The first week of December was one filled with excitement and learning for the Bugisu team. We flew to Melbourne for the finals of the Big Idea competition and, being the coffee capital of Aus, we knew that it would be a hub for cultivating knowledge. In 48 hours, we mustered three huge meetings, one killer presentation, one massive win, one chance encounter, four missed flights and a wealth of learning. This is the breakdown of those two wild days.
It all began Tuesday morning, when we met with Elise Bennetts, the Chief Relationships Officer at STREAT. Pulling up to their superb space in Collingwood was a dream. We saw how a social enterprise can become an institution that competes with the big guys and changes people’s mentality around consumption. We were inspired by how their simple coffee cart in Federation Square back in 2010 has now diversified into supporting hundreds of young Aussies who are homeless or at risk through training and upskilling in hospitality roles. STREAT exemplified to us how big things can sprout from simple ideas.
We zoomed across to meet, Ninna, co-founder of Reground to discuss all things circular economy (or as she likes to call it, circular collaboration). At face-value, Reground collects coffee waste to save it from landfill but they are far more than that. They are educators and the rationale behind their business is incredibly powerful. Scrap egos and eliminate green-washing Ninna said, what we need is for-purpose organisations to fill gaps and connect dots in our linear ‘take-make-dispose’ cities. She made us realise that there is an entire ecosystem of organisations doing great stuff for people and the planet and hopefully, we get to see her again in the new year.
This was the most important hour of the day - the Big Idea finals pitch. We were eager to share the story with another group of people and this panel of judges were nothing short of big. Chancellors, directors, partners, CEOs and fellows listened to us tell the Bugisu tale and after, questions were enthusiastically shot from every direction. They engaged and understood why we are doing what we are doing and that felt good.
Heading back to the PWC office for the awards night with shoes shone and hair combed, we were feeling pretty excited. What an opportunity it was to present our idea and what a place to spend the night – on the twenty-first floor of a building with a view of the city skyline. But it got even better when we saw one particular person in the crowd. Daniel Flynn, co-founder of Thankyou was in the room. What Dan doesn’t know is that only a day earlier, we were trying to tee up a meeting with him through his assistant meaning that him being the keynote speaker, felt a bit like fate. We were quick to reach out and boy are we glad that we did. Dan talked candidly with us about the struggles of social enterprise, managing expectations, working relationships and failure. But he also told us to keep going. Keep slogging it out. Jump in and commit to the idea. His overarching sentiment for the night was ‘What you are doing isn’t easy, but it is important’ – a good reminder to us all.
We pulled ourselves away from Dan and took our seats for the official presentation of awards. Surrounded by brilliant young social entrepreneurs from universities all over Australia, we were unsure what the outcome would be but wonderfully, when the drumroll rang out, we were named as the winners of the Big Idea 2018. For us, it was great validation and an amazing reward. We are thrilled to be heading back to Melbourne early next year to spend some time with the team at the Big Issue (Big Issue kind of sounds like Bug-isu).
Celebratory pizza, vino and talking about things other than coffee.
We rustled up a car (thank you Mon’s aunt) and we drove to the beautiful Mornington Peninsula, about 1.5 hours from Melbourne’s CBD. When we arrived to meet Sam, the co-founder of Commonfolk Coffee, we were immediately captivated. In the sunny courtyard of their warehouse café, we sipped on a few different brews and talked all things coffee and social impact. Sam has played a huge role in setting up Zukuka Bora and was generous in sharing his wisdom about all things Uganda. Next year, he has also offered to share a shipping container with us to bring more Ugandan beans to Australia. Sam had us so excited and engaged that we left the peninsula a little later than we should have...
Sat in the Uber, kilometres from the airport. Our flight is at 5PM.
Stood in the queue at Virgin Australia waiting to be served – t-minus three minutes to our flight closes.
Staff member began to check us in.
Darcy tried to run through security Love Actually style to board the plane and save himself $150. He failed.
We all missed the flight back to Sydney.
Brody and I got double snack servings on the plane (win) and we chatted about our time down south.
Incredibly valuable, incredibly validating. Melbourne, we are coming for you (once we have Sydney figured out).
Bugisu Project is a not-profit, closed-loop coffee supplier for workplace kitchens.
100% of profits drive impact programs in Uganda, where their coffee is grown.
100% of their used coffee are collected and put to good use.