What is Small Giants and where does this purpose lead you?
Small Giants is a company dedicated to creating nurturing and supporting businesses we think are making the world a better place. It leads us to meeting lots of amazing people.
Congratulations on being awarded Ernest & Young’s 2012 Social Entrepreneur of the Year – how does social differ from traditional entrepreneurship and what can companies do to become more conscious of their impact?
I think the term social enterprise should be renamed ‘business as usual’ and those that do not have a social and environmental agenda should be called ‘crap business’ or ‘business that adds no real value outside of itself’. There is nothing inherently bad about profits, but there is much good in caring about the people and environment around you.
You’ve registered Australia’s first B Corporation – what is this and what does it mean for Small Giants?
B Corporations believe that we can use business to solve social and environmental problems. It is a certification guaranteeing you are the real deal in ethical and sustainable business. We feel very honored to be a B Corporation and take it very seriously. We hope that this will spawn a large community of B Corporations in Australia and together we can be a strong force for a different way of doing business here.
You’re the resident Social Entrepreneur at RMIT and were also RMIT’s Alumnus of the Year 2009 – do you think universities can create entrepreneurs? Are social entrepreneurship elements being taken across to other disciplines and courses?
My role at RMIT is a great one but it is hard to see universities, with their complexity, bureaucracy and numerous competing agendas deliver what entrepreneurs need – less complexity, bureaucracy and competing agendas. Universities must still try, but I think the school of hard knocks is the best place to learn. Start a business, by your third try, you have just become an entrepreneur. As for cross discipline and cross course work, yes, elements are being taken to various disciplines, but more work needs to be done. Social entrepreneurship is an idea that should exist in every facet of our lives, or maybe we should call it social innovation. Fashion, engineering, art, science, teaching; you name it, there is a way to impact those around you in a positive way.
What was the process like when you started Engineers without Borders and what is a humanitarian engineer to you?
A humanitarian engineer is one who sees the plight of the poor and disadvantaged as part of their mandate as an engineer. Engineers are the interface between technology and people, and as such hold an incredible power to effect meaningful and lasting change for so many people. Water, sanitation, energy, infrastructure, connectivity, access, health. As for the start of EWB, the most important trait of all for anyone starting a business or a non profit is persistence. Never give up.
“Comparison is the death of happiness” is a quote you refer to often – what are your tips for staying happy and focused?
Balance. Think Mr Miyagi in Karate Kid. The problem I find is that everything keeps changing so balance is a dynamic target, but well worth pursuing.
What’s your favourite neighbourhood in Melbourne?
I work in St Kilda and love it. The Sun seems to shine there more often.
What’s next and when do you stop?!
I don’t understand that last word. Actually, its 1:30am so maybe its time for bed.