Queensland business owner Luke Terry was crowned the social enterprise champion of the year at the Social Enterprise Awards in Melbourne last night.
Luke Terry, a serial entrepreneur from Toowoomba, snapped up the top prize for championing social enterprise in his home state and launching Toowoomba Clubhouse – a business designed to support people who live with mental illness.
Recently Toowoomba Clubhouse has set up a hospitality program to teach mentally ill or at-risk men and women how to work at a café.
Speaking to SmartCompany this morning, Terry said the award was a great way to promote the hard work that business owners with a strong social conscious do for their local communities.
“I think what’s amazing about this [award] is that it recognises a regional community,” he says.
“There were six amazing finalists and it’s really, really special to get the recognition around mental health employment in the region. In the UK, there are 70,000 social enterprises and 35,000 of them have been developed over the past few years … We need to look at that and look at what’s happening around Australia and just run with it. I hope that people are starting to see the difference that social enterprises are starting to make.”
Terry says his advice to budding entrepreneurs looking to set up a social enterprise is to have strong social values but also match that with business acumen.
“Networks are the things that can make it work,” he says.
“If you know some business people and people passionate about the same thing as you are – especially local councils and governments – you can make things work. A bit of passion can get you a long way.”
Dr Ben Neville, a Melbourne University lecturer who teaches social entrepreneurship, told SmartCompany there seems to be a growing appetite for socially-minded business models.
“It’s the younger generation, Gen X that are coming through and Gen Y as well,” Neville says.
“They are the ones who are seemingly driving this sector.”
However, Neville says there are still a range of hurdles that those in the social enterprise space have to overcome.
“The thing you hear all over the place is there’s plenty of money available to finance social entrepreneurship, but there just aren’t enough good models that people are willing to finance,” he says.
“What tends to happen is you get people with really good intentions but they don’t necessarily have the competitive business mouth or experience to be able to really make a successful go at it.”
“So it seems like there are a lot of social enterprises that get started but they kind of flounder and go from grant to grant to keep them propped up,” Neville says.