The secrets to a successful social enterprise

| Tuesday February 4

Small Biz Matters – a half hour program each week where you can work ON your business rather than IN it.
with Alexi Boyd, broadcaster, advocate and small business owner.
Date: 4 February 2020

There aren’t too many of us who, in our early 30’s could’ve said we had founded a successful, world renowned social enterprise, travelled to a third world country multiple times & been inspired in business, had billionaire mentors, and then had it all crashing down around us, only to pick ourselves up & spoken publicly all over the world about that journey.

But Adam Long certainly can. He’s earned the title as the Ethical CEO through all these challenges.

A powerhouse of the social enterprise world. Adam Long is cofounder of Conscious Step: Socks That Fight Poverty, the founding CEO of Smarter Drafter, and as The Ethical CEO finds revenue for businesses that matter, such as Humanitix - a name synonymous with doing good in the events world. He’s going to share with us his journey - and it is not always warm and fuzzies smooth sailing in the not for profit sector.

Welcome to the show Adam.

Topics we’ll be covering:

Adam’s Experience

  • Industrial design student pushing back against the structured education at uni & arguing that the resolution to the problems they posed wasn’t a “thing” but changes in policy, social constraints are the solution.
  • The Boxing Day Tsunami triggered many years of depression. To cope with the depression, Adam started volunteering with Rotary and then Engineers Without Borders in the Philippines.
  • You met Jacobia, a little girl in the village in which Adam was volunteering, who wasn’t in school. Her story showed you that small things can make a big difference.
  • Adam’s first attempt to change the world was a sustainable 3D-printing business called BeeHive, founded with investment from Small Giants, the family office of Daniel Almagor (who founded Engineers Without Borders). Adam discovered that he didn’t have the skills to run a business – and it ran out of money in under 12 months. Adam had to let go two people on Xmas eve, the negativity around the feeling of losing your own and someone else’s money was awful. We are lucky for the support network in Australia (i.e. Centrelink), which gives us a chance to fail – and try again.

So what is impact investing?

  • Looking for “shareholder value” that actually matches to values, rather than just a financial return. Business is the vehicle for social change.
  • What’s the difference between social enterprise & NFP?
    • Self sufficiency vs dependency on donations
    • Examples – Conscious Step & Humanitix
    • Journey of Conscious Step – idea, testing, from Glebe markets in Sydney to being worn by Matt Damon, Al Gore and Jane Goodall.

Learning from Adam

  • How can you be sure the self-sustaining model of your social enterprise is working?
    • The business model matters – the social impact has to be inherent in the operations of the business, not something that happens only when the organisation makes a profit. Profit can be “made to disappear”, so social impact must be made an operating cost. For example, Conscious Step donates to charities for every pair of socks made (not sold – it’s up to Conscious Step to recover the funds).
  • What are some of the mistakes you made along the way that made you stray from your path?
    • Knowing what skills you’re lacking and who to engage with others to help, teach or be that person – for Adam it was marketing and learned lots of different businesses and different models

So you want to start a social enterprise? Start Up Top Tips

  • A social enterprise is no different to running any other business. People won’t buy your product just because it’s ethical. It needs to be the same quality, or better, and it needs to be the same price, or better. It’s why Humanitix is succeeding.
  • Address root causes. You don’t want a business that is dependent on the problem staying a problem, or oppressed people staying oppressed.
  • Make outrageous asks everyday – that’s how Humanitix partnered with Canva and Atlassian.

Adam continues to work with businesses that matter on their strategy and marketing.

To find out more go to his website:

And if you want to use his staff discount to buy socks from Conscious Step, use the code “ADAMSENTME”.