The social venture for the 2008 internship was Mozzo, a fast-growing fair trade and organic coffee business based in Southampton. Sarah Dodds was actively working with Mozzo’s management at the time of her death in June 2008, and strongly believed that capacity-building input could help the management team and the business achieve impressive growth. Management will require input on growth and marketing strategy, business strategy, and assisting the business to attract investment capital. www.mozzo.co.uk
The second intake was for three interns in different companies. Unpackaged, Blue Ventures and SDEA
SDEA first placement: Mozzo Coffee and Mike Quinn, 2008
In October 2008 I was selected as the first intern for the Sarah Dodds Enterprise Accelerator (SDEA). I met Sarah briefly when she presented to my MBA Social Entrepreneurship class at Oxford’s Said Business School, and she left a very powerful impression on me. Sarah also shared my hometown (Calgary, Canada), and I was truly honoured to be tasked with carrying on her good name.
I was partnered with Mozzo Coffee; my primary objective was to get the social enterprise “investment ready.” Over the course of three months, I worked closely with the management team to strengthen their business strategy, clarify their social and environmental purpose, and improve their teamwork. I was mentored by the UnLtd Ventures team to develop financial scenarios aimed at helping Mozzo navigate its way through a deteriorating economic climate. When I left, Mozzo had an investment offer on the table and were in a stronger position to achieve their mission.
Takeaways and next steps for Mike
The experiences and lessons I gained in this internship directly helped me launch a new social venture, called African Enterprise Partners (http://www.africanenterprisepartners.com/), that makes social investment work in Africa. Through the SDEA, I gained direct experience building a high-potential social enterprise start-up, and learned what social investors look for when assessing prospective investment opportunities. I also developed a high-powered network in the social investment and social enterprise communities which I continue to use as advisors and mentors.
Overall, this was the best possible experience I could have imagined transitioning out of an MBA programme and into my own entrepreneurial venture. I would highly recommend applying!
April 19, 2009
SDEA second placements: SDEA and Meredith Benton
The first time I heard about Sarah Dodds, I was inspired and encouraged by her story and her accomplishments; by her fearless pursuit of social justice and sustainable change.
My summer at the Sarah Dodds Enterprise Accelerator (SDEA) enabled me to participate in a range of innovative, ground changing initiatives focused on creative social finance. I began the summer visioning different ways to structure SDEA’s programs, considering the multiple ways forward for this fledging, but essential, fund. I sought to determine how SDEA, with its constrained resources, might best provide MBA students with direct access to early stage social enterprises. A portion of my time was also dedicated to developing a crowdfunding solicitation for Transition Town Totnes (TTT), a community group seeking to increase their town’s resilience to climate change and peak oil. This project, tapping into TTT’s strong and active community base, will provide the resources for it to hire on a full time staff member.
This summer also saw the beginning of the development of a prevenient financing mechanism with extraordinary potential to change the way in which public service sector projects are funded. While we sought to develop a model that would be replicable across a range of social services, the initial mechanism development was focused on the societal savings that come from reducing prisoner reoffending rates. Through this financing mechanism, investors will be able to provide initial capital to support third sector organizations in developing new programs to reduce prisoner reoffending. Investors would then receive a return on their investment from the government, based on how successful the programs have been in reducing the need for police, court, and prison services. As envisioned, prevenient financing will simultaneously shift the risk of sponsoring unproven social services away from the cash-strapped public sector, while allowing investors access to an entirely new investment universe.
Through my work, through SDEA, I was able to participate in a broad range of initiatives, learn new skills, immerse myself in the social enterprise community, and truly feel as though I had made a difference. This summer, I was mentored by the community Sarah Dodds built and the ideals she raised in the people who surrounded her. Working with the friends and colleagues who are honoring her legacy made clear to me what an extraordinary person Sarah must have been.
September 21, 2009
Second SDEA placement: Alex Ghita
Over the summer of 2009, I was part of the second intake of MBAs partnered with social enterprises through the Sarah Dodds Enterprise Accelerator (SDEA). I already had a strong interest in social enterprises and I saw the program as an opportunity to help a young SE to develop robust managerial frameworks and at the same time connect with a number of investors equally focused on social, environmental & financial returns of enterprises.
I was partnered with Unpackaged, a grocery shop founded by an enthusiast entrepreneur – Catherine Conway – in order to empower customers to buy food in environmental sustainable way (eliminating or drastically reducing packaging, sourcing organic & fair-trade food, working with local producers). My mission was to help Unpackaged to develop a viable scale-up strategy. During my 7 weeks engagement with Unpackaged, I worked closely with Catherine to review and analyze most of the fundamental business processes in place at that time, identifying opportunities to increase operational efficiency and mapping the expansion strategy of the business. Among the intermediary deliverables of the project were:
• a better understanding of the existing customers and the best ways in which the business can engage with them, leveraging the shared ethical values
• a better handle on stock management and relationships with suppliers
• a full set of financial models used to track, evaluate and manage the performance of the company in critical areas (sales analysis, cash management, stock turnover, margins & supplier analysis etc)
Using the information and instruments mentioned above, we were able to give shape to Catherine’s ambitions of increasing the impact of the Unpackaged model by developing a short term business plan to improve assets utilization & profitability and a medium & long term action plan to expand the impact of the business.
When I left, Unpackaged had a clear visibility on the priorities going forward and was prepared to engage with a number of social impact minded, qualified investors that were already highly interested in supporting the next growth stage of the business.
During this internship I had the opportunity to engage with some of the most prominent thought leaders in the Social Investment space and explore our visions for emerging models of organizations focused on sustainable social & economic development models. And getting to know more closely some of the SDEA mentors I also had fun over a wonderful summer in London. I very much look forward to staying in touch with the members of the SDEA community (entrepreneurs, MBAs, mentors, investors), as they are unique source of inspiration.
SDEA company recipient
“I set up Unpackaged because I wanted to provide a more environmentally sound alternative for consumers – encouraging them to reuse and refill containers that they already own rather than buying goods in new packaging destined for landfill. Excess packaging is unnecessary and leads to higher C02 emissions and material waste for landfill. The Unpackaged way enables customers to reduce their food related carbon footprint and drastically reduce the amount of rubbish they throw away. Unpackaged has a social mission at its heart yet needs to function as a profit generating business so that we can survive as a sustainable and viable commercial alternative for suppliers and customers.
I applied to the Sarah Dodds Enterprise Accelerator because it was the perfect fund for me – I needed a extra person to come on board to look at our current position, improve certain processes and then look at a growth strategy. To me, having an MBA intern for a two month period was worth far more than the money that some other funds provide because I wanted extra hands on deck, a fresh pair of eyes and someone with complementary skills to mine.
The application was a joy – really simple and it used information that I already possessed rather than expecting me to write a new business plan which I just wouldn’t have had time to do whilst running the business. Ben, from the SDEA fund, identified a potential candidate, Alex and we had an initial discussion over Skype to see if our needs and expectations matched. They did and the agreement was made that Alex would work with Unpackaged for 7 weeks over the summer.
The match between Unpackaged and Alex couldn’t have been better, from my perspective. He was thorough, analytical, focused, great with numbers and had experience in food retail and running his own business. Yet he also brought with him the tools he has been taught at INSEAD which helped me improve my thinking – given that I’ve had to learn to run a business on the ground rather than in the classroom. It became obvious that I had outlined a work plan that could have kept a whole team occupied for a year so we had to prioritise tasks that were business critical - we focused on writing a new financial model, improving our data collection so that we can always work from up to date information, dealing with HR issues and prepared a marketing strategy to boost current sales. In terms of business development, Alex wrote a business plan for our new online delivery model and prepared a road map for how to develop the business towards investment.
I’m sure it can’t have been easy for him working with a frazzled entrepreneur – we had our share of funny moments such as an 8 hour marathon stocktake (boosted by beer and pizza) but I was exceptionally grateful to the SDEA fund for providing extra money for staffing to enable me to work outside the shop with Alex, being given that time to focus on strategy was invaluable. Despite feeling that I’d done a mini MBA in 7 weeks, it was a thoroughly rewarding experience, I learnt so much about business theory and I really feel that Unpackaged now has a clearly defined path to follow. This wouldn’t have happened without Alex.
I can’t thank the SDEA fund enough for giving me the help in the form of Alex and would recommend it to anyone in my own position.”