“My enterprise is called Project GIRL,” says Jodi Lennox, a student at the SSE (School for Social Entrepreneurs) and BT Social Entrepreneur Incubator. “GIRL stands for growing, independent, resilient leaders. I’m developing a mentoring program that helps girls to develop their leadership skills, self-image, self-confidence and self-motivation.”
Jodi grew up in Sydney, before moving to Alice Springs in 2009. There, she took a position in the Smith Family’s Girls at the Centre program. It provides support for Indigenous girls who are at risk of dropping out of high school. “I saw the students change – learn to stand proud and believe in themselves – just from the simple thing of having someone in their lives who was there regularly, believing in them.”
The experience inspired Jodi to come up with an idea for an enterprise of her own. She could see that Girls at the Centre was providing effective assistance to high school students, but felt that younger girls needed help too. “Some students are already disengaged by the time they reach Year 7,” she says. Project GIRL will fill the gap by catering to those aged between ten and fifteen.
However, despite her professional experience and abundant passion, Jodi wasn’t so sure about the business aspect of starting a social enterprise. “Then I went to an info night for the SSE and I thought, ‘This is what I need’. I knew that I needed structure to make it work, but business is not at all my background. So the SSE was the perfect next step,” she says.
The SSE and BT Social Entrepreneur Incubator, which ran from October 2014, has taken Jodi through a nine-month program, involving one-to-one mentoring sessions, master classes and meet-ups with fellow students.
“It was amazing,” Jodi says. “My mentor, Christophe Thibaux, was fantastic. He really took an interest in my specific project. He challenged my thinking and pushed me to think - in the business sense - from the wording of my business plan, to considering the different audiences I’ll need to speak to. And the group of other entrepreneurs provided so much support, inspiration and connection.”
Christophe, a senior manager in risk and control assurance at Westpac, became interested in Project GIRL for its focus on disadvantaged children. “My mum and my sister are both teachers, so I’ve always had a strong belief that supporting education is important,” he says. “I felt that I could help Jodi with identifying how she could measure improvements, not only in the girls, but also in the communities – how to identify the stakeholders involved and measure the benefits for them, so that she can track improvement and communicate results when she’s looking for sponsorship.
“What was initially an idea has become much more concrete, in terms of defining exactly what Jodi wants to do and turning it into a business. For me, the experience was really motivating. It was inspiring to meet someone who is so committed to improving their community.”
Jodi is in the final stages of organising Project GIRL and is planning for a mid-2015 launch. “Initially, I’ll start in Central Australia, which is a reflection of where the idea came from. But after the first twelve months, I plan to grow it to be Australia-wide. In five to ten years, I’d love for it to be international.”
Been thinking about your own social entrepreneurial start-up? Read more about the SSE BT Social Entrepreneur Incubator.
This information is current as at 30/06/2015.