Getting your elders and betters to inadvertently goad you into action

I had a contact request from a former client recently (Mark Smith) (Hi!), whose business (Nexstep) I used to find very inspiring, and whose colleagues at the business also inspired me.

So I fixed up my Linkedin account to better reflect what I’m up to, including all this Haverin Books plotting and planning.

This is an expansion of what I wrote:

I am putting together a crowdfunding proposal for two product groups directly in my area of expertise. But I am taking my time over it as I want the company to be sustainable, and, therefore, the financial side needs to be sustainable. (Read – I am being a bit of a scaredy-cat).

Even though it will start out as crowd-funded, I would like to attract more serious, committed funding in the future and so do not want the venture to look like the first horse in the second race at Randwick or Flemington. (Read, I want to be taken seriously, even though I have called the business Haverin Books. Oh well).

These are the products I want to start with:
1. tourism souvenirs tailored to specific towns and their events – main market tourist information centres and cafes. Most VICs and tourist towns carry either old-fashioned, unattractive souvenirs or very trendy but non-location-specific souvenirs
2.a book for single mothers about looking after their legal and financial affairs – main market social services organisations’ clients

Both publications will have some freebie (and almost-freebie) side-products eg an app or online resource. Most resources for women are difficult to read for women who are time-poor and some of whom have not had the education to fight back when necessary (not understanding why lawyers say things in certain ways is an example of such barriers).

These are the human beings I want to start it with: long-term unemployed single mums (or dads). The team will:
1) turn over in a controlled manner, fairly frequently, because the goal is to support people in a workplace whilst they train for something they want to be in the wider world. Sort of like a half-way house for ‘homeless workers’. There it is. I buried the lead.
2) as much as is legally and ethically possible, provide extra support compared to normal workplaces (eg going to see a counsellor would not raise an eyebrow or be taken out of personal leave)
3) this is going to require buy-in from a social service agency of some sort as I will need a partner with this kind of expertise.
4) this will also require partnership with a vociational training organisation of some kind.
5) the traineeships would be things like customer service, bookkeeping, graphic design or its precursor.
6) provide a radical model for what’s possible in terms of workplace flexibility. For example, install a washing machine and dryer in the back room? Provide old fridges and freezers in the back room so workers can either trade backyard or homemade food or simply get online grocery deliveries. ie incorporate things that give families back some time, where it does not really impact on the business (who’s going to care if an employee is away from her desk for the 2 minutes it takes to transfer washing?).

So you can instantly see the problem. The product and the workforce do not, at the moment, match. But I will keep at this idea until I can out the puzzle together correctly. Thus this blog.

This business is based on the idea that disadvantage is not necessarily caused by lack of intelligence or ability. Down the road from where I live, there is Wesley Fire and Clay, which has re-invented what we might have once called a sheltered workshop into something vibrant and enmeshed in its community, which interacts with the public at fairs and markets.

This business is based on the principle that there are many talented, thoughtful, energetic women (and men), who just need a bit of support whilst they train, in addition to learning the skills they don’t teach you at TAFE or uni: how to be both a commited, loving parent and a skilled, valuable worker at the same time, with minimal conflict between the two.

Note: there is another business that could be built along these lines but I don’t have the skills to start or run it: a cafe that has a catering arm that provides healthy school lunches to schools which don’t have their own canteens.

So this is classic Jenny MacKinnon. Couldn’t just yearn for a healthy business that makes money. Turns her back on the obsession with growth/replicatability. Wants instead the ‘replicability’ to be about spreading personal growth and dignity rather than increasing EBITDA. And I don’t care if someone rips off my idea – in fact, wouldn’t it be fantastic?

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