We’ve done a lot in a short amount of time, and we’re not planning on slowing down any time soon.
Large-scale jobs-focused social enterprises launched (with two in development for 2023)
of SEs in appropriate property
Jobs hubs created
Australia's first SE Payment by Outcomes Pilot
Raised $15 million in capital 2021 for social enterprise property and investment
So how did we begin?
The story of White Box Enterprises – like the story of so many social enterprises – spans many years, long before the concept of White Box was scribbled on the back of a beer coaster.
In 2017, Luke Terry was granted a Westpac Social Change Fellowship, a huge part of his personal growth story. On his global tour of social enterprises, common themes kept appearing: enterprises were lacking finance, property, leadership, and wrap-around support. Jobs-focused social enterprises were thinner on the ground simply because the resources weren’t available – it wasn’t an attractive idea for entrepreneurs to take on the challenge.
Co-Founders Luke and Lisa Siganto knew the social enterprise business model held the power to create jobs and engage people in meaningful, long-lasting work. So together, they set out to start White Box Enterprises.
White Box Enterprises is born
We take our name from the Eucalyptus tree and seek to nurture and grow the jobs focused social enterprise sector. To Luke, the tree was a symbol of everything he wanted this new venture to be: a pollinator for the social enterprise sector and a source of support.
The plan was – and still is – twofold:
- To build two social enterprises a year, and;
- Replicate two social enterprises a year.
All of this with the aim of creating 5,000 jobs for overlooked and underserved Australians by 2030.
The grant capital came from a wonderful chain of events starting with a meeting with the Queensland Mental Health Commissioner, Ivan Frkovic, in which White Box was given seed funding of $200,000, with the amount matched by Minister Fentiman – now the Queensland Attorney General. With $400,000 on their side, the amount was then matched again by the Ian Potter Foundation.
Then we hit the ground running
A philosophy underpinning White Box Enterprises is to build a social enterprise off an ‘anchor contract’. In 2019 Accor offered White Box the opportunity to clean two hotels, after doing the numbers and seeing it as a viable social enterprise, Hotel Housekeeping was born and 30 people were employed.
At the same time, Jigsaw, a social enterprise revolutionising the way people with disabilities receive job training and employment, was looking to expand its locations out of Sydney. White Box Enterprises found the perfect space for them at Mt Gravatt TAFE together with funding for a manager to support their establishment in Brisbane. Mt Gravatt TAFE also became home to Mantua Design Studios and Hotel Housekeeping creating White Box’s first social enterprise hub.
White Box the intermediary
As White Box set out to build two and scale two, the organisation committed to build its capacity to find and negotiate property, to raise capital, to undertake business analysis, and to change some of the systems that were preventing social enterprises from scaling.
White Box has developed expertise in all of these areas for the benefits of its own social enterprises and for the benefit of the sector. The social enterprises White Box runs are beacon projects demonstrating the power and diversity of large-scale job-focussed social enterprises. Most social enterprises with ambitions to grow need access to the same property, finance and advisory support that White Boxes social enterprises receive. White Box provides support to clients in an integrated fashion whereby advisory may identify property and finance needs.
In essence White Box provides jobs-focused social enterprises with the tools to grow and scale.
Changing the system
While building the services to support social enterprises to grow is critical, sometimes there are systemic barriers that need to be shifted in order for social enterprise to flourish.
In 2020, White Box Enterprises, 6 months young, put their hand up to co-host the Social Enterprise World Forum, in Brisbane. Having the multi-million-dollar event in Queensland was seen as critical to realising the impetus building around social enterprise. And so it has panned out, the event is providing a critical and galvanising focal point for the social enterprise sector in Australia and we cant wait to see how social enterprise changes after the attendees get exposed to new networks and leading edge thinking from around the world.
With all of the hard work, good will and support, jobs-focused social enterprises are hard to make work. This is largely because disadvantaged jobseekers have significant support requirements. The holy grail for Jobs-focused social enterprises is to be paid for the additional support costs they incur; White Box is partnering with the Department of Social Services to undertake Australia’s first social enterprise Payment by Outcomes (PBO) pilot, which will enable social enterprises to be paid for the job support they provide.
What does the future hold?
White Box is at the beginning of a great adventure.
We are running fast and taking chances that some other organisations might not, but we’re also being supported by philanthropists, government and through sales to build a robust organisation that can deliver on the things we want to achieve.
As we start two new social enterprises in 2022, Sheetly and Feraliser, and deliver the Social Enterprise World Forum and the PBO Pilot, we are beginning to get clarity on how those 5000 jobs by 2030 will be delivered.
None of our efforts would be possible without the expertise and efforts of Lisa Siganto, Alex McDonald, Geoff Zippel, as well as people like Charlotte Siddle from the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Alberto Furlan from the Ian Potter Foundation and the incredible Keith Rovers and the Minter Ellison team.
1/309 North Quay, Brisbane 4000
PO Box 590, Fortitude Valley 4006
Social Enterprise District
– Mt Gravatt
1030 Cavendish Rd,
Mount Gravatt 4122
White Box is always on the lookout for people that have social enterprise in their blood. We don’t have any positions open at the moment but we are always recruiting. Find out more.
Acknowledgement of Country
We are proud to work with social enterprises all over Australia. We acknowledge and pay our respects to the Traditional Owners of the land we work and live on, recognising that Sovereignty was never ceded. We pay our respects to the First People of this country, their culture and Elders past, present and emerging.