The Top 5 Things I Learned When Launching My Social Enterprise
4 October 2017 at 8:56 am
Owner and founder of social enterprise, Dinner on the Table, Rachel Golding outlines the top five lessons she has learned since launching her life-changing business.
As a researcher in the family and disability field, I have sat with mothers of children with disabilities, so desperate for support that they had considered murder-suicide. I have watched mothers with intellectual disabilities endure the agony of having their children removed from their care after they had asked for the help. Appropriate, and timely, support is a big deal for our social services system. Lives are at stake, and it can be horrifying. I wanted to do something to make a difference for these families.
So, I created Dinner on the Table.
Dinner on the Table is a social enterprise which has become the perfect solution for busy Sydney families providing ready-to-go, home cooked meals made with high quality produce, packed with nutrition, and delivered straight to your door.
The social enterprise business operates with care, working closely with local primary schools to compost food scraps and donate meals to families made vulnerable by disability.
Here’s what I’ve learnt over the last three years in running our crazy little business:
- Follow Your Passion
Since leaving academia, I refer to myself as a “recovering academic”. I worked for years in the tertiary education sector, obtaining my PhD on women with intellectual disabilities and their families. When I started Dinner on the Table, it was the culmination of following my passion to not only help others, but to really make a tangible difference to those made vulnerable by disability in their daily lives.
A simple thing like providing a nutritious meal at the end of the day for a family in survival-mode is one small thing we can offer to make someone’s day easier. I know I’m making a huge difference whenever I step into the kitchen. I’ve just switched degrees from university to celsius.
- Do Your Research
Anyone can have a business idea, however, doing the research to ensure there is a market for your product and data to back up your claims is vital.
When I first launched Dinner on the Table, I used census data to identify the growing population shift in my area to understand the market for my products with local growing families.
When starting a social enterprise, you need to acknowledge a problem and how your business will provide a solution. Look into why it’s happening and how the problem came to be. How has it changed over time? What are other people doing to help? What are the possible ways you can help? These are just a few questions to help you attain a full grasp on why you should start your business, and acknowledge why you should continue on your path when the going gets tough.
- Measure Your Success
When seeking to make a difference, it’s vital in business to have measurable outcomes.
Passion is how I keep going on tough days but knowing my numbers is how the business stays solvent and stays profitable so that we can grow and impact more people. By understanding what success looks like to you, you can pick a few key metrics to identify how your impact is faring.
For Dinner on the Table, we use ABS’s time use data to estimate how many hours people usually spend making dinner and calculate the amount of dinner prep hours saved (by customers gifted DOTT meals), along with the number of meals donated to families. We also monitor the weight of veggie scraps donated to The Hills School kitchen garden program.
- Make a Difference
No social enterprise is created, orchestrated or developed without the aim of making a difference. Every decision you make should be getting your business closer to achieving your goal, helping more people and improving the community.
For me, the greatest reward I have, through my social enterprise, is seeing the difference I’m making to the world. The women I donate my meals to are among the most inspirational people I’ve ever met and I am lucky enough to be able to see the impact I make on their lives.
- It Takes a Family
Running a business is hard work, blood, sweat and tears. What has made it easier is creating a family and community around the brand.
My chief financial officer is one of my dearest friends, my husband (referred to in my blog as the Senior Recipe Tester) is my rock who supports me and my crazy ideas. Our children (aka the Junior Recipe Testers) are learning that gifting to people who need something more than you is how life should be lived. My team in the kitchen and in the delivery van are stellar: always willing to learn, adapt and offer their wisdom to solve problems. Support is everything and so much of what I’ve built couldn’t have been done without it.
If you’re thinking about launching your own social enterprise, it may well be the hardest thing you’ve ever done in your life, but it may also be the most exciting work you’ll ever do.
About the author: Rachel Golding founded Dinner on the Table in January 2014. She is a former postdoctoral fellow, researching family and disability. In 2017, Golding won the Women’s Business School Award at the 2017 AusMumpreneur Awards in Sydney.