Words by Sophie Wood (Milaana Social Media Hero)
Photography by Elise Stephenson (Impact Event Photographer)
Three months ago I was browsing through my Facebook feed when I came across an event that sparked my attention. The Impact Youth Social Enterprise Conference was a three-day event that hosted a number of incredible speakers and engaging workshops. I’d been harbouring an interest in social enterprise for a few years and decided to apply for the conference and try my luck. I had also been looking for an internship for six months and I thought the conference might open up some networks and opportunities for me.
As I browsed through the speakers I came across social enterprise royalty! Then I came across a name I didn’t recognise. So like any good journalist I followed the link to the website and discovered Milaana! Milaana is an online platform that connects university students looking for experience to community organisations with cause-driven projects. Excitement boiled in my stomach as I explored the website.
“Yes! This is exactly what I need right now!”
One LinkedIn invite, a few messages and an early morning meeting and suddenly I was the social media and content generation hero for Milaana! Within just a few days I had managed to not only get an internship, which I’d been trying to do for six months, but it also happened to be with an incredible social enterprise that I loved and respected! Even funnier, I was now writing content for other students about how to get an internship that you love. Everything was falling into place!
Fast forward to Friday 8th August and it was finally time to attend the conference that had connected me with Milaana and a whole team of magical humans! The Impact Youth Social Enterprise Conference kicked off on Friday evening, beginning with a few ice-breaker activities and the chance to meet some of the 120 young students and professionals. The vibe in the room was energetic and the passion of the people I met completely inspired me!
After getting the chance to meet and talk to a lot of different people, Elliot Costello of YGAP took to the stage to talk about his own social enterprise journey. His stories were real and inspiring but one thing he said really stuck with me:
“I’ll give up my Friday night and Saturday being here knowing that there is a community of people willing to stand up for what they believe in. These weekends do matter!”
The night wrapped up with a mouth-watering meal from Mu’ooz Eritrean Restaurant and Catering, a not for profit social enterprise aiming to provide work experience and training to refugee African women.
Saturday morning began with a dance performance from a local dance group and a Social Enterprise 101 workshop by Peter Ball. His workshop took us all over the world where humble people are making great impact in their communities. Later on Simon Griffiths from Shebeen and Who Gives A Crap took the stage where he spoke about the recipe to social enterprise success = beer + toilet paper!! He finished his speech, which was riddled with puns, to talk about the ten things he wished he was told in university. The list struck a chord with me and really encouraged me to follow my passion!
The day continued with a number of workshops on idea generation and creating a business model as well as learning the art of pitching from Luke Swetman and Dave Ryan of Metaset, Michael Curran of NVAccess and Lauren Shuttleworth of Project Elephant.
However nothing could prepare us for the incredibly honest and authentic story of Dan Flynn from Thankyou. He spoke about founding a business at 19 years old and turning up to business meetings in his dad’s suit. He spoke about launching his business with a product recall. He remembered the frustration and devastation every time the organisation was set back and knocked back. Then he spoke about the incredible impact that his organisation has produced with such a modest pride. I was so lost in Dan’s speech that I barely took any notes but looking at them now, I did write one thing:
“What gets you up when the going gets tough?”
Finally we came to the last day of the event and the chance to pitch our social enterprise ideas to the social enterprise experts! As the teams were judged and narrowed down to one winner, Happy Boots, the other groups took to social media to encourage Campbell Newman and the Seven News team to head over to The Edge to check us out! The premier was a no-show but we were lucky enough to get the attention of former Governor-General Quentin Bryce.
The weekend wrapped up with a final speech by Milaana’s own, Hollie Gordon. She talked about founding Milaana as a student and learning that she didn’t have to do it all herself. She paid tribute to the Milaana team, which I am so proud to be a part of, and encouraged everyone in the room to get on board and find experience in doing what you love to do!
A few words from Hollie about her experience of the summit…
“The summit was an incredibly energising experience and an amazing “for-youth, by-youth” feat of passion and determination. It was amazing to have such a stellar line-up of speakers, many venturing from Melbourne just for the event, talking directly to our local and vibrant leaders of tomorrow.
I had the fortunate position of being both a participant in the weekend, but also a facilitator/mentor as someone currently living and breathing the social enterprise startup journey. What blew me away more than anything was the participants, and watching the journey many of them took over the course of the weekend. Most started from a point of curiosity but little knowledge of social enterprise and by the end, all were making incredible pledges to their groups about the positive changes they were going to make. There was such a strong sense of shared purpose and family.
It was clear very early on that these, are my people. Originally I had to travel to Malaysia to the Social Business Summit in 2013 to find a huge gathering of “my people”. People who are passionate and driven individuals, united by their shared vision of using their talents and the tools of enterprise to create profound, sustainable and far-reaching social good. Eight months later, to feel that same sense of ‘family’ and the truly electric energy in my home town of Brisbane, was honestly very moving and exciting beyond words. I felt so much pride and love observing and engaging with this growing, and soon to be thriving, community of young change makers.
Initially I was blown away and pretty shocked when organisers Cara and Lucille first asked me to present at the summit to ‘share my story’. Twelve months ago I would have been doing everything I could to simply attend such a summit. But I think that was the idea, to share my starting point, the “AHA” moment when first hearing of social enterprise, then being a student with an idea, like all who attended the conference, to setting up and now, scaling, a social enterprise just over a year into the adventure.
I hoped that the participants got the message loud and clear that not only “If I can do it, you can!” but more importantly that every person’s journey is unique and that social enterprise is a mindset. What then sets people apart are their actions and I am SO excited to see what incredible actions and changes will be made by the participants with incredible initiatives already taking off!
My deep and heartfelt thanks to the legendary leaders Cara and Lucille, their amazing team and the amazing mentors and champions of Social Enterprise like Peter Ball, an individual responsible for empowering me to transform my idea into reality, like so many change makers will thanks to this awesome summit!
Big big love, Hollie”
To sum up the conference in one word, I would say connection. Not only did the conference connect me to Milaana, but it also connected me to a whole network of people who share similar passions and the will to do something about it! The Milaana team has gotten considerably bigger since the Impact Conference two weekends ago and we are truly grateful for the opportunity to have participated in such a great event!
If you love what you just read and want to get involved in Milaana or the Impact Youth Social Enterprise Conference for next year, then click here to view Milaana’s available positions and here to read all about the current Impact Fellowship Program.