Griffith Business School Social Entrepreneur in Residence and Food Connect director Emma-Kate Rose is spearheading an equity crowdfunding campaign to purchase what will be the city’s first local food hub.
Known as the Food Connect Shed, the hub will fully occupy the warehouse that Food Connect has been partially renting for more than a decade.
The Shed’s PledgeMe campaign affords locals – and “anyone passionate” about the company’s plans – the chance to invest through equity crowdfunding and own shares in the company.
Should Food Connect Shed reach its goal of $2 million, it will own the property and allow Emma-Kate and her partner (and Food Connect founder) Robert Pekin to continue creating positive social and environmental change in the community.
Robert, who founded the company in 2004, describes Food Connect as “a dynamic multi-farmer food distribution enterprise with an innovative community-based distribution system”.
Food Connect’s operations have since expanded to include an eponymous foundation, launched in 2009 to increase the scope of the fair food movement internationally and across Australia.
“We have always been driven by our community,” Emma-Kate said.
“It’s only natural that the warehouse be owned by our community too!”
Purchasing the warehouse is just the start of their plans; should they move beyond their initial goal, the next step will see the new company – operating as Food Connect Shed Ltd – refurbish the space out of which it will be operating.
“If we’re successful, we intend for the first $2 million raised to go towards buying the building, and any further funds up to $4 million to go towards retrofitting the warehouse,” Emma-Kate said.
“The new company intends to derive income from renting space to tenants, including our original company as the anchor tenant.”
If the campaign raises more than $2.5 million, Food Connect is also planning to acquire the commercial kitchen and its equipment currently within the building.
“A retrofitted building would aim to provide expanded commercial food processing facilities, retail shopfronts, co-working space as well as an event space to hire,” Emma-Kate said.
“Our ultimate goal is that the surrounding community and visitors experience a place that connects them to urban food makers, local farmers, market gardeners and each other.”
Launched in June this year, the Griffith Social Entrepreneurs in Residence program sees Emma-Kate join peers Mr Tom Allen, Ms Anna Guenther and Mr Tony Sharp in leading the pilot six-month program under the guidance of Yunus Social Business Centre director Mr Alex Hannant.
“The small team at the Yunus Centre have been incredibly supportive and Alex is a brilliant leader,” Emma-Kate said of her involvement in the program.
“My three co-conspirators are amazing human beings and I feel incredibly humbled to be in their company.”
Emma-Kate and Food Connect’s relationship with Griffith runs deeper than just through the Social Entrepreneurs in Residence program, however; in fact, a group of Griffith Film School graduates created a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Food Connect’s campaign video.
Alex says the involvement of the Film School is key to achieving the Yunus Centre’s aims of involving the entirety of the University in its plans for the program, which is set to run annually.
“Tapping into the creative energy possessed by Griffith’s talented film students is just one way for us to ensure that all of Griffith is connected with, and making a positive contribution to, Queensland’s fast-growing social enterprise sector,” he said.
For more information about Food Connect’s equity crowdfunding campaign, see its PledgeMe page.
See the Yunus Centre’s website for further details about its scope and the Social Entrepreneurs in Residence program.