Successful ‘SEED’ Funding
24 October 2013 at 8:34 am
A Not for Profit organisation that works with long term unemployed people has received a Westpac Foundation Grant and today discusses how the funding allows the enterprise to continue to grow and provide invaluable services to the community.
|Russell James (SEEDS Parks and Property Maintenance), Andy Roberts (Westpac's David Institute) and Steve Williams (SEEDS Parks and Property Maintenance).|
Andy Roberts, Business Facilitator at Westpac’s Davidson Institute spoke with Steve Williams, the Manager of the Not for Profit social enterprise, SEEDS Parks and Property Maintenance, about the organisation’s continuing success.
AR: Tell us about the original concept for SEED and how it became established.
SW: The Sandgate Enterprise for Economic Development Parks and Property Maintenance ( SEED PPM) is a social enterprise program of SANDBAG Inc. It exists to employ long term unemployed people facing social exclusion, for example, people with mental illness, disabilities, Indigenous Australians, refugees.
SEED provides Landscape Maintenance and Commercial Cleaning services to a range of customers including Brisbane City Council, the ULDA, and Goodstart Childcare.
SEED PPM began operating in October 2009 with a council contract worth $52,000 per annum to mow three parks and look after the main street of Sandgate. This was part of the Suburban Centre Improvement Program. Funding was provided by the Queensland State Government Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) through the Community Jobs Plan to train staff. SEED’s original team consisted of a supervisor and four casual staff all of whom had been long term unemployed.
SEED has had excellent growth in sales in the first three years of operation and aims to be self reliant via income from sales by end 2015.
AR: Being a Not for Profit organisation, how are you structured in terms of management and operations?
SW: SANDBAG is an incorporated association and as such is run by a board of highly skilled and committed local people. SEED is advised by a steering group which in turn reports to the board.
As SEED’s manager, I have the authority to make any day-to-day business related decisions, but with the benefit of being able to seek advice if needed from the steering group.
We currently employ 12 people who are out physically doing the work of landscape maintenance and commercial cleaning.
AR: How does SEED contribute to the community?
SW: SEED creates valuable social impact by giving supportive employment to people who have been doing it tough. Social Ventures Australia (SVA) completed a Social Return on Investment study on SEED in 2011 which found that for every $1 invested $2.45 is created in social value through things such as less government spending on welfare, health services, and an increased income tax base.
AR: You've experienced considerable growth since the program was established in 2009. What were the main challenges in managing this growth and how did you survive?
SW: As a start up we struggled with understanding cashflow. Like many social enterprise’s income was limited and not easy to source, but there were also many competing priorities on which to use this income. It was a big learning curve for many, whether in operations or on the steering group, to manage the cashflow as we grew.
We found that life became easier as we developed policies and procedures. Had they been in place earlier we would have been a more efficient operation which in turn would have assisted in managing the cash flow.
We also struggled to have a stable and effective workforce to cover the work that was coming in.
AR: You recently attended the Davidson Institute’s Financial Management 101 short course. What were the key learnings you took from this course?
SW: The key learnings I had from FM101 was that cashflow is king. And that if you don’t understand your finances, it is OK to ask for help – there are people out there that are ready and willing to offer advice.
I’m in the process of implementing changes to SEED’s financial management as a result of the course, and have established a relationship with an accountant from PwC who is assisting in this process.
The course helped me to recognise where improvements could be made and gave me the impetus and confidence to implement those changes.”
AR: You were successful in obtaining the Seed Funding Grant from the Westpac Foundation. How will this assist the organisation?
SW: The funding from Westpac is helping us propel towards financial self sustainability. We are using the funds to pay for a portion of management team wages, purchase a new vehicle, and buy some job tracking software to ensure we are measuring and monitoring our performance.
To find out more about SEED or more about social procurement, email email@example.com
For more information about the Westpac Foundation and a full list of grant opportunities and eligibility criteria, visit www.westpac.com.au/westpacfoundation.
The Davidson Institute is Australia's First School of Money, backed by Westpac Banking Corporation. It provides an extensive range of financial education, from free seminars to facilitated sessions on Cash Flow to Superannuation, and accredited courses in finance.