Spotlight: Isaac Jeffries

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What drives you?

My belief that you can solve tough social problems by running a business.

How do you define social entrepreneurship?

Running a business that can make a positive difference to a social issue. You don’t simply give away profits, your business needs to do good to do well. If in the process of manufacturing a boring product, you employ the homeless, long-term unemployed, indigenous communities, asylum seekers – that’s great. Even if you don’t make a profit one year, you are still doing good!

Biggest SocEnt trend you have seen in the last 5 years?

The push towards scale and investment. A few years ago it was all about grants, now everybody wants to meet investors. Investors, on the other hand, say there isn’t enough deal flow. The truth probably lies somewhere in between; we need more communication and to manage expectations.

Background

I started my business at 12 and ran it for 6 years. We were the competitor to our high school canteen: they were charging AUS$1.20 for cans of soft drink and were only open on lunch break.

My friend and I decided that we could beat that, so set up our own shop, and ended up building a bigger business than our rivals.

Towards the end of school, I realised that I loved the business world, and wanted to get a business degree. At ANZ (Australia New Zealand Bank) I did paid internship and worked in strategy. After that was over, I changed my co-major to entrepreneurship, as part of which I took some courses in social entrepreneurship. After uni, I went and worked in community housing and was in charge of the finance of day-to-day operations (payroll, etc.). I met TDi’s founders Bessi Graham and Paul Steel  just before they launched TDi. I the meantime I took a few other jobs in tech startups and when they launched TDI, I joined the team as their first employee.

In three years at TDi I’ve personally worked with over 150 enterprises across Australia, and have had the chance to travel to India, Singapore and the USA.

Now I’m also working at Business For Development, where I am designing and building a social enterprise in Papua New Guinea.


Since our interview in March 2016, Isaac has moved on to Business for Development where he works as Financial Analyst. Make sure to check out his blog where he shares his insights from the field. Great stuff!

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