Covid-19 has recently given new charitable trust, Thrive Whanganui, access to another pool of funding so they can increase their work – building social enterprise capability in the wider Whanganui region. The government’s Regional Business Partner Network (managed by MBIE) has a Covid-19 response fund, which includes support for social enterprises. For Thrive Whanganui, a lean organisation with four passionate staff all working part-time and supporting themselves though other jobs, the Covid-19 funding is boosting their ability to achieve their goal – a more inclusive economy that delivers wellbeing benefits through new ways to do business and getting better outcomes for communities and the planet.

Thrive Whanganui was launched in February 2018 at the Thrive Expo that attracted over 200 people.

Nicola Patrick who is the Programme Director and a Trustee says that the two-day event demonstrated that the time has come for social enterprise: “On day one we had a key-note speaker, Julia Milne from Common Unity in Lower Hutt, and she was inspiring. On day two it was more practical with some workshops and mentoring sessions. It was fantastic, and people loved it.”

After this high energy start Thrive was lucky to be selected as part of a pilot for The Generator, a MSD-funded programme helping people to grow financial independence.

“Not everyone has to aim for a social enterprise,” says Nicola, “It could be a micro-enterprise. It’s about helping people get started in their own business.”

Thrive’s own programme includes:

  • Know How – information sessions, resources and mentoring;
  • Inspire – story telling, events, and guest speakers;
  • Connect – networks, introductions and co-working; and
  • Kickstart – workshops, coaching and wrap around teams.

Some of the Kickstart workshops include: an introduction to social enterprise; a Thrive-developed social enterprise warrant of fitness; sessions on social lean canvas (providing a structure that allows people to break ideas down into their key parts and evaluate the risks and assumptions and develop a one page business plan); and assessing their impact – the positive outcomes for people and the planet.

Nicola says that because they are still in start-up mode, they tailor workshops and events to meet specific requests, rather than have a set schedule of courses. The week we talked with them, they were off to Ohakune and Waverley to deliver workshops in partnership with Te Pae Tata and South Taranaki District Council, respectively.

Te Miringa (far right) receiving the runner-up award for her rau whenua social enterprise, Ūkaipō, at the University of Auckland’s recent Velocity $100k business competition, winning $5000 and an incubator programme worth $20,000.

“Workshops with others are good, because people can bounce ideas off each other,” says Nicola, “but there’s big value in working one-to-one. After the workshops we provide ongoing support for those who are ready to make a start. Our workshops average around 15 participants. Our hope is that three go away and do something – and that is often the case, although sometimes it takes people a while. We stay in touch with the people who have come on our programmes. We certainly don’t take any credit – we are just helpers for them as they get underway.

“A high number of those asking for support are women and Māori. Our work seems to resonate with people on lower incomes, too, and with people of all ages. It really is a diverse mix, and we have just started working with CCS Disability Action.”

There is a low fee for their workshops, but sometimes start-up small businesses agree to a Pay-It-Forward blended payment model. Small grants from COGS, the Whanganui District Council, the Whanganui Community Foundation, and the Mentoring Foundation help to fill the gap in Thrive’s accounts.

Petrina Clark and Adrian Campbell, who live in Whanganui, say that their brand-new social enterprise, Awhi Mai, is definitely going to pay it forward. Petrina had an idea, early on in the lockdown, about the need for te reo Māori greeting cards:

“When we needed a card for a koro, there was nothing available. We were kind of shocked that we couldn’t easily access a suitable card. So a group of us got together and it became our goal to provide the market with a product that best reflects whānau. We now have five cards in three different cities, and on our website.

“After completing the initial workshop Thrive has helped to identify two parts of our business that we should focus on – marketing and impact. Our impact is to normalise te reo Māori. Our concept is not new, but it is still lacking in a commercial sense. We want to provide a card that helps whānau celebrate each other in our reo.

“We plan to catch up with the Thrive team again. In the meantime, we participate in their events such as Thrive Presents: Managing Money. Ideally, we want to learn as much as we can. Networking is also an important aspect and Thrive provides this in bucket loads. “

Thrive partners with the Mentoring Foundation to deliver training for both mentors and mentees. Tess Dwyer, who has international experience in business and mentoring, is Thrive’s Mentoring Coordinator: “I manage the mentors and mentees – matching them and making sure that the partnership is right and that the mentor is delivering on commitments. It is a six-month programme, and we have training sessions for both the mentors and the mentees. The training for mentors is more intensive. They need to understand their role is not to do the work or solve problems. We have 20 mentors, and they were selected with those qualities in mind. They are all people within the community who have business and leadership roles themselves.”

Not everyone chooses to have a mentor, and there is a small fee of $150, but for Te Miringa Parkes, a 20-year old who was successful in getting $5000 seed funding from The Generator to develop an idea (her mum’s) for a rau whenua (placenta) package, her mentor has made all the difference:

“Andra is awesome, we are really, really good partners. I started on the idea back in March and by November I hope to launch the package. The mentoring process really helped me shape the vision from the start.”

“I also went on one of Thrive’s workshops where I met with other mentors and mentees. It was good meeting everyone and hearing about their journey, reflecting on where we are at and learning from each other.”

Te Miringa was in Whanganui with her family during Covid alert level 3 and was able to meet with Andra. Now she is back in Auckland where she is at university – and keeping another business going (an events business, styling events and providing props for hire), so she is in regular contact with her mentor by phone or email.

The Rau Whenua package will come with a compostable box with a muka tie for tying the umbilical cord, a prayer card, and a brochure explaining the whenua burial process.

“Their support has been really invaluable. They gave me the confidence to give it a go and actually take the idea somewhere. Thrive and the seed funding from The Generator have been pivotal to where we are today.”

Nicola says that in some ways social enterprise is the original business model:

“It is really an ancient way of doing business. Only in recent times has there been a focus on extreme profit, in the hands of a few – rather than trading goods and services to build healthy strong communities. In some ways we want to go back to those original ideas and amplify a values-base and fair-trade approach. That is what we champion and encourage.”

Thrive is connected to the Build Back Better movement, which is a recovery framework developed by Rebecca Mills, in collaboration with others. The chair of Thrive, Sharon Bryant, helped to fund this piece of work because, she says, the framework champions systems change:

“At Thrive, we embed all of the seven principles that are part of the build back better framework into our work, in particular measuring impact beyond financials (#6) and building collective impact (#5). At the heart we are working to create a fairer and regenerative world where we not only do no harm but where we create positive impact through enterprise.”

You can download a copy of the framework at the website: