In this episode of Executive with a Cause, host Tammy Ven Dange chats with Cindy Reese Mitchell, the founding Chief Executive Officer and currently the Chief Impact Officer of Mill House Ventures.
Matchmaking and social impact probably aren’t two themes you expect in the same sentence. But in today’s episode, Cindy explains how some of her many roles include being an identifier, capability builder and connector for social enterprises.
Social enterprise is a relatively new term. Cindy’s key objective is assisting organisations in achieving commercial viability with community impact. Furthermore, many aren’t even aware operating for profit doesn’t preclude an organisation from identifying as a social enterprise!
Cindy also takes us through her fascinating PhD work on developing Indigenous female entrepreneurship in the Kimberley region. Supporting this discussion, she finishes with how social entrepreneurs should operate in short-term operating models rather than long-term ‘prop up’ engagements to achieve meaningful solutions.
IT in Plain English
Everyone wants to maximise their ‘value for money’ when it comes to IT solutions. And in today’s episode, Tammy shares some simple tips to enhance your organisation’s cyber-security without breaking the budget.
Topics from this episode:
- 0.00 | Intro
- 1.34 | Origins of the Mill House
- 5.10 | Defining social enterprises
- 12.22 | Growth with resource constraints
- 15.50 | Success stories
- 20.24 | Measuring success for the Mill House
- 24.00 | Finding a sustainable business model
- 26.00 | Asset-backed models
- 30.21 | Resources to build a social enterprise
- 34.10 | Nuts and bolts to starting an enterprise
- 38.40 | Changes after COVID
- 41.24 | Indigenous social impact
- 49.20 | Common themes for impactful social enterprises
- 52.50 | Resources for being a better executive
- 56.15 | IT in Plain English
Quotes from Cindy Reese Mitchell in this episode:
“What is the point of having a building if you haven’t got a community? If you haven’t actually brought together people who are of a similar sort of purpose? And that was really the starting point of what would become the Mill House Ventures”
“Social enterprises are businesses. They are entities that trade in a product or service. But the purpose of that business is to generate tangible, measurable, social, cultural, economic or environmental impact”
“How can we bring together a community of profit for purpose entrepreneurs, those who are interested in supporting them, those who are interested in working with them or investing in them? And that community is what became the mission of Mill House”
“People don’t always want to be helped in the way you want to help them. Just because you come up with this idea of how you want to support people, or improve the environment, doesn’t mean they’re valid. There’s actually a validation process that has to go on as well”
“A social enterprise can be a for-profit, a company limited with shares. It can also be a Not for Profit. It could also be a Not for Profit charity”
“My mission is to transform the nature of capitalism. To have CEOs of Fortune 500 companies discussing impact, that’s further than they were twenty or thirty years ago”
“The secret sauce, was basically how can I infect as many people in the community as possible with this understanding and appreciation for social entrepreneurship”
“What we looked at was, what was the unique value proposition here? What actually was happening? And we talked about how many of these kids, through their experience in Kulture Break, were looking at careers in the creative sector…they were creating a raft of pathways for young people that they wouldn’t have otherwise had, and we went ‘that’s actually a business’”
“The ability to evaluate the difference that you make, that’s the key difference in terms of what we do in the social enterprise sector”
“That was critical to have one of the Canberra region’s most important social impact investors recognising our role as a capability builder”
“It’s always about complementarity. In social enterprise you are always doing one of two things. You are trying to sustain impact, and work with real people. So the way you sustain impact at the beginning may not be the way you do it at the end. And you’re also trying to run a business…and some of the best social enterprises actually have two founders. So you have two people, because it can be really hard to have one person to do both of those things. If you have two people of equal stature, and one’s really focused on the business and how they’ll make money. And the other is focused on people, and what that impact narrative is”
“Many people are looking to the Global South, and realising maybe there’s something we can learn here. And that’s the genesis for this project happening in the Kimberleys. There’s a philanthropist, a social impact intermediary and I’m part of the team as the embedded researcher. What this journey has been for me is really looking at Indigenous economic development”
“This project has been amazing in terms of the insights. In terms of how Indigenous Australians have always ventured, and yet we came in, and dispossessed them of their languages and how they ventured and their connections to country…there’s a whole range of things that have challenged them for how to get their heads around how businesses work now. So if you’re going to go into communities and say microbusiness is a way to get out of poverty and close the gap, you’ve got to understand how they do it. You can’t just impose your idea of what business is”
“When I talk to social entrepreneurs, we talk about what we do as being transitory. Two to five-year business models, because we don’t want to invest long-term in this problem. We want to solve the problem. We want to change the narrative, we want to look at how we may adapt an organisation to address a new challenge”
Links & Resources
- Learn more about the Mill House Ventures
- Read about one of Cindy’s ‘success stories’: Kulture Break
- Hear about Cindy’s achievement as the 2020 ACT Woman of the Year
- Connect with Cindy on Linkedin
- Read this Canberra Weekly article for some of Cindy’s favourite things
Thanks to our Producer, Nick Whatman, and the entire team at Lonsdale St. Studio. Thanks also to our Digital Content Creator, Laura Kleinrahm.