Restocking the stationery cupboard is right up there on the list of dull office tasks but the social enterprise Yoobi promises to increase the feel-good factor by matching each item bought with a donation to an underprivileged schoolchild.
Indeed one of the features of social enterprise – businesses that exist for a social purpose – is that they create funding and resources to help to make the world a better place. The Thankyou group funds aid projects around the world by selling bottled water to people who were going to buy bottled water anyway. Property Initiatives in Melbourne manages apartments for investors and directs the profits into housing for women and children in need.
Customers get the products and services they want but the profits from the exchange are not enriching shareholders, they are going towards those who need it more.
Yoobi was founded in the US two years ago by two Australian entrepreneurs, with the idea of selling stationery to the public through retail and using the profits to help underprivileged children.
“In the US, they don’t actually care what institutional model that you run,” he says. “You could be a for-profit business, a non-profit, a hybrid, a social enterprise.
“The thing they are most interested in is what can have the biggest social impact and how they can leverage their global network and their funding to take good ideas to scale.
“They are very aggressive and bold, in terms of their visions. Chan Zuckerberg had said it wants to eliminate disease by 2100. The scope of the ambition and the resources behind it seem to be a lot more ambitious.
“I feel that in Australia, it is very much bound by the model. Some people won’t talk to you if you are doing social impact but you are a business. Others may not relate to you if you are doing it charitably, they may treat you differently.”
As the sons of school teachers, Kalish and business partner Ido Leffler are well-placed to understand that many families struggle with the costs associated with schooling and that 92% of Australian teachers help out by buying classroom materials out of their own pockets, spending an average of $500 each.
They also know 1.1 million Australian children live in poverty and cannot afford school supplies – making it much more difficult for them to thrive at school.
Parents have to spend about $1,600 per child if everything is bought new, according to the Australian Retail Association.
One school that has benefited from donations is Willmot Primary, in the western Sydney suburb of Mount Druitt, which received school packs for every child in August. The principal, Carley Bugeja, says that, although it is a small school of just 145 children, it is not always possible to know when families are struggling financially. “We are working with families who, from time to time, are doing it tough,” she says.
While the school ensures that every child has the supplies for their classes, the Yoobi donation allows them to also have what they need at home to do their projects and homework.
“It really did have a great impact on our school community,” she says. “When children go home and have families with access to reading books and learning resources, they are able to reinforce the great learning that happens that happens at school. Children are at a critical disadvantage if they don’t have those learning utensils at home.”