Conscious Consumers

Change business behaviour through conscious spending.

Conscious ConsumersDo you care about the planet and want to make the world a better place? Do you only want to buy from businesses that are sustainable and ethical? Do you want to earn tangible rewards for it?

Let’s face it – businesses do their business with varying degrees of care around how they treat the environment, their community, and their employees. As a consumer, what can you do to support businesses that that behave well? Simple answer: Download the Conscious Consumers app (iPhone  or Android), find a business near you that aligns with your ethics, buy from them, collect loyalty rewards, and sleep better at night knowing that you’re helping make the world a better place.

In order to participate, businesses must be accredited – they can apply for badges such as Recycling, Composting, Fair trade, Generosity, and others, which all have specific, measurable accreditation standards. Businesses are audited on induction and every year to ensure that they’re complying with standards.

The benefits to consumers are clear: you can have confidence that the restaurants and cafes you frequent are ethical businesses, and earn loyalty rewards. Hospitality businesses use the Conscious Consumers data to attract new customers whose values are aligned to theirs, and find out more about their customers – what they care about, how much they spend, and how frequently they visit.

They have more than 300 businesses and 10,000 consumer users across New Zealand.

The previous version of the app required users to ‘check in’ at the businesses. The new version takes a feed directly from Paymark, and automagically credits your spending from those businesses as it sees your transactions come through. Their secret sauce is tokenising technology, which enables this to take place without your EFTPOS or credit card details being stored.

Melissa Keys and Ben Gleisner
Melissa Keys and Ben Gleisner

Conscious Consumers started as a paper directory back in 2008, when cofounders Ben Gleisner and Melissa Keys got together with a few of their friends from uni and started the 42collective. The book showcased Wellington businesses that were achieving sustainability metrics, and they received a grant of a $5,000 from Wellington City Council to promote it. They also ran local events to promote sustainability and local businesses that supported sustainability. Over the next few years they attracted funding from the Ministry for the Environment, the Ākina Foundation, and several other councils, and in 2012 they released their first app to help conscious consumers find restaurants and cafes, and collect loyalty points for trading with them.

… business will change if consumers demand it …

They’re making measurable change in the way hospitality business operates. According to Ben, they’ve supported over 50 businesses to start recycling and composting – that’s the equivalent of more than 1,000 households. Their theory of change is that businesses will change if consumers demand it. Up until now, there hasn’t been a way for customers to easily recognise and reward specific business behaviours that matter to them, but now businesses can tie increased revenue back to specific behaviours on their part. It closes an important feedback loop that creates a virtual cycle improving the way we interact with the environment as businesses and consumers.

In May this year, they closed a $600K equity round from high-net-worth impact investors. The round was only open for a few weeks, and was quickly filled. With this investment, they plan to grow to 25,000 users by May 2017, multiply revenue by 4x, expand into other verticals such as food retail, clothing, homeware and hotels. They’re continuing to validate their product in New Zealand, but the next capital raise will be to enter one to three overseas markets, which will likely be done on a city-by-city basis. Post-raise, they’re just as agile and lean as they’ve always been. “It’s easy to burn money when you’ve got it, but we’re used to being incredibly frugal and we want to continue that” says Ben.

I was impressed with how quickly they were able to raise $600K as a social enterprise, but as they say, a professional is someone who makes a hard job look easy, and it only took them seven years to become an overnight success.

This week, they’re launching a major campaign including social media, engagement with their existing user base, working with their business customers as a channel, and large non-profits that are aligned to their values. You too can help make the world a better place by being conscious about your consumption.

Sign up and give it a go at: www.CountMeIn.nz

Conscious Consumers is also looking for B2B sales people – do contact them if you’re interested.

Disclosure: My wife, Kate Frykberg, is a member of the 42collective committee.

Mibiz

Giving every small business an expert network.

MibizR9Logo

New Zealand is leading the world in entrepreneurship in government, and Wellington is poised to become a world leader in govtech. This is evidenced by the recent R9 Accelerator programme, in which government posed problems for combined public-private sector teams to solve in a 12-week accelerator programme. Demo Day was held last week at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington, and the results were impressive.

One of the teams to come through the programme was Mibiz, sponsored by Inland Revenue to reduce the problem of high failure rates of new businesses, particularly among those formed by recent migrants. The team that rose to the challenge quickly reframed the problem into an opportunity: give every new business an expert network, with an initial focus on migrants.

Why the focus on migrants? They represent a huge missed opportunity for the New Zealand economy. Many highly qualified migrants arrive on our shores and are unable to find traditional employment for a variety of reasons – different qualifications from the NZ standard, lack of networks, and sadly, everyday racism. You’ve probably ridden in a taxi or Uber recently with someone who held a PhD or managerial position in the old country but couldn’t find a job in their industry here. Many of these arrivals have an entrepreneurial bent, international connections, huge resilience, and a drive to succeed, which makes them ideal candidates to start businesses. But they lack the networks and local context to help them succeed.

Mibiz is essentially a curated directory service for organisations providing services to new businesses, including accounting, HR, tax advice, marketing, and the like, some of them free, some of them paid. Mibiz facilitates connections between these entrepreneurs and service providers, and clips the ticket for 5% of the service fee. Everyone wins.

Amy Cotton, Andrew Bailey, and Jonnie Haddon
Amy Cotton, Andrew Bailey, and Jonnie Haddon

The Mibiz team is made up of Andrew Bailey, Amy Cotton, both from Inland Revenue, and Jonnie Haddon who used to run Rutherford and Bond Toyota’s online sales. And yes, Jonnie was a used car salesman (of sorts, even if not on the showroom floor) at one time and I can tell you that it is fantastic preparation for work in startups where the founders’ lack of ability to sell stuff is usually the number one obstacle to success.

During the programme, Mibiz held a number of meetups with migrant business owners to validate the problem and solution. Through those events and conducted interviews, 40 business owners have signed up for the service as early adopters. The were also able to attract 18 service providers, and have already facilitated seven connections between migrants and service providers in the few weeks since they launched their concierge service.

Mibiz are seeking $220K of seed funding from the government to further develop the service and launch a beta product, and then attract a critical mass of service providers onto the platform, which should take them into 2017. At that time, they’ll be looking for a combination of public and private investment to scale the service within New Zealand and potentially push it out internationally.

Will Mibiz take off? It’s very early days, but I’m super excited by government taking a punt on this team and the other R9 teams. I’ve never seen government employees move so fast, adapt so quickly, engage so fully, break down so many barriers, work so hard, and just get as much sh!t done as I have in the R9 Accelerator. I’m also heartened that New Zealanders, and the New Zealand government, care so much about new migrants that we want to ensure that we can fully utilise their talents and natural entrepreneurship, for the benefit of the whole country.

The bigger question is whether New Zealand Government agencies can walk the innovation talk by backing promising public-private partnership teams with the resources they need to succeed – otherwise, they’re just accelerating people into a brick wall.

If you’re a migrant, a refugee, an NGO or government agency providing services to migrant business owners, Mibiz would love to talk to you – just drop them a line.

The R9 Accelerator programme was run by CreativeHQ.

Here’s their pitch deck from Demo Day:

Disclosure: I mentored Mibiz and several of the other R9 teams during the programme.

Good Bitches Baking

Baking the world a better place.

gbblogoThere are few things more powerful than selfless love. When we are at our lowest points emotionally, receiving a loving gesture from someone, even a stranger, especially a stranger, can be life changing.

Random acts of kindness are a thing. In fact, New Zealand claims to be the only country in the world with a National Random Acts of Kindness Day. Good on us! But harnessing such a powerful force deserves more than randomness.

Nic Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick
Nic Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick

Nic Murray and Marie Fitzpatrick are the Good Bitches Baking. They have a very simple recipe for spreading happiness throughout society: bake someone a cake, just when they need it most. Recipients include women in refuges, homeless people in shelters, elderly folk in hospice, and many more. Some of the recipients have never tasted home baking. It sounds almost twee, but the universal appeal of receiving something sweet and made with love when you feel you can’t cope, and helping lift an unfortunate stranger out of a shit situation is extremely compelling. I met these Bitches at TEDx Wellington, where I thought they stole the show. Their idea isn’t only worth spreading, it’s running away with them.

It’s so compelling, that in the last 18 months they’ve set up 10 chapters of Bitches in New Zealand from Whangarei to Invercargill, and have another 18 chapters waiting to form. They’re struggling to cope with demand. They have no plans to expand overseas at this stage, but are happy to share their intellectual property with anyone who wants to take their model global.

The Good Bitches philosophy is based on the simple ideas that “doing something is better than doing nothing”, and that everything turning to shit is not an inevitability. We all have the power within us to positively affect the world around us, and the Good Bitches provide an easy to use template for making people happy.

Doing something is better than doing nothing. Everything turning to shit is not an inevitability.

Nic says, “Baking is something people enjoy doing anyway, it’s not a hardship. There’s a widespread desire in the community to ‘do good things’, but people don’t know where to start – they don’t know if they have permission to do something personal for a stranger.”

Marie adds, “Just doing something leads onto doing other things too.  There’s a common story for Bitches: it all starts with a batch of scones, and then they find other needs that they can fill in their community. It gets people thinking about ways they can help others, beyond putting money in a box or even baking.”

The Good Bitches system is designed so that people can do as little or as much as they can fit into their lives. They feel like they’re contributing to their communities, but also to something much bigger. And the connection that Bitches have to each other helps strengthen the community too. When bitches get together, there’s lots of storytelling and heartfelt discussion – shared purpose for a good cause.

They are changing peoples lives – and it’s a virtuous cycle. One Wellington recipient was recovering from domestic violence in a Women’s Refuge, and said that the notion that a stranger cared enough about her to bake her a cake just to cheer her up was life-changing. Since then, she’s become a Bitch herself, and now bakes for others – this has been an important part of her healing process.

They’ve now reached an inflection point where runaway growth is threatening to outstrip their ability to service their community.

“We’re staffed by volunteers, who can only spare a few hours per week each,  and sometimes they bite off more than they can chew. In people’s busy lives, especially women juggling careers and whānau, volunteer work can’t always take top priority. As we grow as an organisation helping thousands of Bitches do great things in their communities, we need a professional coordinator or two being paid for their efforts so that this work gets the priority it deserves, and keep up our standards for the quality and timeliness of the support we provide.”

Having a paid coordinator would free up the founders to focus on outreach, growth, and telling the story.

Nic and Marie know all about juggling. They both have full time jobs as project managers.  Nic works with ACC and NZTA on young driver safety, and Marie helps organisations to be compliant with the new Health and Safety legislation.

But hiring paid staff requires funding. Their dream is to be sustainably funded through a combination of grants, government funding, private donations, and branded merchandise. Running a social enterprise is tough, even when you’re clearly making as big a difference as the Bitches are.

Marie says, “to some extent, we’ve been making shit up as we go along, but we’re continually lifting our game. The future is really exciting, but to grow and really make the most of this opportunity we’ll need to be strategic, plan carefully, and support our chapters well.”

You can make a personal donation on the Good Bitches Baking’s Givealittle page.

Don’t miss the other TEDxWelly 2016 Videos – they’re well worth watching!