What's Up Wednesday

Te Kōtare – a project to make Jenny Shearer’s dream fly

Jenny was a early childhood teacher who had a dream that all children would grow up in Aotearoa feeling comfortable moving through their own world and the world of tangata whenua. Jenny passed away before this dream happened. We talk to her whanau about how they are now making this dream a reality through a PledgeMe campaign.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

My wife Jen had a really strong passion for teaching children te reo māori – she was  a pre-school teacher, and took great care to fulfill this part of the curriculum. When she became unwell the first time, she reconsidered her work, and took some more time to focus on the songs she had been writing and teaching the children at her pre school (Little Earth Montessori, on the Kāpiti Coast). She worked really hard with local Māori to be respectful to the language, and to local history. In particular, she worked a lot with Matiu Te Huki, who is something of a local legend (and an international one, in fact) to craft the songs and the lyrics – Matui teaches waiata to children all around the Kāpiti area, and was amazing help.

So, Jen’s dream, was that these waiata could contribute to the education of children, and giving them more tools to live bi-culturally. We are not Māori, neither was Jen, but we are pākehā, and  we think that it is very important to live in a bi-cultural way – that’s the deal, and we can only have better lives by doing that.

It’s clear that as a language, Māori has a huge disadvantage – in that it is not as widely used as it could be, or should be – but it has this great advantage also, it’s beautiful and interesting and fun to learn.  Jenny just wanted to play her part in spreading a bit of that around.  Because she died, before we could get them recorded, it’s important to us, to honour her dream, and get them to as wide an audience as possible.

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

Our crowd is quite interesting. Many many people came to Jenny’s funeral, you know, for an introvert, it was amazing just how many people were there and were affected by her passing. She was such an encourager to so many people. She died soon after we completed transcribing all the songs she had written, so many people knew about her dream.

PledgeMe seems to be a perfect way to follow up on that dream, and reach out to the various groups – her close and distant family, colleagues from the early childhood sector, old school friends, other parents. We are really seeing a great response from people with interest in early childhood and primary education, music, and te reo, which is just what we had hoped for!

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

We are still in the process of polishing off some of the recordings, and we are working on the songs having some real Wellington love behind them – while they are all recorded, we are approaching a number of fabulous artists, people like Warren Maxwell, and Lisa Tomlins, Al Faser, who is known for his knowledge and expertise in taonga puoro – we’ll be polishing off the recordings with these folk too. And more animations of the songs, we are super excited about that!

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

Yes!  We are so grateful for the support of Matiu te Huki, for the reasons mentioned before. And also for Lee Prebble – we had a really fun day in his studio, where so many music legends have recorded, he has been so generous in his support for this project.

And to everyone who has pledged and contributed in many ways so far, or about to. Honouring Jen’s dream in this way is the best that any of us could do for her.

You can pledge to the Te Kōtare campaign here

Needed: A New Nick

One of our longstanding board members, Nick Lewis, retired in December 2017. Here’s our farewell to him, and the launch of our hunt for a new director written by PledgeMe co-founder Anna Guenther.

The fantastic Nick Lewis came into my orbit during my Masters of Entrepreneurship down at the University of Otago. He was a guest lecturer and flew to Dunedin to share his story both in start up world and investment banking. His anecdotes were pretty legendary: from starting his drug testing company in his twenties, through to raising investment on the golf course in 24 hours (even though he didn’t golf).

When we met, PledgeMe hadn’t even been thought up yet, but I was inspired by his words. Fast forward a year, one of my classmates told me I should meet up with Nick. I was in Wellington, he was in Wellington, and we sat down for a coffee on Lambton Quay.

What struck me about Nick then (and now) was his enthusiasm and support. I gave him our numbers there in the Wellington sunshine (embarrassingly low to look back on now) and he was glowing. Early validation, he raved, and things just seemed a bit easier with that external perspective. The hard stuff seemed somehow more achievable when someone as experienced as Nick saw the merit in it.

When we hit our first major hiccup, he took my stressed phone call. I think his calm feedback and great next steps (get a lawyer and communicate with your customers) saved us from closing up PledgeMe before we’d even really begun. From there Nick acted as an advisor, coming to our bi-monthly advisory panels and giving feedback and advice for pizza and beer. When we did our first investment round in 2014, he put his money in and came on our board. Over the past six years he’s been integral in growing PledgeMe, through the good times and the tough.

Last month, Nick retired. He refuses to say “resign” because he thinks that sounds bad. It’s just time for him to do new things with his life, and we’re so thankful for the time and wisdom he’s given us to date. And will give to us in the future (you’re not getting away that easy, Nick!).

But, with his departure we believe it’s time to add some new perspectives and skills to the board, so we’re on the hunt for a new director.

 

Details at a glance

Position: PledgeMe Board Member

Length of term: 1 year with the option to renew annually

Applications open: 16 January 2018

Applications close: Thurs, 8 February 2018

Interviews: 12-13 February 2018

Directors’ Fees: $1,100 per month (paid in shares / cash annually).

 

Interested? Send me your LinkedIn / CV, and a short email about what you would bring to the PledgeMe board by Thurs, 8 February 2018.

 

About the position on our board

We specifically want someone(s) with one or a few of these perspectives / skills:

  • Someone who can provide a solid financial / legal lense to the board, and/or
  • Someone with experience launching (and scaling in Australia) – we’ve been setting up over there with the recent changes to their legislation allowing equity crowdfunding, and/or
  • Someone with experience doing business with iwi – we’re looking at launching a collaborative indigenous microlending platform in 2018.
  • Someone who can help us with our marketing / communications strategy

 

We believe a good director:

  • Acts like a critical friend – kind, but pointing out gaps and helping to guide the way.
  • Has a base proficiency in technology – knows their Google Documents from their Zoom, and is able to attend meetings online if needed.
  • Is ok with dialogue – we need someone to come in who is happy debating like they’re right, but listening like they’re wrong. We’re building a new world order, and it’s not always going to be built the same we previously did business.

 

Our current board includes:

Melanie Templeton (interim Chair)

Melanie is an experienced senior commercial manager and leader, with a track record of leading the development and implementation of successful business strategies both locally and internationally. She’s also an avid organic gardener.

She has done everything from running her own award winning restaurants in Wellington in the mid nineties to being an accredited Business Mentor with BMNZ to launching and running digital banks in NZ, Australia and Poland!

She is also the Commercial Director of fledgling agri-tech company Regen NZ Ltd.  Finally, Mel won the Institute of Director’s Emerging Director Award in 2016.

 

Breccan McLeod Lundy

Breccan has been programming since he was six with a Commodore 64 and has degrees in philosophy and management.  He has an incomparable technical brain combined with human empathy like no other: as the co-founder of Rabid Technologies Breccan supports the development of new products and companies with a belief that partnerships and relationships are more important than simple transactions.

He often breaks out his ability to discuss complex philosophical ideas with the best of them (he did his degree in it – before he turned twenty). He’s also the only board member left in his 20’s…

 

Jessica Venning Bryan

Jessica has spent 15 years advising organisations like Lion, the Electoral Commission, Seafood NZ, Saatchi & Saatchi Global, and the Sustainable Business Council on how to engage customers with projects and brands. From beer to electricity, voting systems to employment, she’s delivered projects in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and the UK.

She is currently the Chief Marketing Officer at Flick Electric Co., and was part of Flick’s founding team. She is also the Founder and Trustee of Cultivate Mentoring Lab, a not-for-profit that partners early to mid-career women with experienced mentors to help them grow their confidence and progress equally at work. She lives in Wellington with her partner and four children, and has a special interest in gender equality, justice reform, alternative families and gifted education.

Jessica has decided to leave the Board at the end of the financial year, wanting to find more time to spend with her growing family this year while balancing her other work commitments. If we spot another excellent candidate while looking for Nick’s replacement we may fill Jessica’s role at the same time.

 

and, me, Anna Guenther

Anna is our Managing Director, co-founder and CEO of PledgeMe. She sounds American but she’s definitely a Kiwi. If pushed, she’ll say she’s technically from Dunedin, but will later admit she grew up in Boston. Having roamed around the world, she now calls Wellington home. Anna completed her Masters on crowdfunding and has worked for everyone from NZTE to MIT (and all of the acronyms in between).  She is currently splitting her time between Wellington and Brisbane leading our new efforts in Australia.  Finally, the United Nations recently asked Anna to deliver a speech at their World Export Development Forum in Hungary.

 

How our board rolls

We meet monthly on Zoom and in person. We try to have regular sessions where we are physically present, but it’s not required every month. We have discussions online through Loomio and email. We regularly use Google documents.

The Board has the primary responsibility to oversee the conduct of PledgeMe, the strategy,  and to supervise management (who are responsible for the day-to-day activities). The Board primarily considers the interests of PledgeMe to which its fiduciary duty ultimately resides, and then to its shareholders. It also considers the legitimate interests of other constituents such as employees, suppliers, and customers.

 

Number of board members

We currently have four board members and aim for between 3–5 board members at any time, with a mix of skills, backgrounds, and expertise. A quorum is currently 3 board members. Melanie was deemed our independent director under the NZX rules, but we aim to get one more independent director. Aiming for no less than 40% female representation, with wider general diversity (age, location, ethnicity, physical ability, sexual orientation).

 

Chairperson

The interim chair is currently Melanie Templeton.

 

Term

New directors are appointed at PledgeMe’s AGM or through a resolution passed with the shareholders during the year. Board membership is set to a 1 year term with the ability to renew annually.

 

Directors’ Fees

Set at $1,100 per month paid annually in arrears and paid in a mix of shares but with enough cash to cover tax implications.

 

Board Responsibilities

The Board retains the responsibility for managing its own affairs including the responsibility to:

i) Appoint the Chair of the Board;

ii) Appoint, review and/or replace the Chief Executive Officer

iii) determine the timing and agenda for Board meetings.

iv) annually review the skills and experience represented on the Board in light of rapidly changing business requirements.

v) recommend the criteria and potential candidates who meet the criteria to the Board.

vi) on the recommendation of the Chair, appoint, determine the composition of and set the terms of reference for Board committees;

vii) approve the terms of reference for the CEO and Chair.

viii) implement an appropriate process for assessing the effectiveness of the Board, the Board Chair, committees and directors in fulfilling their responsibilities.

ix) assess the adequacy and form of director compensation and make recommendations to the shareholders to approve the director compensation at the Annual General Meeting.

x) assume responsibility for Company’s governance practices and ensure they meet the needs of the shareholders, employees and customers; and

xi) monitor our compliance with our licensing obligations under the Financial Markets authority.

 

Interested? Send me your LinkedIn / CV, and a short email about what you would bring to the PledgeMe board by Thursday 8 February 2018.

What's Up Wednesday

Making Wildfires with Jenny Mitchell

Jenny Mitchell is a folk-country songwriter hailing from the Deep South. She crowdfunded her first album with PledgeMe when she was just 15! Now, she’s back (just in time for Christmas!), calling on her crowd to help her produce a new album called ‘Wildfires’.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

This is actually the second time I have crowdfunded an album. I was a bit nervous before I launched because I wasn’t sure how people would react. But from the start, my crowd has been really supportive. They understand why I am crowdfunding: making music independently is hard!

My last album has taken me to some amazing places and I’m so grateful for that journey. However, I do feel that I’m now really confident in my musical skin and know the artist I want to be and the music I want to create. I’m so lucky to be working with one of Australia’s best producers and I can promise that I couldn’t be more proud of every word in Wildfires. Hence why I’m so excited to release it!

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

I was only 15 when I released my first album. I didn’t have a plan about what the future might look like at that time. But three years down the track, I’m ready. I have had so many experiences and opportunities in music since releasing my first album. This is an opportunity to show my crowd how much I have learnt about crafting songs and everything that goes with that – the lyrics, the music, and the feelings they evoke.

I’m really passionate about the songs I have created for this album, and the possibility of sharing that passion with my crowd is definitely a driving factor behind this campaign. And the best thing is that I have had so many people jump on board since I launched the campaign. I would love to see my crowd grow even more, as every single pledge goes to funding just half the cost of my album.

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

My favourite reward is the $40 ‘All Access Pass’ that I devised when I was trying to think of rewards that I would want to pledge on. Basically the Pass gives you access to a secret Facebook group where I post exclusive behind the scenes content – like the first draft of my album cover. There is something new each day. It is where I will first release the album track list, videos of my song recordings in the studio, and sneak peeks of what it is like backstage at my gigs. I love this reward because my crowd is invited on my journey of making the music they love to listen to.

When I was planning my campaign, I knew that rewards should be valuable; something I would want to buy. This is the fortunate side effect of being a crowdfunding alum! I have tried to create some exciting rewards for my Gore/Southland-based crowd that include live concerts and tickets to locally held gigs like the NZ Country Music Awards. Other rewards can be sent anywhere in New Zealand, like a gift box where everything is handpicked by me. I’ve tried to make everything personal for my crowd, so please check it out!

Anything you would like to shout out to your crowd?

At the moment I am actually in Ireland. The time difference means that pledges come in while I’m asleep. It is so exciting to wake up to notifications from my awesome crowd! I am so lucky to have a great partner-in-crime, Katie, who has been holding the (campaign) fort while I am away.

As I mentioned, I was feeling nervous before I launched this campaign but every pledge that comes in makes me feel more and more excited. My crowd wants to invest and me and what I have been working on – so definitely want to shout out to everyone who has pledged so far! It has been so interesting to see who has supported me – new friends from my first year of uni who don’t have much money but still want to help me; old time supporters; and total strangers – these people blow my mind!

My final shout-out is to those in my crowd who might not have gotten around to pledging, or know someone who might be interested. My campaign finishes on Sunday and I would love to for us to invest in Wildfires, together.

To treat your ears to some excellent country-folk music, jump onto Jenny’s campaign page here

All we want for Christmas is… a new team member!

** Application close date extended to 21 January – and Wellington-based folk can apply**

This year has been a big one for the PledgeMe team. Our Own Ron smashed our record for the most money raised in a project campaign. We exported our expertise to Australia. And chocolate lovers united to snaffle up $2 million of equity to Own The (OCHO) Factory in 32 hours.

After all that hard (albeit exciting!) work, we reckon we deserve a Christmas present. And this year, all we want for Christmas is someone to help us with our day-to-day admin. In short, a solid administration/reconciliation/verification extraordinaire. Instead of placing our bets on Santa, we are going tried and true; back to you! We would love our crowd to help us find our next team member. We’ve even given them a name: the ‘Admin-ister’.

This is going to be the Christmas present that keeps on giving. Our new Admin-ister will be the one that lets us do more of what we love doing, while doing what they love doing: making our spreadsheets look ship-shape and our banking seem seamless.

Are you interested in working with us? Or do you know someone who could make our Christmas come early? Read the job description below, and then send me an email by Sunday 21 January with:

  • your CV; and
  • a note on what you would bring to the PledgeMe team, and why you want to work with us.

We’ll be setting up interviews for the week commencing 22 January and hope to make an offer by 26 January (though we can wait for the right person). We can be flexible about timing, and interviewing online, as we know most of New Zealand is travelling in January.

Position description:

The Admin-ister

Hours: 16 hours per week (with flexibility to increase hours over busy periods)

Location: Auckland / Wellington (though flexibility to work from home)

Rate: $25 p/h (depending on skills and experience)

Help us help Kiwis fund things they care about! We are looking for a part-timer to join our team as our awesome Admin-ister.

Here’s what we’re looking for in the perfect Admin-ister:

  • Not afraid to be a bit quirky. We occasionally wear onesies to the office (but only on Wednesdays).
  • Attention to detail – passionate about inbox zero (TBH, inbox ten is fine too).
  • Tech able. No, you don’t need to be able to code C#, but you should be able to work your way around embed code and excel spreadsheets.
  • Empathetic. You need to want to help people, and get the best out of every project creator that comes through your inbox / our office.
  • Able to think on your feet (and office chair). Happy to point out things you think could be improved, then leading the charge to fix ‘em.

What this actually means day-to-day:

  • Working a few hours each day a week, with hours likely to increase at the close of successful campaigns.
  • Being available on Wednesday mornings to coincide with our team meeting.
  • Supporting the team by taking on the financial processing workflows.

Some specific responsibilities you will take on include:

  • Reconciling Xero for projects, equity and lending.
  • Leading the reconciling (payments and verifications).
  • Processing credit card payments from successful campaigns.
  • Helping to process investor checks for equity and lending campaigns.
  • Managing the invoices and payments processes, which includes our invoices for services and our client fund account.
  • Suggesting/introducing new ways for us to improve processing and reconciling
  • Answering tech-related enquiries from campaigners / pledgers when able in a timely manner – and forwarding on when help is needed.
  • Owning the beloved general phone 24/7, 365 days a year (and even that sneaky extra February day every few years)! Not really, just weekdays during office hours (though we are looking at setting up an answering service too)

One more thing…

We hold our values pretty close to heart in the office, and they are:

  • Support transparency and trust
  • Be constantly evolving
  • He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
  • Be seriously fun(ding) humans
  • Do good and do well

We want someone to come into the team who resonates with those values, but brings their own perspectives and skill sets. We don’t all need to think or act the same way, but we all need to care about our common mission of helping Kiwis fund the things they care about.

So, keen to join Team PledgeMe? You can email me with your CV and cover note here

Loans repaid with pride

Auckland social enterprise advocate, Bevin Fitzsimons shares his experience of social lending and the importance of interconnectedness when it comes to impactful lending.

How did an international loan fund make hundreds of loans over twenty-six years with 100% repayment?

Here’s the story….

For six years, I was Director of the Geneva-based Ecumenical Church Loan Fund (ECLOF). It raised money from church donors – initially for schools, hospitals, churches etc. In 1968, it began making economic development loans to communities and social enterprises in thirty-two countries. A local committee of bankers and experienced community developers, in each country, publicised and helped loan applicants plan their projects. Typical projects were: fish farms in Myanmar; tractor purchases in Tanzania; cycle rickshaws in India; wells and plantations in Malaysia. The local committee kept in touch with each borrower.


Soon after approving the fish farm loan in Myanmar, the local committee also approved a loan to a similar community fish farm a short distance up the coast. The interesting thing was that the committee told the second fish farm their loan would begin fifteen months after the first fish farm borrower (and other projects) had repaid a part of their loans. The second fish farm was immediately in touch with the first one. “Can we come and see how you do it? Can we come and help you? Please repay your loan – you’re helping us when you repay”. As a result, the two communities had a good rapport.


With repeated thank-yous from borrower two, borrower one had real pride in helping borrower two by simply repaying their own loan! They were not repaying to an anonymous foreign rich organisation. They repaid to help their neighbours and to feel the pride and helpfulness of this! Borrower two also learned a lot from borrower one before their similar project began. The system also worked well two borrower’s projects were naturally complementary. For instance, when one borrower’s loan was for a tractor and another’s was for an agricultural well.


The Ecumenical Church Loan Fund also had skilled local bankers in each national committee to ensure good planning, so those bankers’ reputations were also at stake should any loans fail. Bankers were always willing to be on the national committee to help their countrymen.

Bevin Fitzsimons

Bevin Fitzsimons now coaches social enterprises and helps them be unique in their marketplace through his company, Breakthrough Strategies. To pick his brain, you can contact him at [email protected].

Going Walkabout in Queensland

As many of you know, PledgeMe has launched in Australia! With our experience in New Zealand crowdfunding (across project, equity and lending campaigns) and the recent changes to equity legislation here in Australia, we decided to cross the ditch.

I’ve been in Brisbane for a week now thanks to HotDesQ, and I think the best term for it is “busy in Brissie”.

I’ve met with angels, lawyers, accountants, hipsters, craft beer kids, and still seem to manage to wake up for 6am team meetings and phone calls.

I’ve pointed out typos to ASIC (they probably didn’t like that), met a bunch of awesome new friends, been to the launch of a marriage equality beer, settled into a new co-working space (Little Tokyo Two) and am slowly figuring out where I am in the city (I’ve only gotten properly lost once….).

But, most importantly, I’ve met with companies. I’ve heard where they’re at, and where they want to go next.

The Australian equity crowdfunding legislation, as it currently stands, isn’t much use for them. It currently only caters for less than 1% of Australian companies (those that are “public unlisted”). And, while companies can swap to being public unlisted, it adds a lot of compliance requirements that doesn’t make sense for a small company.

Thankfully, the Australian government listened, and are planning on extending the legislation to cover proprietary companies (which is 99% of SME’s). But, that will still take at least 6 months.

So, my plan between now and then is:

  • to get our application for an intermediary licence in and
  • to support as many companies as we can to figure out if crowdfunding makes sense for them – and what they need to do between now and then if they do decide to raise money from their crowd.

What can we offer? A wealth of experience helping companies across the ditch get ready to go out to their own crowds (not just traditional investors). We’ve seen everything from a craft brewery raise $2mil in 2 days, through to a solid haircare business top up their shareholder round with $500,000 in 90 minutes.

To launch that, I’m going for a bit of a road trip at the end of this week to meet more companies. I’ll be in:

  • Wed, 11 October – Sunshine Coast
  • Thurs, 12 October – Bundaberg
  • Fri, 13 October – Rockhampton

If you’d like to hear more about equity crowdfunding, grab a coffee, or just meet and discuss your plans send me an email on [email protected] I’d love to meet you.

What's Up Wednesday

Kai and culture: Food stories from Aotearoa

Food tells a story. And Freerange Press wants to tell the story of New Zealand’s contemporary food identity, and how it impacts our culture.

Freerange Press crowdfunded with us last year to publish Don’t Dream It’s Over: Reimagining Journalism in New Zealand. This year, they’re reaching out to their crowd again in order to publish this cultural cookbook of food stories from Aotearoa. Through essays, profiles and recipes, Kai and Culture canvasses a range of views and stories from local food cultures, experts, and chefs – but now it needs your contributions to tell all those stories. So to find out more about why you should be pledging, we had a chat to the team at Freerange Press.

Why do you think this campaign is important?

Food is such a strong part of culture and it is a great lens through which to look at ideas and issues, because everyone shares in the experience of food. We wanted to tell the story of Aoteroa’s local food cultures because it feels like a contemporary food identity is emerging – where we are confident in our produce and where we are beginning to understand our place as a Pacific and multicultural nation.

So through talking about our food culture, and the people involved in creating local food identities, we also talk about the issues that intersect with it – from the environmental impacts in producing food through to food security and resilience. A range of chefs, producers and writers share their views and stories.

This is a cultural cookbook – recipes, essays, profiles and heaps of photos – and we hope that this format invites more people to read it and engage with our food culture and its contemporary issues.

What motivated you to reach out to your crowd?

Basically we have a cash flow problem. We are printing in New Zealand, which is expensive, so we need to make some pre-sales of the book to help pay the bill (because we need to pay this before we sell books to the bookstores). So we are asking people to order a copy of the book, which they will receive hot off the press. But we are throwing in a copy of one of our classic publications to say thank you to early supporters. And all of this just in time for Christmas!

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

We will release some behind the scenes material of the book-making, some sneak-peak content and also run a draw for some of our lovely wares. The first 60 pledgers will go in the draw to win a wee Freerange gift pack.

Anything you’d like to shout out to your crowd?

We want to thank all the early supporters for getting behind us thus far. We also want to ask people to support us – a small, independent press – to get this book to print so that we can share our local food stories with Aotearoa.

To support Freerange Press and tell Aotearoa’s food stories, pledge to their campaign page here.

Getting social; highlights from the Social Enterprise World Forum

Last week, over 1,500 people from more than 45 countries collided in the newly rebuilt heart of Christchurch for a shared purpose: to join in the conversation about social enterprise.

Akina led the bid to host the Social Enterprise World Forum in New Zealand, and (we reckon) did a pretty rad job. Over the three day event we heard from world-leading social entrepreneurs like Jan Owen, we were star struck by MC Suzy Cato and we cheered on memorable soundbites like this one from Brianne West of Ethique:

“I look forward to the day when social enterprise is no longer the minority.”

The overarching theme was “ka koroki te manu” – creating our tomorrow. This was a theme that came through many of the sessions, with speakers and delegates keeping a keen eye on how to build financially sustainable enterprises that also build a more sustainable future.

Other cool elements to the Forum: it was a “Compostable Event” (which basically means the caterers and food trucks used only completely compostable packaging and cutlery); there were 25 tours of 30 local social enterprises across Christchurch; and there was an app which featured an Facebook-esq feed plus a contact list of everyone who attended.

 

Catching up with PledgeMe community

We also bumped into a bunch of PledgeMe alumni. Here are some cool stories of what some of them have been up to since they crowdfunded:

  • Conscious Consumers ran a successful project campaign with us in 2015 to build a “Good Spend Counter”, an app that shares your values with the businesses you shop with. Since then, over 20,000 consumers and 450 retailers have signed up to the app. Conscious Consumers is currently attempting to raise $3 million to go global.
  • Cultivate Christchurch inspires young people to “live lives they value in an urban farm environment”. During the Forum, co-founder Bailey Perryman announced that Cultivate Christchurch will be launching a crowdlending campaign involving the aptly named “Broccoli Bonds” on Thursday 12 October.  
  • The Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust crowdfunded with us in 2013 to put up a wind measurement tower in Blueskin Bay. Since then, BRCT tried to gain consent for their community owned wind project, but were rejected. Manager Scott Willis shares his reflections: “It’s hard to create paradigm change, but we’ve begun the process. We’ve had a setback that has revealed the power of the status quo in New Zealand. What’s next? We’re marshalling forces because the democratisation of energy in NZ is critical if we are to build the climate solutions our world needs.”
  • Ethique is a Christchurch-based social enterprise looking to rid the world of plastic bottles by producing solid hair and beauty products. It launched its second PledgeMe campaign during the Forum, and hit headlines for crowdfunding $500k within two hours of its campaign going live.

 

What next?

Since the Social Enterprise World Forum launched in Scotland ten years ago, it has triggered unprecedented growth in social enterprise for the countries which host it. Clearly, exciting times lie ahead for New Zealand’s social enterprise movement.

Or does it? Although we left Christchurch buzzing, we recognise social enterprise doesn’t happen on its own. In fact, we wrote about the importance of spreading the impact of social enterprises in Aotearoa here. One of the easiest ways to do so is by supporting socially driven alternatives. To see who you might like to support, check out our crowdsourced list of New Zealand social enterprises.

Social enterprise: A better way to do business

It’s time to hear from a lady who lives and breathes social enterprise. Tricia Fitzgerald has studied social enterprise for years (she’s even got a PhD in it!), and currently sits as the chair of Social Enterprise Auckland (SEA), a collaborative group of social enterprises and supporters working for sustainable social change in Auckland. She discusses the social enterprise movement and how SEA is helping to support and grow the sector in New Zealand.

Tricia

 

A much debated question: what is social enterprise and why is it important?

Social enterprise is a global movement that is steadily building momentum here in Auckland. Leaders from government, not for profit and business sectors are recognizing that social enterprise offers a unique combination of social purpose and financial independence – mixing mission with market – and it provides a new option for both customers and suppliers alike. Social enterprises are hybrid organisations that trade goods and services to achieve social, environmental, economic, and cultural outcomes. They represent a different – arguably better – way of doing business because they balance the commercial side of business with social goals or missions. In my opinion, social enterprise is going to help change the world.

If you have the choice to buy from a business that is solely commercially-focused versus one that also provides social benefits, then conscious consumers are going to choose to spend their money where it will have a positive impact. Social enterprises also provide a unique alternative to traditional social service provision. Traditionally social, environmental, economic, and cultural initiatives are developed and implemented by government, and delivered in partnership with either business or charities. Government agencies now have another option and are increasingly partnering with social enterprises to develop innovative new approaches to solving tough problems. We are now seeing long-standing social issues being addressed in proactive, sustainable and responsive ways.

 

Why was Social Enterprise Auckland created?

SEA was formed in 2012 in response to a call from Auckland Council representative, Joel Umali, to advise Council on social enterprise issues. We formally launched in 2015, and held our first event, “Beyond Purpose – Making Money Count” in July 2016. These events have become our hallmark – bringing together social entrepreneurs, supporters, funders and a variety of perspectives from public, private and community sectors to inspire, encourage and act as a collective. We’re running our next event “Creating Our Tomorrow” on Friday 22nd September as an appetiser for the upcoming Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch, and some tickets are still available.

 

So what do SEA care about?

Our main aims are to help grow and normalise the social enterprise sector in Auckland through providing information, connection and a public voice to social enterprises. Overall, the vision is that social enterprise becomes just another (normal) way of doing business.
It’s brilliant to see leaders like Tricia at the heart of social enterprise in New Zealand. You can become a member of SEA (for free!) to hear more about their journey, the initiatives that they’re a part of (like their upcoming social enterprise directory), and the changes that they’re helping to create in and around Auckland.

Exporting our expertise over the ditch

We’ve been watching the proposed equity crowdfunding legislation changes in Australia for a while.

 

In 2015, off the back of our second equity crowdfunding campaign, I had over 20 meetings in three days in Australia chatting to people in the know about what was coming. I wrote about it here.

At the time, I was excited about the possibility, but also a bit concerned with the almost single minded focus on “protecting mom and pop investors”, rather than supporting companies to grow.

 

It’s taken Australia a while to get their legislation across the line. From first calls for submissions in 2014 (the same year NZ launched equity crowdfunding), they’ve now announced the date that the Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Act 2017 will come into effect on 29 September 2017. Last month, we provided feedback on over 300 pages of guidance notes, legislation, and templates provided by ASIC (as seen in the image….).

There are still some areas of concern:

  • How information is shared and what information companies should / shouldn’t provide – there are rules that say offer documents are not allowed to be emailed.
  • The need to be a public unlisted company, rather than a proprietary (private) company – this will be expensive for companies, and currently 99% of Australian companies are proprietary (not public).  
  • The sheer volume of guidance and regulation – it feels like over regulation to protect investors not support companies (which was my original concern)

 

If Australia over-regulates they might face the same fate as America, where unbelievably low amounts of capital were invested through crowdfunding platforms in the first year. After the regulation came into play in May 2016 only NZD $52million was invested in the first year in the whole United States of America. By comparison, New Zealand had NZD $12.4million invested through equity crowdfunding in the first year despite a population less than 2% the size of the USA.  Critics believe this is due to the cost for companies being so high due to over regulation.

 

But, despite being a bit concerned, we’ve decided the only way we can know if we want to enter the fray is to be there. So, we’re doing it. We’re expanding to Australia.

In order to do that, I’m moving. I’m heading over to Brisbane for six months to set up our Australian arm. We’re excited to see how things work over the ditch, and help as many people as possible. Why Brisbane?

 

Two reasons. First, we don’t want to be where everyone else will be competing. We want to set up our own niche, and grow from there with the support of our crowd. Sort of like how we did in it New Zealand, setting up in Wellington first before creating an office in Auckland. And, in a lot of ways, Brisbane is quite like Wellington. A smaller city comparatively, not the banking sector hub, but with a love of craft products (*cough* beer *cough*), a focus on local produce, an eclectic arts scene, and hipsters.

 

Secondly, we’ve been lucky to be selected for the HotDesq programme. That means we’ll have a ready set network, and some funding, to get set up.

 

In return, we need to help build and support the Brisbane ecosystem. Which is awesome, because that’s what we do here in New Zealand anyways. Part of my role is to actively educate and inspire entrepreneurs. And, we can’t wait to do that in Australia, taking all of the inspiration and experience from New Zealand and helping to create a new way of raising capital in Australia.

 

We think this move can only be good for PledgeMe in New Zealand: growing our reach, learning from Australia, and building a brand that helps people fund the things they care about. There are over 2.1million SME’s in Australia (compared to just under 500,000 here in New Zealand), so the opportunity is pretty clear. 

Our team will be taking on some of my responsibilities while I’m Australian based, but I will still be working with New Zealand campaigners from over the ditch. I mean, a Google Hangout from Wellington to Dunedin or Brisbane to Dunedin isn’t that much different, right?

 

If you have any tips, tricks, or folk we should definitely connect with, please comment below.