September 4, 2015
Elaine Montegriffo is the CEO of SecondBite, a national not-for-profit that provides fresh food donated by farmers, markets, supermarkets and other food outlets to community food programs around Australia to help feed the 2 million Australians who go hungry and repurpose some of $8 billion worth of food that ends up in landfill each year.
Elaine and Glenn Fernandez, Project Manager at SecondBite, have been working on a new social enterprise venture through Social Traders Crunch – The Ugly Juice Truck – to generate profits to fund more meals for hungry Australians.
What was the inspiration behind starting the Ugly Juice Truck?
EM:SecondBite has been established for 10 years and provides enough food for 40,000 healthy meals a day. But with 2 million Australians going hungry a lot more needs to be done; we recognised that we needed to establish a sustainable income stream.
We’ve got great relationships with farmers and producers and we know there’s far more food available than we’re able to pick up so we start thinking about how we can convert some of this surplus product – perfectly healthy, perfectly good to eat it just doesn’t look perfect – into something that we can sell to generate revenue to help us feed people in need.
What prompted you to apply for the Crunch?
EM: When you’re running a not-for-profit, you’re doing it on slim resources, and you come up with lots of ideas. What appealed to me was the fact the Crunch was an opportunity to turn that idea into something real – it would force us to make time for it, we’d get fantastic support and have a really structured process through which we could develop the idea and bring it to life.
What’s been the most important thing you’ve learned about starting a social enterprise?
GF: The most important part is at the beginning when you have to make your idea as straightforward and simple as possible.
I think it’s fair to say we tried to do too much with huge ambitious goals with a lot of impacts and I think it was really important to ask those really difficult questions to make sure we’re pursuing something that’s really doable. That’s probably the biggest turning point that we had.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to someone working on their start-up idea?
GF: Try to share your idea broadly because other people might think about it differently and that’s really valuable to take in. Make sure you expose your idea to different people who are from different backgrounds. It’s easy to find people who think like you and will reinforce your ideas but what you want is someone to come out with something different to sharpen your idea and make it more robust.
EM: And go on the Crunch! Honestly it’s been fantastic and it’s so supportive. It provides you with a really clear process to go through and you’re investing a lot of time and energy so you’re confident you’re going to make it happen.
Having a great idea is one thing, but turning it into reality is difficult, and that’s where you really need support. Not just the support of the program, but the support of the other social enterprises. Being able to share ideas and experiences with other entrepreneurs is very valuable, especially when you’re going through tough periods.
Turning an idea into an actual enterprise isn’t an easy thing to do, so I can’t imagine we would have been able to do this without a process like the Crunch, simply because there are just too many everyday priorities.