feeling that your local area has changed since you established your social enterprise? Do you have a notion that where you are now is not quite where you should be? Do you have an inkling that you need to grow or move to increase your impact?

Expanding your social enterprise to a new location is exciting and daunting. The decision is not a simple one and you will need to weigh up the potential risks and rewards of making a move: Will it increase your impact? Will it stretch your resources too thin? Will the new location be more convenient for your beneficiaries? Will you find a suitable space? Do you relocate or replicate your operations or do you expand your existing footprint? Do you run a pilot program or start offering some of your programs in new areas, while maintaining your original base of operations?

Balancing these issues, as well as deciding where to move to, is a significant decision for your social enterprise. How do you know what is right for your business?

To help you navigate the issue, read on to hear from three social enterprises that have chosen to expand their activities to new areas, and have agreed to share their motives, challenges and provide advice for others considering a move.

Welcome Merchant

Welcome Merchant’s mission is to elevate the voices of entrepreneurs who identify as a refugee or as a person seeking asylum in Australia. Lack of connections and communication, as well as digital savviness often mean that many refugee-powered businesses in Australia operate in the dark and don’t receive the attention they deserve. Welcome Merchant acts as a directory, facilitating access to, and engagement with, underrepresented entrepreneurs who are offering unique gifts, products and cultural events.

Why did Welcome Merchant want to explore working in a new area?

We were looking to reach new audiences and to get more people interested in refugee advocacy. The move to Parramatta also meant that we could reach more refugee and asylum seeker entrepreneurs and connect with other social enterprises and non-profits in the local area. We also wanted to showcase a part of Sydney that many Welcome Merchant event attendees don’t usually go to.

How did you identify where you wanted to go? Were there particular things you were looking for?

It was important that the area had diverse demographics, proximity to newly-arrived communities, and easy access to services.

Has the move been successful? What have you achieved so far?

Yes! Welcome Merchant started their “A Seat at the Table – Curated Events”, a series of 4 events that highlights stories of entrepreneurs and artists who also identify as a refugee, a former refugee and/or as a person seeking asylum. So far, we have run 2 events and both sold out. We made new connections, raised awareness on topics that are not covered by mainstream media and introduced the public to underrepresented cuisines such as Uyghur food.

Were there any challenges (expected or unexpected) that you faced? How did you overcome them?

I didn’t know that there weren’t that many available venues to choose from in Parramatta. Fortunately, the venue we’ve used for our last two events is multi-functional and they offer community rates for non-profits and social enterprises.

Any advice for social enterprises thinking about moving into new locations?

If it makes sense for your organisation, then just do it! For many social enterprises the wider you spread your message the sooner you will achieve your mission.


Avenue is a coworking space setting the new standard for social and economic inclusion of people with disability. A certified social enterprise, Avenue empowers people with disability to contribute to thriving microbusinesses and share in the profits, launch their own businesses as entrepreneurs, develop their individual skills and build networks and friendships with team-mates.

Why did Avenue want to explore working in a new area?

Avenue first launched in Parramatta in 2018 and had a fantastic response from the community from the outset. Our coworking space was operating at capacity within a year, and partnering with some amazing business and individual clients. For example, our Animals microbusiness looks after dogs for local community members, and our Order Fulfilment business fulfils customer orders for cruelty-free, Australian-made skincare brand UAS Pharmaceuticals. Our E-Commerce team supports social media agency The Social Story by creating digital content for purpose-driven businesses to make an impact. We realised we needed a bigger location. With more space we could welcome more people with disability and expand our microbusinesses to increase everyone’s profit-share and skill development.

How did you identify where you wanted to go? Were there particular things you were looking for?

We knew we had the demand from the community – over 30% of our people live in Parramatta LGA, with the rest in neighbouring LGAs. Parramatta is a great location for social enterprise – it’s vibrant, diverse and there is significant support from Parramatta City Council for the social enterprise ecosystem. This is truly beneficial to Avenue as many of our business partners are social enterprises and ethical businesses themselves, who are conscious of creating social impact through all aspects of their supply chain.

A major advantage to our new site is that it is owned by the Hellenic Orthodox Church – a forward-thinking, community sector landlord with a 100-year plan for the positive impact they want to make in the community, and the services they want to bring together. Disability services form an important part of their vision, so we are excited to be collaborating.

Were there any challenges (expected or unexpected) that you faced? How did you overcome them?

We would have loved to have moved to our new site earlier, but unfortunately we were delayed due to leasing constraints with our previous site. Significant construction costs were also a factor, but we have been very grateful for the support of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, NSW Government, and the City of Parramatta Council which has made the new coworking space possible!

What have you achieved so far?

Our brand new Parramatta coworking space will open its doors in early 2024, at 163 George Street. We’ll be looking for people with disability (all levels of support needs) to come and join our microbusiness teams, and for like-minded organisations to collaborate with.

Any advice for social enterprises thinking about moving into new locations?

Primarily, it would be to think through what your social enterprise needs to thrive. For Avenue, our target market is people with disability looking for purposeful work outside traditional employment; so we need to know the demand is high from this community. But more than that, we also need an ecosystem of business partners and inclusive locations and venues for our social program. Good access to public transport and accessible outdoor space is a huge bonus. Investigate everything the locations you are looking at have to offer – in the case of Parramatta this includes great support for business from the Council through grants, networks and events.


Vibewire is a youth-led community of creative and entrepreneurial change-makers. We help young people to build the skills, confidence and courage required to create change in the uncertain times that we live. We do this through peer learning and mentoring programs, community and entrepreneurship activities and hacks for social impact.

Why did Vibewire want to explore working in a new area and how did you identify where you wanted to go? 

We have always had a strong community across Sydney – and part of that community has always been in Sydney’s west. With covid we realised people were staying in their locations and not traveling into the city anymore. So we felt we needed to go to them.

Also, we have traditionally worked well with universities – supporting young people in the transition between their studies and the start of their careers. With With Western Sydney University (WSU) located in Parramatta, it was a perfect destination.

Has the move been successful? What have you achieved so far?

It has taken us longer than expected to build and grow a small community, but we have hosted dozens of early morning coffee meetups, as well as speed mentoring nights. We have also run two series of Vibewire’s blended education program, onRamp, supporting the next generation of young women leaders through formal and informal, peer learning.

Perhaps most importantly, the feedback from participants has been overwhelmingly positive – and we’ve been able to see participants putting their new skills in action immediately.

Were there any challenges (expected or unexpected) that you faced? 

Finding the right timings and formats to bring people together. Covid has changed a lot of pre-work and after work patterns and it continues to be a challenge.

How did you overcome them?

We tested a range of different formats and times. We talked to people about their expectations and needs. Can’t say that we’ve overcome them yet.

Any advice for social enterprises thinking about moving into new locations?

Focus on building community and connection from the first day – and don’t be discouraged by early difficulties.

Key learnings

While each journey was different, some key themes can be drawn from these case studies.

Firstly, each of these social enterprises identified that they wanted to go where their key beneficiaries are located. Whether you are focussed on supporting new migrant and refugee communities, people with a disability or young people, being located close to these communities can have the benefit of increasing the pool of people interested in your programs. Importantly, recognising that COVID continues to impact people’s willingness to travel, locating your enterprise closer to your beneficiaries can also increase the access to and take-up of your programs. There may also be other organisations already established in the area that are aligned with your mission and keen to collaborate.

Secondly, you are likely to find certain location-specific issues that you weren’t anticipating, whether it is a shortage of available event space, the impact of building works or finding the right door to knock on. These can be overcome if connections are established early with others in the same location. Advice, networks and understanding of the new area can all assist with a smooth transition and easy engagement with your target communities in the new area.

The three social enterprises featured in this article all expanded their operations into Parramatta. The drivers to move to Parramatta included the ability to more easily engage with the diverse communities located in Western Sydney, the benefits of the growth and vibrancy of the area and the diversity of local businesses and community organisations. In their decision to expand operations there, they also recognised the importance of the growing ecosystem of social enterprises located in Parramatta and the support provided by the Local Council.

City of Parramatta has been supporting the social enterprise community for over 10 years and is looking to continue to grow the ecosystem and help social enterprises make a bigger impact in Western Sydney. The City of Parramatta is currently offering grants of up to $25,000 for social enterprises looking to move to Parramatta, as part of the 2024 Annual Community Grants program. The Annual Grants program is currently open and applications close on Monday 2nd October 2023. More information about the grants program and links to register for information sessions on the Growing Social Enterprise in Parramatta Grant can be found on the City of Parramatta website.

The City of Parramatta wants to showcase the strengths of social enterprise to create ongoing positive impacts for communities and the environment. If you want to join the social enterprise community in Parramatta, consider applying for the Growing Social Enterprise in Parramatta Grant or get in touch with Lucy Brotherton, Community Capacity Building Lead at the City of Parramatta at to find out more about how the City of Parramatta can offer support to your social enterprise.

Jay Boolkin
Jay Boolkin

I'm passionate about positive social change and the power of social entrepreneurship to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems. I believe that for-purpose business models can become part of the mainstream and I am enthusiastic about advocating for business models that are genuinely built around a social or environmental mission.

No Comments

Post a Comment

Join as a member to get unlimited access


Already a Member? Log in

Subscribe to Social Change Central

No spam. It's a promise.

Password reset link will be sent to your email