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A guide to the top social enterprises in NZ right now

The Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch may be over, but the conversation continues on The Spinoff, with a list of the coolest Kiwi social enterprises selected by those in the know.

Alex Hannant (Ākina Foundation) – Pomegranate Kitchen

My favourite social enterprise…? Tough question – there are so many enterprises that I admire and respect for very different reasons! So I’m going to play favourites and call out Pomegranate Kitchen in Wellington, which I’m also on the board of. Put simply, Pomegranate sells fresh, tasty Middle Eastern food prepared by cooks from a refugee background. I love the very human story of focusing on the skills and strengths former refugees can bring to New Zealand society, while providing them with a welcoming environment and meaningful livelihood.

I also love Pomegranate because of the integrity it brings to everything it does. Its food is authentic and organic, it uses as little waste as possible through packaging choices, it purchases ethical uniforms… Pomegranate is a small, elegant startup with a big heart and great product.

Rebecca Stewart (Pomegranate Kitchen) – Little Yellow Bird

We use Little Yellow Bird t-shirts at Pomegranate Kitchen and we love how they feel and the ethos behind what they do. Little Yellow Bird provide ethically sourced uniforms and clothes, using sustainable chemical free cotton, the factories have solar panels, and the workers are treated and paid well. We use them for our uniforms and will be selling a limited number of t-shirts for Christmas this year.

I love Sam’s story: she came from an army background and brings her practical logistics knowledge to make clothes and uniforms better and more ethically, in their supply chain and their work with people. I’ve met her a number of different times around Wellington, at meetings, socially, and also interviewed her for a podcast I sometimes co-host called TWICE (Two Weeks in Creative Endeavour). I like how when she started she wasn’t getting traction emailing and calling so she offered her skills to factories, and then went over and met some of her contacts that way. It’s cool meeting other driven young babes in the game and she brings a really calm and knowledgeable vibe to the table.

SAMANTHA JONES. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Samantha Jones (Little Yellow Bird) – Wā Collective

Wā Collective is one of my favourite up and coming social enterprises because I see so much value in the problem that they are solving. Wā Collective sells menstrual cups and affordable and sustainable menstrual solutions for. Having initially targeted universities they partnered with students’ associations (currently four but soon to be five) to sell over 300 cups in less than two months. Wā Collective estimates that these humble beginnings could stop around 72,000 menstrual products from going to landfill this year alone.

Wā Collective is a great example of people recognising a problem within their own community and actively going out to do something to change it for the better. Olie and Marie are excellent ambassadors and communicators around the need to alleviate period poverty in New Zealand. Their research indicates one in three New Zealand women have skipped class because they didn’t have access to menstrual products. Wā Collective plans to offer their products for general sale and support low-income communities and people that could otherwise not afford their products with a “buy one, give one” model. I love the passion behind the Wā Collective team and am confident they will have a huge impact in a sector that desperately needs affordable and sustainable solutions.

MARIE LARKING AND OLIE BODY of WĀ COLLECTIVE. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Olie Body (Wā Collective) – NOPESISTERS

NOPESISTERS, a Wellington-based social enterprise who create fashion for a good cause, do awesome mahi. They are one of our favourite social enterprises not only because they help our own social mission out, but many others too.

Founded a year ago by sisters Johanna and Brittany Cosgrove, NOPESISTERS have sold almost 1000 custom, embroidered locally made t-shirts. NOPESISTERS have real power to make change in New Zealand, as a portion of every t-shirt sold goes to their partnered charities and social enterprises to help those organisations’ social missions. It has donated thousands of dollars collectively to CanSurvive with their MascectoTee; Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation with their NOPE Tee and us with their Period Tee.

These t-shirts are special not only because of where the money goes, but because of the discourse they spark. Marie and I love walking around Wellington in our Mascecto tees – with an embroidered breast on one side, scars on the other. We have found they allow for a conversation that otherwise would not have been initiated, breaking down taboos in the process. There’s not a lot of fashion pieces that can do that.

NOPESISTERS will soon releasing a shirt for youth suicide, giving to a charity which helps support those affected by youth suicide.  We are really excited about the not only community level impact that it can have, but national too. We are honoured to be supported by them.

JOHANNA AND BRITTANY FROM NOPESISTERS. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Johanna and Brittany Cosgrove (NOPESISTERS) – NISA

NISA clothing is a brand new social enterprise in Wellington. They launch this month and are also collaborators in our Christmas period pack.

They focus on creating great custom made underwear using the beautiful quality organic fabric made by Little Yellow Bird, and all of their employees are new refugee migrants to New Zealand. Their mission is to make quality sustainable underwear and provide employment for new immigrant women.

We love the fact that they are supporting women with a quality product that supports women.

Julia Jackson (Kiwibank corporate social responsibility manager) – Liminal

Liminal is a great Christchurch-based company that has a few different business arms that each support each other to deliver more social impact. They have the Addington coffee company supporting fair trade and better wages. The Little River farm produces food for their café, as well as takes all organic waste created, they use fair trade t-shirt business and provide eco-friendly merchandise for corporates as well as locals. I like that the business has a number of different arms to make it more resilient, and the different parts of the business can support each other. Their ethics are embedded into every part of the business from the materials that they use to the profit redistribution which is 70% redistributed and 30% reinvested in the company.

EVERYBODY EATS. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Madeleine Chapman (Spinoff staff writer) – Everybody Eats and Conscious Consumers

I love the chaotic beauty of Everybody Eats. Operating every Monday out of St Kevin’s Arcade on K Rd, there’s no escaping the sense of community in seeing local chefs and volunteers working together to feed the hungry. I love Everybody Eats because it reminds me of extended family gatherings, where everyone chips in and everyone gets fed. Their use of leftover food and “no waste” policy is an added bonus. If you’re ever stuck for a dinner option on a Monday night, head down to Everybody Eats for an affordable three course meal and a chance to see community spirit in action.

While trying to live only through social enterprises, I realised there aren’t as many as I thought. So while the businesses promoted by Conscious Consumers aren’t necessarily social enterprises, the website and app itself are. By directing consumers to businesses with proven better practice, Conscious Consumers is changing the way we spend our money. For lazy consumers like myself, the app is perfect for finding somewhere to eat where I know the employees and traders are treated fairly. The app is free to download and incredibly easy to use, making it hard to think of excuses for not consuming, dare I say it, consciously.


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