Call it a social enterprise incubator, an impact investment organisation or simply a creative not-for-profit, Melbourne based Small Giants is undoubtedly one interesting operation. Founded in 2007 by partners Berry Liberman and Danny Almagor, the organisation was established to facilitate the use of business as a tool for social outcomes and positive change.
Small Giants’ Mele-Ane Havea and Kaj Löfgren talk about the current projects that define and illustrate the group’s ethos, ideas and approach.
How do you describe Small Giants to anyone not familiar with it?
Mele-Ane: Small Giants is an impact investment organisation. We create, nurture, empower and invest in businesses that are shifting us to a more socially equitable and environmentally sustainable world. It is also Australia’s first certified B-Corporation.
When and how did it start?
Kaj: Small Giants was formed 5 years ago in a deliberate effort to combine the deep social and environmental values of the founders with the world of business and investment. Small Giants works to redefine success in business by supporting and investing in businesses that we think are changing the world in positive ways.
What is a Certified B Corporation?
Mele-Ane: The B corporation certification is a certification that has now been adopted by over 700 companies (and growing) across 60 different industries by companies that have the common goal to redefine success in business (www.bcorporation.net). B Lab, a non-profit organization based in the US, certifies B corporations, in the same way Fair Trade certifies Fair Trade coffee or the Heart Foundation gives a tick of approval for healthy food. A B corporation is a new type of corporate entity, it is neither a not for profit nor a purely commercial entity; it lies somewhere in between. B corporations have been described as “for-profit entities whose social benefit purpose is central to their existence”.
Share a project or two that capture the current work and ideas driving Small Giants?
Mele-Ane: TOM Organic is a wonderful example of a Small Giants partner. It is an organic cotton feminine hygiene product company creating a choice for women which is better for them and better for the environment. It is also built around a strong belief in women’s empowerment.
Kaj: Hub Australia is a coworking space dedicated to creating innovation through collaboration. There are some truly incredible and disruptive projects now emerging out of Hub Melbourne which opened exactly 2 years ago. The team are busily working on opening Hub Sydney and Hub Adelaide later this year.
How big is the team? What is your role within it?
Mele-Ane: We are a relatively small team of 7 people. Both Kaj and I work in strategy, helping to decide what we invest in and who we partner with, and then managing the relationships with our portfolio companies and providing support both on an operational and strategic level.
Bringing Alain de Botton’s School of Life to Melbourne as the first site outside of London is quite a ‘get’. How did this come together?
Kaj: Indeed, this was quite a project! We met Alain through an interview that he gave with Dumbo Feather in 2011. Through this interview we learnt about his personal journey and also the values and vision that gave birth to the School of Life. It turns out that the mission of the School (to offer good ideas and wisdom for everyday living) is very aligned to the mission of Dumbo Feather (to inspire people to live with passion and purpose). From this realisation we began an 18 month journey to work out how we could work more closely together. This culminated in the first international term running in Melbourne from January to March this year. We look forward to further collaborations in the future. Watch this space!
By Matt Hurst