Mill House Social Enterprise Programs
At The Mill House we run a series of programs designed for new and aspiring social entrepreneurs in the Canberra region. No matter where you are on your social enterprise journey, our programs aim to guide you through trading for purpose and achieving social impact. To discuss your venture to understand how the Mill House can help you accelerate impact, book a Social Enterprise Consult with us today
Introduction To Community Social Enterprise
Our 2 hour introductory program is for anyone considering trading for social, cultural, economic, or environmental purposes. Participants may wish to use for-profit or not-for-profit or cooperatives/collective business forms, and can join from all levels of business background.
The session assumes no previous knowledge or experience in social enterprise. Introduction to Community Social Enterprise aims to help explore whether social entrepreneurship is for you and to understand what support is available through the Mill House, the social innovation node of the Canberra Innovation Network.
It is also an opportunity to meet and network with other passionate changemakers from our City and Region. We run this program throughout the months of January to June in face to face, virtual and hybrid format.
To find out when our next Introduction to Community Social Enterprise session is being held and register to participate visit our events page.
Catalyse For Impact
Our Catalyse for Impact program is designed for new and aspiring social entrepreneurs who are seeking to start a new enterprise or transform their existing business into a venture that trades for purpose. This two day program workshops the foundations of a social enterprise, focusing on the impact you want to have and the problem you want to solve.
Throughout the program the Mill House team guide participants through unpacking their social enterprise idea with workshops, presentation and interactive discussion. Catalyse For Impact teaches how to develop clear impact goals and introduces measurable tools for achieving them, such as Theory of Change. Impact measurement and philanthropy is incorporated into Lean start-up methodology and business model canvasing throughout the program, allowing participants to build the first steps in developing their business.
GRIST: The Mill House Social Enterprise Accelerator Program
GRIST is our flagship program designed to accelerate social enterprise ventures through the start-up process. We offer a 5-day intensive workshop program (delivered 2 days + 3 days over 2 weeks) to anchor your acceleration journey AND a formal mentoring program to guide your market testing. In the workshops you will learn skills, develop your venture and engage with your cohort to bring your Minimum Viable Product to market quickly.
During the formal mentoring you will be supported to gather the data you need to iterate and accelerate your venture. Each GRIST venture is carefully selected by our panel of Industry Professionals and Social Impact Investors. They are looking for projects with a clear, compelling and measurable theory of change. They are also looking for market ready B2B or B2C ventures that can be tested, validated and iterated during the Program. Applications for the 2022 cohort are now open.
In previous GRIST programs ventures have provided training and employment for individuals excluded from mainstream economic participation, such as people with intellectual disabilities, experience episodic mental health conditions or that have been incarcerated. Other Mill House Alumni are iterating impact models in areas such as adolescent mental health and wellness, Indigenous advancement, problem drinking, health, housing, gender inequity and food security. Each GRIST venture is carefully selected by our panel of Industry Professionals and Social Impact Investors. They are looking for projects with a clear, compelling and measurable theory of change. They are also looking for market ready B2B or B2C ventures that can be tested, validated and iterated during the Program.
What is GRIST?
Frequently Asked Questions
The Mill House is part of the Canberra Innovation Network, and we work with the GRIFFIN Accelerator team. The GRIFFIN program is sector agnostic, and many GRIFFIN founders also identify as social entrepreneurs.
The main difference between our program is GRIFFIN requires Founders to take on equity investment in return for mentorship and support. The GRIST fee-for-service approach gives you the option to look at several funding models to drive your Impact mission and sustainable business model and develop relationships with mentors that are not also co-owners of your business.
We believe that venture capital is one of many ways to grow a business. Giving equity is not always consistent with the growth trajectory of hybrid companies that also rely on philanthropy and grants from the Government, so having a few options helps in the long term. It can take time some time experimenting in the market before you nail the right business/impact narrative.
For this reason, we do not take an equity stake in the ventures at GRIST stage. It’s easier to GRIST with us if your product is ready for the market; however, we can still help you to GRIST if you are still experimenting.
If you have a pre-prototype technology idea that will require significant up-front investment (web application, medical device, electronic games), GRIFFIN might be a better option for you. We are genuinely interested in making sure you get the help you need to accelerate your impact—even if that is not with us. So, don’t hesitate to reach out if you aren’t sure.
We provide advice, mentoring and targeted assistance such as introductions to potential alliance partners and customers.
We come together as a cohort for an entrepreneurial education and peer networking opportunities. The mandatory workshops are intensive, dedicated, whole-day learning opportunities to come to terms with all the factors that influence trading for impact.
The purpose of this is to encourage you to fully immerse yourself in the progress of social venture building and in connecting with your peers who are very likely to be your future collaborators and (we hope!) friends.
Day one and two are Introduction days, where we ground you in the Vision, Mission and Social Purpose of your Venture. We introduce you to several founders and social innovators who have lived-experience of the tension of this unique way of trading. We also unpack the attributes of this asset class with you and highlight opportunities and challenges your venture might face as you explore Social Enterprise.
We also celebrate Day one with a cocktail program launch in the evening!
Day three and four introduces you to the specialists and Industry Professionals that have supported our graduates’ ventures. You will hear from financial and legal experts who are well versed in Social Enterprise. During this time, we also investigate what your product milestones and impact measurements are capable of delivering in your market, and show you how impact reports come together.
Day five is called “Bringing it all together”, and we land the program with a pitching preparation workshop and deep work on your impact narrative, including finalising your market testing plan and launching you into your validation process.
Between the end of the Learning Program and the graduation ceremony, you will meet with your mentors 5 times to track progress on your market testing. For some, market testing might be designing and launching a crowdfunding campaign, for others it might be 100 User Interviews to inform your prototype development. The Market Testing Plan is tailored to your venture and your impact.
GRIST culminates in a Graduation Ceremony and community celebration. You will pitch your ventures and reflect on your adventures in GRIST with our Mill House social innovation community. We will also help you to prepare an ASK, to let our community know how they can continue to support your Social Enterprise.
No. Participants for our programs are selected through an extensive review process to ensure that we have the right expertise to support you over the entire Accelerator program.
We have learned through trial and error that the best approach is to strictly limit participation for those who are most ready and have clear impact narratives to address pressing social, cultural and environmental challenges right here in our region.
We seek start-up social ventures that intend to grow quickly through the acquisition of new customers in new or existing markets. We want to build entrepreneurial capacity rather than teach you how to get an increase in donations or Government funding.
If you have a trading model (way to make money that transacts services or products) and an impact idea (way to make a measurable difference), we will assess it for GRIST.
The Mill House facilitators, mentors, and investors are people who know how to help entrepreneurs succeed, and many of these are already successful entrepreneurs. They understand what you’re going through in starting an innovative new business. They are each committed to social entrepreneurship and are willing to draw on personal and professional networks to benefit your ventures.
We will provide the learning resources and program support so you can complete each stage and apply insights and new knowledge to your venture.
No. Crowdfunding is a method of fundraising and market validation and is ideal for trading social enterprises with consumer products. In our experience, Crowdfunding is a great way to supercharge your Mill House Social Enterprise Accelerator experience because it creates a supported environment for you to apply everything you’ve learned. It is not for the unwary though, so we spend a little extra time with you to make sure you stay on track.
We work with SERVICE ONE Alliance Bank, who frequently has suitable and fit-for-purpose programs to help social enterprises gain the market traction and recognition they need to grow. The Do Good Awards is one such program. Throughout GRIST you will have several touchpoints to get to to know more about SERVICE ONE, and they are our anchor for the Financial knowhow Panel.
StartSomeGood is an Australian crowdfunding platform for Social Enterprises. It’s worth having a look at their program to build your knowledge of crowdfunding if you are new to the process.
The Mill House will host a Graduation event designed to expose your venture to a range of social impact investors in our region.
We will support you to be able to do the best pitch possible and we will activate the network to get the right people in the room. Your pitch will help you access the next stage of development based on where you land at the end of the program—you might be looking for potential investors, partners, team members, or customers.
After Graduation, you will become an Alumni of Mill House. Mill House graduates is a growing ecosystem of Change Makers and Social Enterprise ventures adding to the status and reputation of Social Enterprise in the Canberra region, and across the world. We also invite you to consider Social Enterprise Council of NSW & ACT (SECNA) membership to maintain connections to a community of practice and like-minded ventures trading for impact.
We understand that developing any small business, especially for-purpose ventures, takes time.
The GRIST program is designed to learn quickly, challenge your idea and, just like going to the gym, it might feel uncomfortable and sweaty, but we want you to come out stronger. It’s not for everyone though!
We encourage people who are not sure to have a consult with our Team first. Consultations are always free at Mill House.
We are also connected into the Innovation and Small Business ecosystem in Canberra, so we can keep you informed of other opportunities and events like the ACT CoSS Networks (https://www.actcoss.org.au/services-resources/networks-working-groups) SECNA (https://secna.org.au/), ASENA (https://www.asena.org.au/ ) and the First Wednesday Connect networking sessions, and maybe we will see you there!
- Business Model Report–A fit-for-purpose business model report that you can share with potential impact partners and investors
- A supportive and experienced team including business mentors, and Mill House staff to empower you to rapidly develop your Minimum Viable Test
- Graduation Ceremony – a fun evening of celebration with our Mill House social innovation community
- You are an entrepreneur who is looking to pivot your business for purpose
- You are persistent, determined, and flexible – you want to learn and adapt your concept through this process
- You have a great team and the support of your co-founders, extended team, organisation and/or Board of Directors to participate fully
- The GRIST is valued at $10,000 AUD – Thanks to our Sponsor Members, program participants are only asked to contribute $1,500 AUD for the entire program per venture for up to 3 participants
- Need financial support? We have the discretion to support our Change Makers who are experiencing financial difficulties. We also offer flexible payment terms. There is a place to indicate in your application that you will need Fee Help
- We request a co-contribution from your of $1500 AUD (GST INCL). We offer payment plans too.
- Also, consider the value of your time. In addition to the learning time and workshops, you will also have tasks to complete between sessions. We recommend that the Principal Founder will need at least 2-3 days a week during the program to be available to put the time in to develop your business and financial model and test your assumptions in the market. We encourage the participation of teams who can share the load so that your wellbeing and health are prioritised.
In June 2022vThe Mill House Ventures are launching a new program led by our Social Entrepreneur in Residence, Tim Lo Surdo, and with the support of our extensive network of mentors. REFINE will offer short, intensive, highly-tailored support to established for-purpose traders in Canberra and the region.
Who Is The Program For
This program is ideal for:
- Founders or executives of established for-purpose social enterprises who have been generating income for at least 12 months
- New social enterprise business managers developing new impact areas within established community social enterprises
How Can This Program Support Your Impact
REFINE is designed to support established social enterprises realise their potential by overcoming the key business challenges that are holding them back. Given the diversity of challenges social enterprises face, the range of support this program can provide is almost limitless. Some examples of business challenges the program could help with include: designing new revenue models, expanding existing revenue streams, attracting impact partners, developing standard operating procedures, identifying production solutions, addressing tech gaps, or running new business development campaigns to validate new products/services.
For example, if one of the key barriers to scaling your impact is accessing new financing, we would pull together a group of fundraising experts for your Growth Lab to spend 3 hours generating fundraising ideas with you. This would be backed in by fortnightly coaching afterwards to support in the implementation of those ideas. The goal is to identify and remove barriers to scaling social, economic, environmental, or cultural impact. Together, we will focus on challenges facing established social enterprises with the potential to scale their business operations, thus underwriting an expansion of their measurable social impact.
REFINE program schedule includes:
- Initial Scoping Meeting to understand your business and impact model and the key barriers you are facing to scaling your impact.
- Growth Lab – a 3 hour brainstorming session between a brains trust of relevant experts and your business team to diagnose your challenges and offer potential solutions.
- Fortnightly Venture Coaching with Mill House’s Social Entrepreneur in Residence to help with implementing the recommendations from the growth lab and provide ongoing support.
The program will kick off in June and we will work with you to find suitable dates for the initial scoping meeting, growth lab, and ongoing coaching. The program fee is $1500. The Mill House subsidises the cost of this program through the generous support of our partners with the full value of the program being around $10,000. We offer a limited number of needs-based scholarships – more information is available in the EOI form.