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Where Passion Meets Purpose and Profit: Recapping the Social Enterprise Festival

Image credits: Tom DawkinsSECNA / Candice Jade Olivier

The Social Enterprise Festival, a vibrant and inspiring event dedicated to social enterprises and their positive impact on society, recently took place at UTS Business School, showcasing the power of purpose-driven businesses and organisations. The festival brought together social entrepreneurs, community leaders, aspiring changemakers and conscious consumers to exchange ideas, share experiences, and celebrate social enterprise. 

Organised by the SECNA (Social Enterprise Council NSW/ACT), the inaugural Social Enterprise Festival was an inclusive and engaging event for all those interested in social entrepreneurship. With a diverse range of exhibitors, speakers, panel discussions, and workshops, the festival offered attendees a wealth of learning opportunities and networking experiences.

Throughout the festival, the almost 1,000 attendees had the chance to connect with fellow social entrepreneurs, learn from experts in the field, and explore innovative solutions to pressing social and environmental issues. The buzzing atmosphere was one of collaboration and support as guests shared their passion for creating positive change through business and innovation.

Proudly supported by City of Sydney, UTS, Westpac Foundation and Leaders for IMPACT, the event showcased over 70 wonderfully innovative social enterprises making a difference in society. These social enterprises exhibited their products and services, allowing festival attendees to discover new and sustainable solutions that positively impact the environment and society while maintaining high quality.

One of the outstanding purpose-driven organisations at the festival was Hotel Etico, Australia’s first social enterprise hotel. With a commitment to ethical practices and fostering an inclusive environment, it provides meaningful employment and training for people with disabilities. Hotel guests enjoy the serene surroundings, cozy accommodations, and mouthwatering cuisine while making a positive impact.

Another notable market vendor was Mates on the Move, an empowering social enterprise providing moving and cleaning services while transforming the lives of those with a history of incarceration. By offering employment, training, and support, they break the cycle of reoffending and foster self-sufficiency. “A big shout out to the team at SECNA for putting together a fantastic Social Enterprise Festival,” commented Lois Dillon, Social Enterprise Operations Manager at Mates on the Move. “New connections were made, and there were lots of familiar faces showcasing their amazing work.”

The Social Outfit, a vibrant, ethical fashion brand and social enterprise empowering refugees and new migrants in Australia, also caught the attention of festival-goers. Based in Newtown, The Social Outfit helps individuals build skills and confidence in the fashion industry by providing employment, training, and support. What’s more, each garment they sell tells a unique story, reflecting the rich cultural backgrounds of their talented makers. 

The festival also highlighted the work and products of Goods 4 Good, an uplifting initiative that partners with ethical brands to make a difference in people’s lives. By collaborating with ethical brands, they provide consumers with an easy way to shop responsibly and make a lasting impact. Buyers can support social and environmental causes by purchasing high-quality, eco-friendly products. Beyond just offering eco-friendly products, Goods 4 Good aims to foster a community of like-minded individuals who share a passion for making the world a better place. 

Festival-goers also enjoyed sold-out cooking demonstrations by Racha’s Syrian Kitchen and had their taste buds tickled by baked goods from The Bread and Butter Project, Australia’s first social enterprise bakery that empowers refugees and asylum seekers through artisan bread-making. 

It was easy to tell that festival attendees enjoyed discovering innovative products and services and were thrilled to meet the entrepreneurs behind these social enterprises and learn about their impactful work.

One of the highlights of the Social Enterprise Festival was undoubtedly the array of inspiring speakers, panel discussions and workshops throughout the event. These sessions covered a wide range of topics, including the role of social procurement in driving positive change, the power of storytelling for social enterprises, and the importance of collaboration between businesses and social organisations.

Some notable speakers included representatives from impact-driven organisations such as StartSomeGood, OzHarvest, and Purple Card Project, who shared their stories, challenges, and successes in building purpose-driven businesses. Their experiences served as both inspiration and practical guidance for aspiring social entrepreneurs in attendance. The discussions provided valuable insights into social enterprises’ challenges and opportunities and explored potential solutions and strategies for overcoming these hurdles.

“It was amazing to witness the pure talent and joy behind so many amazing enterprises,” commented purpose-for-profit business mentor, community builder and Beyond Forward Founder Candice Jade Olivier. “The panels, workshops [and] marketplace formed a hub of knowledge and inspiration. Thank you to the organisers and everyone involved in putting together such a magic day [and] worth the flight from the Gold Coast.”

Throughout the festival, there were ample opportunities for networking and collaboration between attendees. Whether during breaks or over a 107 Projects vegan hot dog, participants had the chance to connect with like-minded individuals and forge new partnerships and friendships. The spirit of collaboration and support was palpable as attendees exchanged ideas, shared resources, and offered encouragement to one another.

“The diversity of people who came is a great sign of the growing strength of our movement. I met people from three universities, two government departments and many companies looking to incorporate social enterprise ideas and practice more into what they do. I’ve received two speaking invitations from people I met at the event already,” shared Tom Dawkins, Co-Founder of StartSomeGood and LendForGood.

The event served as a powerful reminder of the incredible potential of social enterprises to transform communities and improve lives. As Annette Brodie, Founder of The Reconnect Project, commented, “I’ve been to plenty of trade shows and industry events where businesses with big marketing budgets have slick-looking stalls and whizz-bang features. But none of them compare to the lineup of speakers, engaging workshops and purpose-driven stalls at the inaugural Social Enterprise Festival. So proud to stand alongside fellow social entrepreneurs who are using business to make the world a better place.”

Overall, NSW’s first Social Enterprise Festival was a resounding success, bringing together like-minded individuals and organisations who share a passion for social impact and sustainable living. An eye-opening experience for all who attended, it did a fantastic job of showcasing the power of social entrepreneurship. As we look to the future, it is clear that social enterprises will play an increasingly important role in addressing society’s most pressing challenges, and events like this festival serve as an invaluable platform for learning, collaboration, and celebration.

SECNA have already been inundated with requests to make the Social Enterprise Festival an annual event. If you’d like to be part of it, let them know by completing this short EOI.

Social Change Central
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