Pro bono support helps social enterprises shift gears in response to COVID-19

A new collaboration between Westpac Foundation, Social Impact Hub and Social Traders is providing valuable pro bono support to social enterprises, with over 50 enterprises already applying for support.

Established in response to COVID-19, the new initiative gives social enterprises the opportunity to access the skills and expertise of corporate Australia to help them find solutions to challenges they’re facing. 

Camilla Schippa, CEO of The Social Outfit, was one of the first social enterprises to take up the opportunity. The well-known ethical fashion label, The Social Outfit, provides employment and training in the fashion industry to people from refugee and new migrant communities. It relies heavily on its retail trade and community events to generate revenue to support its programs.

“Nationwide, retail is on its knees, even the larger retailers are feeling the pressure. With social distancing measures still in place, our store remains closed to the public while other vital revenue-generating activities for The Social Outfit such as markets and partnership events have all been put on hold,” Schippa says. 

“We had to quickly shift gears and focus on developing an e-commerce growth strategy as well as pivot to online learning to keep our community engaged.”


Employees of The Social Outfit.

Employees of The Social Outfit.

Through the pro bono support program, Schippa has been matched with Margot Balch, a leading digital strategist and founding team member of one of Australia’s largest online fashion outlets, The Iconic. Today Balch runs her own online fashion label B.PRIVÉ. She will be drawing on her years of online retail experience to help The Social Outfit reposition itself. 

Westpac Foundation has been a long-time supporter of The Social Outfit. CEO Susan Bannigan says: “Working in collaboration with Social Impact Hub and Social Traders to tailor the support we can provide our community partners, like The Social Outfit, and the broader social sector, is so valuable right now.”

“This collaboration draws not only on the business skills of corporate Australia, but also on experts, like Margot, who can deliver the specialist support social enterprises might be looking for.” 

Social enterprises in need of pro bono support are encouraged to review the eligibility guidelines and submit an expression of interest. Priority will be given to enterprises with revenues greater than $1 million or with more than five employees, as well as those focused on job creation. Social enterprises certified by Social Traders are also able to contact Social Traders directly.


An employee from The Bread and Butter Project.

An employee from The Bread and Butter Project.

In addition to pro bono support, the collaboration is also delivering a webinar series for social enterprises. The third webinar in the series will focus on how businesses are adapting their business models in response to COVID-19. Webinar participants will hear directly from Cindy Carpenter, chair of The Bread and Butter Project, Australia’s first social enterprise bakery that invests 100 per cent of its profits into training and employment opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers. 

Normally operating as a wholesale bakery, the closures of cafes and restaurants due to COVID-19 resulted in a 60 per cent loss in revenue for The Bread and Butter Project. They underwent a major transformation within two weeks, shifting from being a largely wholesale enterprise to becoming more consumer-facing via online retailers and supermarkets. They are now supplying their produce direct to Woolworths Metro and Harris Farm stores. 

To register for “Social enterprise innovation – Lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis”, on Friday 15 May please go to Westpac Davidson Institute. 

If you are leading a social enterprise and need business support, visit the Social Impact Hub to review the eligibility guidelines and complete an expression of interest. ST certified social enterprises can also email Social Traders directly to discuss their needs.

Banner advert for the webinar: Social enterprise innovation – Lessons learnt from the COVID-19 crisis

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