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April 7, 2016

Helping those who are helping others

As our collective social conscience continues to grow, so does our definition of success. Proving that there’s more than one way for a business to excel, Sarah Gun spoke to CityMag about switching from commercial drive to social enterprise.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Julian Cebo

How is it that you define a successful business?

The traditional checklist of popularity and profit still exists, but increasingly that definition is expanding to include the social good a business or organisation achieves.


Applications for the Social Ventures Incubator Program close 5pm, 17 April 2016.

For more information visit the website.

Social enterprises have introduced this new form of feel-good currency, and one local business affecting real-world change is GOGO events.

Starting as an event design business 15 years ago, owner Sarah Gun had achieved success in her field, but it was a drastic shift in thinking four years ago that led her down the path to becoming a social enterprise.

“It was my midlife crisis,” Sarah says with a smile.

“A couple of things happened, one is that I just realised what we were doing was purely commercially driven and I was feeling a bit vacuous and I thought I even needed to change industries, but then I recognised that I had a really powerful tool… and if I could find a way to use the business in a positive way, then I could tick all the boxes.”

Sarah decided to focus on helping to lift socially disadvantaged women into employment, and her next step was cold calling charities in the hopes of finding a willing collaborator – and convincing her existing client base that the change was a good idea.

“I had two great clients that I went to and I said ‘I’ve been doing your events for several years, this is the way we’ve been doing them, but actually this is the way I want to do it. Will you do it with me?’,” Sarah says.

“I said ‘we have to hold hands and take the risk, but it will be incredible if it works,’ and it did.”

GOGO events has continued to design events for clients like FoodSA, the Australian Hotel Association, and Toyota Australia, who, as Sarah recounts, then become contributors to the cause without anything really changing.

Sarah’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, she attended South by Southwest Interactive Festival this year in Austin, Texas and took home the award for Most Innovative Social Enterprise.

Returning home, she says that Adelaide’s social enterprise market is in its very early stages, but in a collaborative city like ours, only good can come from that market expanding.

The Adelaide City Council too has seen the potential in developing new social enterprises, and is looking for applicants to join its Social Venture Incubator Program.

Running from June to September, the program will offer practical skills through workshops with industry experts available to anyone with a potential venture that has an aim to have a social and economic impact here in Adelaide.

“The fact the Adelaide City Council particularly is taking issue with it is really, really exciting. I think we have the right population mix, the right density of people,” Sarah says.

“And I think a really important aspect needs to be to start here [in Adelaide], but there’s no reason that you can’t go global with these great ideas.”

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