|Social enterprise association (Wikipedia)|
Nicole is a social entrepreneur who is focused on recapturing the essential element of traditional communities - people lending a hand whenever it is needed.
Nicole’s long-term involvement in education and community has motivated her to ensure that everyone who asks for help will find it.
With postgraduate studies in business management and entrepreneurship - she is motivated to create a new way to increase connections between people who need help with those who can help.
Nicole established Help Me With It - a national social enterprise and registered charity with headquarters in Brisbane. Nicole was one of three national winners of Macquarie Bank’s 2014 Kick Starter grant - an award for innovative enterprises addressing social and community needs.
Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
The mission of Help Me With It is to connect individuals who need help to do one-off tasks, with people who can volunteer their time to fix, clean, care, shop, transport, garden, sort, teach and more.
The service will directly connect thousands of people who need help with people who can help. It also addresses issues associated with traditional volunteering including the fact volunteers want more choice in what they do, and more flexibility around when they volunteer and for how long.
Community organisations and volunteering centres recruit people to volunteer their time on a regular basis. This excludes the majority of would-be volunteers in this country. The issue for many volunteers is that they have specific skills and knowledge they want to use when volunteering, and they also want flexibility in when they volunteer (i.e. not always weekly). This model therefore doesn’t require funding to be allocated to extensive training for volunteers as they can use their own skills and experience.
This service is a digital disruption in the volunteering and social service sectors. There is no organisation like it in the not-for-profit sector, although numerous for-profit organisations have similarities to Help Me With It. However there is no other not-for-profit that offers the same service that Help Me With It will offer.
I have been thinking about this idea for a few years, so the recent “plunge” was overdue in one aspect, but also timely given the focus on digital disruptions and also the way social enterprises can provide solutions to major societal issues.
Please explain your business model.
Help Me With It is a national charity and a social enterprise. We are in start-up phase now, raising seed funding. Eventually though, our profits will be reinvested so more people can use the service.
People who need help with day-to-day tasks will use the Help Me With It platform to be connected to people willing to help them. These users join for free and can post tasks for free. They will pay a single-digit fee to be connected to a volunteer.
Volunteers will help by using their skills, knowledge and time to be connected to people who need help. We’ll ask our volunteers to pay a once a year single-digit membership fee. This small fee will allow us to provide the service and cover insurance.
Volunteering centres and community organisations will refer some of their clients who are seeking help, or those who want to volunteer to Help Me With It. More information about ‘How it works’ is on the Help Me With It website, including a pictorial Business Model Canvas.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
The Help Me With It Directors are focused on raising seed funding to pilot the service on a live platform for six months. We’re also forming national corporate partnerships.
Establishing a new national charity is a big project! There is significant interest and investment for commercial digital disruptions like Uber and Airbnb. I think it is harder to seek funding for a not-for-profit enterprise that is similarly disrupting traditional services without the offer of equity. There is however more opportunities to impact social change and support people in our community who need help the most with organisations like Help Me With It.
The demand for our service is clear from extensive research and consultation … we need to find suitable funders to support this new way for people to get help and to help out. It’s still early days for Help Me With It.
Could Help Me With It be a service people can use after a natural disaster?
Yes. Usage of this service will swell after a natural disaster. It will enable emergency relief and mean support for people who need help is sustained beyond the very short term.
How do you make ideas happen?
I’ve committed to a year with no pay, as well as committing my own finances to this project to make it happen. I’m focused, thorough and optimistic, but a realist too! Ideas are easy. Making it happen and executing an idea is the hard part.
What does your typical day look like?
I’ve consulted widely in my home town (Brisbane) and interstate over the last six months, so there are many meetings, plus of course time spent applying for grants. I also spend time buried in forecast financial statements and technical specifications!
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
A founder of a new organisation needs to be across everything … and think through everything, simultaneously! The task of identifying agencies to work with is challenging - sometimes it’s hard to determine what they specialise in and what elements of the project would ‘fit’ best with which agency. For example, design verses development, and traditional media verses social media.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
Help Me With It doesn’t fit well into one ‘industry’. It’s a tech startup and a national charity in the not-for-profit sector. I’m continually inspired by entrepreneurs in many industries. I’m envious of their ability to seek equity investment which isn’t possible for a charity.
Corporates who are supporting innovation such as NRMA and Telstra are impressive - keeping an eye on what they are doing, along with other community minded organisations such as Australia Post, is worthwhile too.
Speaking of affecting social change, we’ve teamed up with Shout for Good to encourage readers to ‘shout a coffee’ to charity by clicking the button below. Is there a particular charity you’d like to support?
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Shelter BOX Australia
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
The Help Me With It Directors would appreciate introductions to people - philanthropists or corporate executives who may be interested in talking about collaborating to support us.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
I’m intrigued - what is in the water in Victoria? I take my hat off to Victorian philanthropists and bureaucratic organisations. There is considerable support for social enterprise and innovative projects in Victoria. More so than other states and territories it seems.
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
Any restaurant on the water!