Earlier this year, food distribution enterprise Food Connect called on its community of supporters to help raise $2 million in funds to purchase the warehouse it had been operating out of for the previous decade.

Having now surpassed its crowdfunding target thanks to donations from 570 new co-owners in the property, Food Connect director Ms Emma Kate Rose says her role as one of four inaugural Social Entrepreneurs in Residence (SEIRs) working out of Griffith Business School’s Yunus Social Business Centre “helped enormously” in the enterprise reaching its goal.

“I had three other colleagues in there with me; they not only supported me in general but they used their networks for our campaign to promote it, so that was a huge benefit,” Ms Rose said.

Emma-Kate Rose and Alex Hannant speak at the GBS Gala Dinner.

“And also being able to have a platform at the Griffith Business School’s Gala Dinner, and being able to speak to a room full of 500 Business alumni, was really beneficial for the campaign as well.”

With the aid of the Yunus centre and the Griffith Business School alumni and industry networks, Food Connect was able to raise the necessary funds — via crowdfunding platform PledgeMe, co-founded by fellow SEIR Ms Anna Guenther — to purchase their long-rented warehouse, where, over the past six years, Food Connect has installed a commercial kitchen and managed the tenancies of multiple ethical food entrepreneurs.

Ms Rose said that having the opportunity to work with her fellow SEIRs — Ms Guenther, Mr Tony Sharp (Substation33) and Mr Tom Allen (Impact Boom) — has been immensely beneficial, and praised the Yunus centre as a “fantastic initiative”.

“I just feel really supported and encouraged in the work that I’m doing on the ground for social change, and particularly having the Policy Innovation Hub backing it as well has been an enormous help,” Ms Rose said.

“You can’t buy that sort of support.”

Food Connect was founded in 2004 by Robert Pekin, and has since grown to encompass an eponymous foundation (launched in 2009) and the newly established Food Connect Shed.

With the warehouse now secured, the enterprise will look towards ways to refurbish its operating space through improvements such as commercial food processing facilities and co-working space to better connect the community to urban food makers, local farmers, market gardeners and each other.

Yunus Social Business Centre director Mr Alex Hannant congratulated Ms Rose and Food Connect on their successful campaign, and said the result was reflective of the real impacts Griffith Business School is capable of producing in the community.

“It’s been so rewarding to see our Social Entrepreneurs in Residence rally around Emma-Kate and Food Connect to help them realise their goal of owning their long-term warehouse,” Mr Hannant said.

“This result is testament to not only the social and economic value of bringing together great entrepreneurial minds as we have done in the SEIR program, but Food Connect’s deep ties to the community and the clear regard in which it’s held by the people it helps the most.”

“We look forward to working with Emma-Kate and Anna to create a case study covering the whole process. Their learning and insights will be invaluable to other social enterprises seeking to use crowdfunding to raise capital, and help us better understand the potential of this new model of financing.”

Find out more about the Yunus Social Business Centre here.

See Food Connect’s website for more information on its mission and vision.