Social Enterprise

Leschenault Community Nursery

 
Background

Adrian Azzari-Colley was approached in 2007 by the Leschenault Community Nursery (LCN) to participate on their Board of management. The reason for the approach was to assist in giving the nursery a more commercial approach in doing business in the local region. Adrian had already gained extensive experience in establishing and running a commercial nursery whilst consulting to an Indigenous corporation in 2004-2006.

The LCN, although having been very successful in the early 2000s had been impacted heavily by the downturn in Landcare funding and was struggling to maintain a positive level of cash flow. The operations were running at a significant loss and there were no indications that this was to change in the near future.

Aim
The Board members worked towards establishing a more commercial approach to doing business.

Methods

The ensuing change in philosophy of the Board began the move to taking the Board to a social enterprise base with the intention of generating funds over and above running costs. The move was to ensure that the nursery could carry out its basic aim, the improvement of the environment in the greater Leschenault catchment area.

To achieve this the Board decided to:

  • Develop a Business Plan to support the changes needed
  • Implement a Quality Assurance programme
  • Develop a more stringent monthly financial review
  • Develop Risk Management Plans
  • Deliver a robust approach to marketing

Results
The above targets were soon achieved once a Business Plan, Quality Assurance and improved monthly financial reviews were put in place as a matter of priority.  The Risk Management Plan and Marketing Plan were then actioned but most importantly the Board redesigned their total approach of “doing business”.  A monthly analysis of the financial position and performance was carried out against target projections; this has now become a monthly agenda item.

One of the major effects of the change in direction is that the Nursery Board is now more focused on being open for business. They have rebranded themselves as a social enterprise where profitability is seen to be just as important as their environmental principles.  It was recognised that it’s not possible to “save the planet” if you are “going broke”.

The nursery is now open seven days a week and employs a number of people to manage the retail shop.  This is a tremendous result given the myriad of opportunities now existing in the local area to supply plants into a considerably more water wise community.

The Nursery still has some way to go in achieving a stronger level of financial independence but they have set the target, changed their way of doing business and should achieve significant financial success in the near future.  The Nursery is financially sustainable but must continue to operate as a business.

Adrian is very proud of his contribution to their success and believes that social enterprise is a powerful development tool for communities wishing to develop financial independence and give the people an opportunity to develop real skills.  He is quite forthright in saying that community groups who do take a social enterprise path to develop their communities must be aware that they need to run it very much on good business principles.

Adrian says that too many times in his experience managers of socially based enterprises see the community benefit as the aim to be achieved first rather than the financial viability. He firmly believes that if the order of priority can be changed with the agreement of the community, with financial viability being the first priority then the social benefits will follow.

 

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