How One Health Organisation helped the Happy Herb Company develop a Social Enterprise Strategy.
by Phoebe Harpham
I recently spoke with Stephanie Barlow, Operations Manager of the Happy Herb Company (HCC), about her company’s involvement with One Health Organisation’s (OHO) Social Enterprise Scheme. Here is what Stephanie had to say.
What is the Happy Herb Company and why is it interested in Social Enterprise?
HHC is a franchise of over 50 shops across Australia and the USA. We sell and promote the use of natural herbs and products, and serve to re-educate the public about the important role that herbs play in human health and wellbeing. We believe in an ethical approach to business and a ‘not-only-for profit’ spirit, where 10% of our turnover is dedicated to health-based community projects, activism for plant freedom and drug law reform and herbal education. The HHC has been supporting local projects and good causes for many years however we have only recently formalised our approach to social enterprise. Our interest in social enterprise stems from our desire to make a positive contribution to society. The business sector has enormous influence on society, and it saddens us to see so much of this influence being used for selfish reasons. We wanted our company be a positive influence on society and we saw social enterprise as the way to do this.
Why did your company choose to partner with One Health Organisation?
We were already supporting a range of projects and charities in our local area, however, we were not very good at articulating what we were doing to our staff and consumers. We had heard about the work OHO was doing in the holistic health and social enterprise space and were interested in how they may be able to help us. Their focus on holistic health and medicine strongly resonated with our philosophy and so we felt that working with them was a natural fit.
How has OHO helped your company become a more effective social enterprise?
OHO has changed the way we approach the work we do in the social space. Before we partnered with OHO, we supported a number of different causes however we had no overarching strategy for what we were wanting to achieve. The first thing that OHO did was help us understand the social enterprise space and where we fit, or would like to fit, within it. They provided us with conceptual tools to guide our thinking and helped us to frame ideas that we otherwise would not have been able to articulate. OHO helped us to find the language to think and talk about what we were already doing. In essence, they helped us develop a social enterprise strategy for the company.
Part of this strategy was providing useful feedback to staff and customers on the causes we were investing in. Although we have always seen the value that documenting and sharing the good work we do in our communities has for our business, in a busy workplace it can be challenging to dedicate the time and resources to share this effectively. OHO helped us to develop video clips, testimonials, posters and photos to demonstrate project outcomes. These resources made what we were doing ‘real’ in the eyes of our staff and stakeholders and were great promotional tools. Without OHO’s help, we would not have had the vision or time to develop these resources.
Another way that OHO has helped is by linking us with worthwhile charities and causes. OHO has deep relationships with a wide range of great charities and projects. Working with OHO enabled us to tap into these projects and took the hard work out finding and vetting projects that aligned with our company philosophy. OHO also ensured that these organisations understood our vision and were committed to providing us with regular feedback that we could use to demonstrate outcomes to our staff and stakeholders.
What practical initiatives have you implemented since working with OHO?
We are involved in all five streams of the OHO Social Enterprise Scheme. We provide 1: financial contributions, 2: product and service contributions, 3: time and resource contributions, 4: community contributions, and 5: the one percent contribution – in fact we’ve gone over and above this and allocate 10% of our annual turn over to community projects and good causes. As our business is rooted in the holistic medicine and health and wellness space, we like to support projects and charities that are also working in this space. Our preference is to support projects within our local community and within Australia however we have also provided financial and product contributions to international projects. OHO has helped us to look at where we can create the biggest impact with our resources, and sometimes this is overseas in developing countries.
What challenges has your company encountered in this process?
As our company was already committed to the principles of social enterprise, we haven’t had to make too many significant changes. Partnering with OHO has actually made it easier for us to do what we were already doing. There have been times however when the company has been under financial strain and it has been difficult to remain committed to our social causes. During these times, it has helped us to reflect on our core values and remind ourselves of the reasons we are engaged in social enterprise.
Has your company profited from its involvement with OHO?
HHC has definitely benefited from its involvement with OHO. The feedback we receive from customers indicates that they are now aware and engaged in the projects and causes we are supporting through our work. The most unexpected benefit however has been the positive impact on our staff. Providing staff with feedback on our social enterprise initiatives has really boosted morale. Staff are noticeably more engaged, motivated and happy at work and report that they are proud to work for an organisation that is doing good and giving back to society. Even staff members who are engaged in the more mundane aspects of the company, at lower levels of responsibility, feel that they are making a difference by working for an organisation that is giving back to the community.
Do you have any tips for companies contemplating transitioning from a for-profit to a a not-just-for-profit?
The three tips that I would offer to companies interested in becoming more socially engaged are:
Choose projects that really resonate with your customers and staff. The projects that we support are all in the health and wellness space as this is our primary business.
Commitment to the cause is essential. Companies must be prepared to invest time, energy and resources and commitment from senior management is essential. If you invest in your social enterprise strategy then you will be richly rewarded.
Seek help from an expert organisation such as OHO to guide you through the process. This will ultimately save you time and money and will take a lot of the guess work out of the process. Seeking help from an expert organisation will also help you build a successful social enterprise strategy.