Putting Social Enterprise on Paper!
Wednesday, 5th November 2014 at 9:41 am
The effervescent young founder of a new social enterprise stationery label left the corporate world in search of greater purpose. Last week, with the launch of her new brand, she officially found it, writes Nadia Boyce in this week’s Spotlight on Social Enterprise.
Last week's launch party at Donkey Wheel House
It has been a long road for Cassie Dewar, 25, to get Inspirationery to market – and even to just get the confidence to try.
Dewar first had her idea four years ago, before moving into the corporate world to pursue a career in public relations. It was disillusionment with that world that set her on the path towards seriously developing Inspirationery, culminating in a move out of the corporate world two years ago to focus on building a workable business model.
Challenges abound for the young female entrepreneur, with the first hurdle to meet the tipping point for production on crowdfunding platform Pozible, something the quietly confident Dewar says is looking highly likely.
Success will see the enthusiastic and bubbly Dewar attempting to establish a solid customer base and a permanency in the market to enable her to donate 50 per cent of profits from the sale of notebooks, cards and prints to empowering women and girls in developing countries.
A Social Path
Speaking with Dewar about her story, one gets the sense her move into social enterprise was always likely – it not inevitable.
“I started in corporate, and basically I went straight from university into public relations,” she says. “I was working some crazy hours, and got a taste of CSR, but what I couldn't understand is this idea of doing CSR as an add-on-purely to increase sales.
“I was a bit frustrated by the opinions of others thinking that it was purely about profits and money-making. I had a fairly idealistic view of the world when I came out of uni.”
“I came home from work one day and sat down with my journals and started writing on everything that frustrated me, and I realised when I was sitting there that I always turned to stationery!”
Dewar again turned to stationery and acted on her frustrations by seeking a new career path in the social sector.
“I realised that [social enterprise] was what I wanted – that’s what I had been creating. I moved into the Not for Profit space and started learning as much as I could about social enterprise and building my business model.
“I felt like I had found my tribe of people – people that thought like me and wanted to make a change. It was such an exciting moment.”
Dewar has taken care to establish an identity within the sector and use networking to her advantage, she says.
“The thing that I realised through this whole whole process of networking is that a lot of the time we approach networking with an agenda, and don’t really spend the time trying to get to know someone on a personal or individual level,” she says.
“Whenever I go to events I try and build a connection or a relationship with someone based on who they are as a person. Because I think that we have in common is that we’re all on the same wavelength, and in building my team, I want people around me who believe in the things that I believe in. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
“If you can start a conversation with someone about why you're passionate about something and what your goals are, instantly you build a proper relationship thats not transactional, and I think that’s when you really create value.
Dewar met her pro bono graphic designer through networking. Dewar chuckles as she recounts reassuring her designer she wouldn’t be judged for walking away because “we’ve all got to eat!” The designer stayed.
Dewar will be drawing on the networks she has created as she seeks to get her crowdfunding campaign over the line in the coming days.
“We really wanted to use the community to help us get the idea off the ground. $20,000 is what we’re hoping to raise is in pre-orders, and that will allow us to get the minimum print run. In order for us to compete in the market and provide something high quality that’s price competitive, we needed to order in bulk.
“We’re pretty confident that we’ll reach our target. We’ve had quite a bit of interest from corporates.
“If we don’t reach our target, we will probably go ahead with it anyway, but it’s a lot of financial risk for me. I would need to take out a business loan, and I would be sitting on products. You have to pay for things like the warehousing of the products and distribution, even in this day and age when doing it online cuts out the middle man.”
A Girl’s World
With an entirely female team, Dewar’s brand will leverage the power of women to assist other females a world away. It is an issue that has particular resonance with the young entrepreneur.
“In terms of helping women and girls, even in Australia we come up against gender bias in the workplace, and the realisation that women in the third world don't even have access to healthcare, or clean water, or education is horrifying,” Dewar says.
“I think I realised when I got into the workplace and was coming up against challenges of my own, coming home and knowing I had the privilege of choice – that I could leave my job and find another job – that really hit home for me. The realisation that had the situation been different, maybe I would be stuck in it.
“I thought a lot about that and I really believe that we need to be focusing our efforts on women and girls as a solution to the world’s problems. The latest UN development report indicates that investing in women and girls is basically the closest thing to a silver bullet in addressing the worlds poverty.
“My whole team is under the age of 30, all females. It wasn’t an intentional thing, but I definitely think we’re very mindful of the opportunities we’ve had, the privileges we’ve had, and the girls I work with are phenomenal.”
As an entrepreneur in Australia, Dewar has faced stumbling blocks of her own.
“I definitely have found that being a young female social entrepreneur is as far away from the status quo as you can get! It has been a little bit difficult to try and get people to take me seriously and to build credibility,” she says.
“I think we really need to be showing people, especially through the media, that there are strong women out there doing great things. And showing young girls alternative role models to what we see in gossip mags.
“Most of the time the media will cover men who are doing great things but I haven’t seen many examples of women being covered. I really think we should band together to get the word out about women in social enterprise.”
There are few things Dewar says she would change about her career to this point. She considers herself lucky, she says, that she was able to realise that life is so much more than high-powered careers and money-making.
With the benefit of hindsight, she says she would have launched much earlier had she had the confidence and conviction she does now.
“I don’t come from an international development background and I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I think that’s what has inspired me with Inspirationery – it’s that you don’t need to know everything, and you don’t need to be the person that’s going to change the world and be the leader, but you do have the responsibility to do something.
“The reason it took me so long was that I didn't have the courage,” she says. “And to be honest, I didn’t think I was the person to bring the idea to life.
“I thought there were people out there more qualified, with far more expertise than me. I thought, who am I to do it? I am just a 25 year old girl with a dream.
“For a very long time I sat on that, thinking nobody would take me seriously. So my biggest barrier was myself and this idea that I had no idea how it would be received.
“Then one day I just decided to do it. I thought, I don’t want to look back on my life and regret not trying. As soon as I made that decision, all the doors opened. I met all team within two weeks of deciding. It just went from there,” Dewar says.
“I want to inspire other people to make that change and to chase their passions, and not just feel that they have to follow the status quo and the idea that if you get good grades, go to uni, climb the corporate ladder – that then, you’ll be happy.”
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