Social Enterprise Through the Eyes of Elephant Pepper
8 October 2009 at 2:00 pm
The Social Enterprise World Forum in Melbourne has been told that a successful social enterprise needs a competitive product at the right time and at the right place.
That’s the experience of former IT consultant Michael Gravina who set up the highly successful Elephant Pepper enterprise in Mozambique.
As part of the SEWF Enterprising Leaders Forum, Australian-born Gravina, told how he co-founded the Elephant Pepper Development Trust, an African NGO that produces the Elephant Pepper brands of chilli products grown by small-scale farmers.
Gravina explained that elephants had been notoriously feeding off and destroying small farming crops and in some cases killing farmers in Mozambique and farmers were encouraged to grow ancillary crops to keep the elephants away such as chilli.
However the realisation came that the extra burden on the farmers to grow a crop just to keep elephants away, led to the social enterprise in which a deal was done to sell the chili mash to an American company which produced Tabasco.
Gravina says the initiative has worked under a shared vision of wildlife preservation, fighting poverty and sustainable economic development by finding a competitive product at the right time.
He told the Forum that it is easy to get a product into the competitive market very quickly, but the problems start when everyone one wants their piece of the revenue from the manufacturer through to the supermarket outlet.
Gravina says entrepreneurs can use their social mission to get a meeting with the big corporation, but they must have a competitive product to succeed. In dealing with the corporates he quickly realised he needed to be more professional and diligent.
In dealing with the farmers he says the enterprise needed to realise that the community wanted an opportunity that was respectful and that his enterprise must provide support for these people and be good for them.
To find out more about Elephant Pepper go to: www.elephantpepper.org
The Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) is co-hosted by Social Ventures Australia (SVA) and Social Traders and aims to support the emerging Australian social enterprise movement, showcase successful enterprises and raise the profile of the sector in the region and around the world.
Pro Bono Australia is proud to be a partner of the Social Enterprise World Forum.