Building Better Social Enterprises: Supporting Australia’s Workforce
Founder & Advisor, Shasta Stevic, and Business Development Manager, Francis Meade, share their insights on providing support for Australia’s workforce and working on their start-up social enterprise ‘Help For Workers’ in Social Traders’ Crunch.
- Where did the idea for Help for Workers come from?
Shasta: I have been working in the workplace relations sphere for nearly 10 years and have seen firsthand that there is a huge gap in services for employees who are experiencing issues at work. Community legal centres cannot meet demand due to continual funding cuts, union membership is at an all time low, and very few people can afford to engage private lawyers. Government agencies such as the Fair Work Ombudsman can provide general information about the legislation and can investigate formal complaints regarding breaches, but cannot assist employees to work through, and hopefully resolve, the issues with their employer.
- What are some of the most common issues for workers that you’re looking to help address?
Francis: We are able to help workers with a variety of issues. Some of the issues we’ve already helped workers with include bullying, sexual harassment, discrimination, unfair dismissal, non-payment and underpayment of wages, changes to hours, excessive workloads, issues with managers etc. Our aim is to provide early intervention – if we can help people before these issues become too big then we can help prevent the more serious consequences that often stem from these issues.
- What made you go looking for an accelerator program to assist you in developing your enterprise?
Francis: At the moment, Help For Workers has only one advisor (Shasta), which means we are limited in how many workers we can assist at a time. In order for Help For Workers to be able to provide meaningful assistance to many workers, we need to be able to go to scale quickly and smoothly. And to do that, we felt it was necessary to spend the time developing a model and strategic plan for this, which is why we jumped at the opportunity to participate in Social Traders’ Crunch.
- What has been the most valuable and the most challenging thing you have learned through ST Crunch so far?
Shasta: The most valuable and most challenging thing to have happened during ST Crunch has been changing our business model. The process has been challenging – the market research, validating our assumptions, designing the new structure. But the results have been phenomenally rewarding – we now have a business model that will allow us to keep the direct costs to employees low, whilst being able to greatly expand our impact. We’re very excited to start implementing these changes.
- What has been the benefit of working in a cohort with other social entrepreneurs?
Shasta: Being able to work with people going through the same process has been really beneficial. There are lots of peaks and troughs, so to be able to share those experiences with other people who are also experiencing them has softened the effects of the troughs and heighten the effects of the peaks. It’s also been so important to have people to share our ideas and frustrations and successes with.
- What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to work on their enterprise?
Shasta: It’s not an easy process but it’s also not supposed to be. Questioning every aspect of your enterprise is confronting but the results are absolutely worth it – you’ll come out the other side more confident, more motivated and more focused.
- What’s your future vision for the impact of Help For Workers?
Shasta: Our aim is to become a national organisation that provides direct assistance to employees who are experiencing difficulties at work, as well as to employers who are wanting to protect and promote the wellbeing of their staff. We want to provide innovative and world-leading solutions in the workplace relations sphere that will result in a significant reduction in the psychological, emotional and financial costs associated with workplace issues in Australia.
Help For Workers took part in Social Traders’ Crunch start-up accelerator in 2017. Applications for ST Crunch are open now until Thursday 22nd June.
Find out more about Help For Workers at: www.helpforworkers.com.au