Amanda Reed is a social entrepreneur from Brisbane, who has taken the leap from the corporate sector into social enterprise. She feels a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that all people, regardless of their level of ability, be able to live independently and have quality of life. Amanda is the founder of The Roundabout, a socially innovative company that provides a cost effective and accessible option for people who need assistive technology by giving unused equipment new life in a new home.
I see a self-sustaining business as an entity that transcends the individual as a vehicle for social change. It has the power to unite people toward a common good over time.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
While I would like to take credit for the idea for The Roundabout, I can’t. My business partner came up with the idea because she faced the problem every day.
As someone who cares for the elderly, Shirley knew how important it was that people had access to the equipment that allowed them to live independently and have quality of life. She was confronted by the reality that people who needed equipment couldn’t always afford it, and knowing that others had perfectly good equipment which they no longer used stored in their homes. She knew that these forgotten items could change the life of another person or family. And so the idea for The Roundabout was born.
I have to admit it took some time for me to realise the impact The Roundabout could have. Only when I ventured into the community and spoke with people who use disability and mobility equipment did I really understand.
A woman I spoke with shared that her 10yr old son had grown into and out of equipment at such a rate that she had a shed full of it. She also spoke of the cost of the equipment and the pressure it put on her and her family. One gentleman shared how assistive technology kept him connected to his community and how the cost of this equipment was an ongoing struggle. Due to a cycling accident a number of years ago he is now paraplegic.
After hearing these stories, I was hooked; I couldn’t walk away, so I took the plunge.
Please explain your business model.
We sell a service. Basically, The Roundabout is a customised website and listing service that simplifies the process of buying and selling secondhand mobility and disability equipment.
During the site’s development we worked closely with our customers, recognising and accommodating their concerns around safety and accessibility. The site is easy to navigate for novices and first time visitors, and we also offer a phone listing service for people who prefer personal interaction.
Our vision is to create a service that empowers people who use disability and mobility equipment with a different choice.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
Launching a week ago we’re working hard to reach out to our customers. So far the response has been fantastic. The Cerebral Palsy League and Occupational Therapist Australia have supported us to help get the word out. While we still have some way to go, we have listings, and with the recent interest from the aged care sector, we believe things are moving in the right direction.
I’m also staying busy connecting with other entrepreneurs and social enterprises. I’m delighted to be attending the Deloitte Not for Profit think tank later this month. And being a part of the River City Labs community ensures that I’m surrounded by entrepreneurs, like Ollo Mobile, who are doing great things.
How do you make ideas happen?
I’m a planner, who has either note pads or my mobile close by. I find that my best ideas come to me at the strangest moments and I have to catch them while I can. Many of my ideas are a result of a problem that I’ve been mulling over or an opportunity that I’ve spotted.
Once I have the idea it’s a matter of working out if it is in line with our vision, if it’s viable and whether we have the resources to make it happen. The next part is where I really thrive; working out how to make it happen in the most efficient and effective way, then executing.
What does your typical day look like?
My day is generally pretty structured; I find this makes me more productive.
My typical work day starts with a run. I find this is the best time to plan my day and mull over any challenges I’m facing. It’s also one of the most creative times of the day for me. I’m constantly amazed by the brilliant ideas that appear mid-run. Of course, the challenge is to remember them before my mind moves onto the next thing.
I speak with my business partner every morning about the day ahead and any decisions that need to be made.
Then I’m into my daily tasks. I try to keep a balance between completing tasks and connecting with people. As a person who likes to get things done, it can be all too easy to become solely task focussed.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
As a start-up, funding is the number one challenge. This challenge is greater for social enterprise because it often sits in no man’s land, somewhere in between the pure not for profit and the traditional start-up. Because of this more common funding options, such as government grants and venture capital don’t always fit.
However, the tide is turning with Federal initiatives such as Social Enterprise Development and Investment Funds (SEDIF). And with a trail-blazing social enterprise like ‘Thank you Water’ leading the way, I feel optimistic that social enterprise will find it easier in the future.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Shellac for shoes – Tragically, I scuffed my favourite pair of shoes this week. I have my fingers crossed that the shoe repairer can do something about it but I’m not hopeful.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
I recently mentored at Club Kidpreneur; it was an amazing experience. The kids’ abilities to grasp the key concepts, like profit and loss, blew me away. Club Kidpreneur is a not for profit social enterprise whose mission is to spark the entrepreneurial spirit in the next generation of Australian kids. With initiatives like this the next generation of entrepreneurs will be well armed with solid business skills.
What about internationally?
The changemakers that make up the Ashoka community are doing amazing things. This group of social entrepreneurs are creating innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. The breadth of issues they are tackling and level of global political engagement is astounding. With a vision, “to make social change happen and have fun while doing it”, how could you not be inspired by this amazing group of people.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
I believe that as business people we can use the best aspects of our business skills to create innovative solutions to the problems facing humanity. I see a self-sustaining business as an entity that transcends the individual as a vehicle for social change. It has the power to unite people toward a common good over time.
Speaking of affecting social change, we’ve teamed up with Shout for Good to encourage readers to ‘shout a coffee’ to charity by clicking the button below. Is there a particular charity you’d like to support? (follow link for complete list)
I sent a ‘Shout for Good’ to the Bionic Institute because of their work to design devices that will assist people who have a hearing or vision disability. They are working to improve the performance and design of the cochlear implant and other bionic hearing devices so that more adults and children can benefit from this life-changing technology.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
For straightforward and practical advice on web accessibility, you can’t go past AccessIQ. They provide information on how different disabilities affect the way people interact with the web and how to make web sites and web applications accessible.
To stay up to date on what’s happening in your city, career and local community; The Fetch is a must, especially for those in the creative, tech or business space. Make sure you check out their blog too.
And to help stay on top of your social media, Buffer is a great tool. It integrates multiple social networks, letting you easily manage your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn from one place. It’s an oldie but a goodie.
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
@SocialTradersAU – A must for any social entrepreneur would be Social Traders. As a specialist organisation that supports the development of commercially viable social enterprises throughout Australia it keeps you up to date.
@SIXAUS – In 2013 we were a part of the SIXAUS Changemakers Festival. As one of the four in the Brisbane team selected to present at the Deloitte Social Innovation event, I would have to add SIXAUS to my list. The SIXAUS community has a common goal to unite people in their quest to tackle tough social challenges.
@brodiemcculloch – I also find Brodie McCulloch very interesting, his tweets pivot around innovation, entrepreneurship and social change.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
Can I say all of the above? The Roundabout is looking for all sorts of new skills. If you are social media savvy, have a flair for marketing or you’re a WordPress buff, then get in touch!
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
What steps can be taken to better support Australia’s idea makers?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
I’d have to say Fusion 54 on James Street in Fortitude Valley. The service is great and the food is always delicious and fresh. What more could you ask for?
We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?
How could you celebrate without a bottle of Moet? The Roundabout would be more than happy to recognise the winner’s success by giving them a bottle of Moet. But, if the winner happens to be in Brisbane, we’d love to take them out for a celebratory lunch.