Smart50 Community Hero Award winner: The Creative Co-Operative

Smart50 Community Hero

Priyanka Ashraf, founder of The Creative Co-Operative, set out to promote anti-racism through storytelling and entrepreneurship in a bid to “write intersectionality back into society”.

With a particular focus on women of colour, the platform strives to redistribute capital more fairly through equitable hiring and training, and by connecting women with mentors most suited to their needs.

The platform champions creative and entrepreneurial women of colour through community projects, campaigns and festivals, and has even produced a book of short stories and illustrations created exclusively by women of colour.

Founded in 2020, The Creative Co-Operative has already amplified the voices and profiles of about 200 founders and business owners from diverse backgrounds.

Funding from the Victorian University pre-accelerator got the business to the starting line. Then, from day one, The Creative Co-Operative was generating revenue, growing from a $50,000 turnover in the first month to $850,000 by month 12.

For Ashraf and her team — which is made up entirely of migrants born overseas — this is more than just a business or a job. It’s a passion project addressing very real inequities that they have all been subject to.

The founder herself did not start out on an even playing field. As a Bangladeshi woman heading up a startup, “a role model for me virtually does not exist in this country”, she says.

Ashraf sees herself as a pioneer, and she has big goals. In ten years, she wants The Creative Co-Operative to have generated $700 million in wealth for women of colour. If and when that happens, her exit plan is to sell to her employees.

It’s perhaps a simplistic plan, she admits, “but the best plans are”.

The Creative Co-Operative exists to tackle racism and improve representation of women of colour. As one of our judges noted, it is community focused “at its very core”.

“Its ongoing campaigns and programs have enormous potential to positively affect its community as it continues to grow,” the judge added.

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