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Mill House Stories

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The GRIST program is designed to support small to medium social enterprises either in early start-up phase or currently trading. Their mission must be to create positive social change.

The 3-month intensive incubation process is designed to maximise the potential of social entrepreneurial impact through facilitated market testing, industry specific and professionally led masterclasses, workshops and mentoring.

Ultimately participants receive the tools and support they need to make their ideas a reality. These are their stories.

 
  The Horse Rug Whisperer

Roz Pengilly, owner of The Horse Rug Whisperer and a Mill House GRIST graduate, has taken her passion for all things equine and developed a social enterprise to support teens. The program, Thrive, gives them an environment to realise their potential and the support to develop pathways to live a successful life.

I caught up with Roz recently to find out more about the Thrive Program.

Q: How long has Thrive been operating and how many kids have been through the program?

Roz: We began the program formally in 2021, but informally it’s been running longer. We’ve had eight kids work with us so far, all between the ages of 15 and 18 years. Typically, they’re from the local area, but some are from ACT.

The teenagers we take into the program might not be a good fit with the style of learning offered in the school system, have health issues so they missed a lot of school, or some from health issues like anxiety.

Q: What do you offer them?

Roz: Essentially, we provide them with paid work around the farm and in the store, teaching them both life and business skills. We help them get the training they need to secure a career. Not all want to work in the equine industry. We also help them get a driver’s license, first aid certificate and importantly, give them a safe and encouraging environment to gain confidence in their own abilities.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

We want to buy more land so we can help more kids, provide short- and long-term accommodation when it’s needed and get more staff to provide counselling services and so on. We don’t get any funding or donations at this stage so everything is funded out of the business.

Q: What was the best thing about doing the GRIST Program?

Roz: There is so much information provided, it’s like taking a drink from a fire hydrant! It provided me with the skills I need to move the business forward to help more young people realise their potential.

  Six8 Coffee

Daniel and Toni Neuhaus began Six8 Coffee as a social enterprise to help create a sustainable impact on the child trafficking and sex trade. The coffee they purchase and their supply chain reflects their social justice mission.

They give $1, from every kg of coffee and 10 cents from every cup to organisations that actively work to fight human trafficking and modern slavery. I spoke with Daniel recently and this is their story.

Q: What motivated you to start Six8 coffee

Daniel: We were travelling in Brazil and lived in a large favela that has a few coffee trees. I hadn’t seen a coffee tree before or given the source of coffee much thought so I picked some of the beans and tried to roast them – very unsuccessfully.

We then went to Thailand and Cambodia. The scope of poverty, human trafficking and child sex trade was shocking and we both wanted to do something to help, but without money we were unsure how to start. In Thailand we worked with the Tamar Centre, a NFP that offers hope, healing, and a new life to the young bar girls of Pattaya. Then in Cambodia with the Cambodian Slum Ministry.

The experience left us with a strong desire to help in a way that would be sustainable over the long term.

We then spent some time in Vanuatu and came across two social enterprises that were growing coffee and this gave us the idea that business could be used as a force for good.

Q: Six8 Coffee is an unusual name. How did you arrive at that?

Daniel: The name comes from a verse in the bible, Micah 6:8 – Act justly, Love mercy. Walk humbly.

Q: Where do you source your beans?

Daniel: We don’t have the scale to directly import beans, so we use like-minded Australian suppliers. The coffee comes mainly from Columbia and Ethiopia. It is ethically sourced; the farmers receive a fair price and are provided with investment to support ongoing development of farming practices to ensure long-term sustainability.

Q: Which charities do you support?

Daniel: Both the Tamar Centre in Thailand the Cambodian Slum Ministry given our past association, and also Destiny Australia. They are a global charity that works to rescue children from sexual exploitation and trafficking. So far that have liberated more 8,000 girls.

Q: What are your plans for the future?

Daniel: We hoping to ramp up our wholesale business and encourage other like-minded cafes to buy our coffee so we can help more children. It costs $1500 to rescue and support a child that has been involved in sexual slavery. The average medium sized café goes through about 1500kg of coffee a year. So, ten more cafes means ten more rescued children. So far, we have a number of local cafes on board. Most of our trade is through locals and tourists passing through Yass.

Q: What was the most important thing you got out of the GRIST program?

We got so much. I suppose the most important thing was learning to focus on what we wanted to achieve and put the right language around those things. This enabled us to articulate our purpose in a clean and simple way.

  Right to Work

Right to Work is a unique program for young adults with autism and intellectual disabilities in Goulburn. They offer a holistic program that integrates volunteer hands-on skill learning in local business settings with a personalised learning plan that takes into account individual support needs. The end game is to build independence, supporting individual employment goals that can ultimately lead to paid employment.

The program was developed by Clare Jones and Carolyn Roche, both passionate advocates for people with autism and intellectual disability, with a lifetime of experience in the sector. I met with them to discuss the program in more detail.

Q: How long has the program been operating and how do young people become involved?

C&C: We began about 18 months ago and have helped 17 young adults thus far.

The local Crescent School for people with intellectually disability is a strong advocate and word-of-mouth in the community is good. Families that join the program are supported through the NDIS. We also rely on local businesses though in-kind support.

Q: Why is Right to Work proving to be so successful?

C&C: There is a shortage of allied health services in rural areas. We work in a trans-disciplinary way, taking into account all of the person’s sensory, physical and learning support needs and create a complete personalised program for them. As part of our approach, we find out what a person wants to do, then see how their skill set can be developed to match their goals.

Q: How do you get them job ready?

C&C: For example, if someone wants to work in retail, we find a local retailer happy to provide the opportunity for practical training. This might be dusting shelves or tidying clothing racks. Every person in the program is assigned a support worker who is with them coaching and supporting them while they are in job training so the employer does not need to take staff out of their regular duties. They might spend two hours several days a week learning particular tasks.

Since starting in 2021 we have over 20 local businesses supporting the program.

Training in the workplace is very effective, the end game is to build independence through an individualised learning plan that can ultimately lead to paid employment.

Q: What does the future look like?

C&C: We want to create a sustainable future for these young adults so the plan is to build a community space where they can continue to learn, and from which they can run their own microbusiness if that’s what they choose. For example, if someone wants to work as a gardener or run a delivery business, we can help them achieve those goals through hands on support. The community space will be somewhere where they can get the help they need with invoicing, banking and so on.

The space itself will be run as a community model. We have already found the site through the Uniting Church and with community help we can do the renovations required.

The location is also highly visible which will help us achieve a major goal; that is to change community expectations about what is possible for young people with disability.

Q: How important was doing the Mill House GRIST program?

C&C: It really helped us focus on our mission and showed us how to engage the local community to facilitate volunteer work placements. By working with the community, we can change expectations of what young people with disability can do. We’ve also built a great network of business support through the GRIST program.

  The Easy Read Toolbox

Q: How did the idea come about?

Karen: Karen Hedley launched a social enterprise, Next Level Inclusion in 2021: a communication and accessibility service for disability service providers. The demand was so great she recognised the need to create an online toolbox to provide greater access to communication resources and support. So, the idea for the Easy Read Toolbox was born.

Q: Where are you up to in the idea’s development?

Karen: I started in 2021 but more funding is needed but I’m on the way through a number of successful grant applications.

Q: How does The Easy Read Toolbox work?

Karen: Ultimately the toolbox will be an online subscription-based resource that anyone can access to ensure people with disability are part of an inclusive society. It will include videos, work sheets, images, (info about images) a variety of resources and templates. Essentially every part of easy read is about the text.

I also plan to establish Groups for subscribers so they can keep learning, support and network with each other. I have a feedback group of people with disability that can advise what works and what can be improved.

Q: How much traction have you got?

Karen: Next level Inclusion are customers already so the business case is proven. There has been a lot of interest within the local disability community and disability networks. Word of mouth has been great and I’m involved with a number of online national disability networks.

Q: Why are you so passionate about rights for people with disabilities?

Karen: I’ve always been passionate about equality. I have a disability and three children with autism. Over the past ten to fifteen years particularly I’ve been a real advocate for human rights, equality and accessibility for everyone.

Q: What was the most important thing you got out of the GRIST program?

So many things - the networks in particular. I’ve had so much support in the areas of legal and financial advice. GRIST helped me get my idea straight. It was a wonderful experience.

 

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