Emily Murray: founder of Rise & Street Smart

Emily Murray - founder of Rise

Emily Murray is  a social entrepreneur from Canberra, which means she dreams up and creates new ways to help people to help themselves. She feels a strong responsibility to use her life to increase freedom around the world, and to empower people to live the lives they dream of.

A successful business can sustain itself, build itself and continue to deliver its purpose for as long as it can make a profit.”

Emily is the founder of Rise and Street Smart and  has previously worked at AusAID, the Australian National University, the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

What are you working on right now? 

There are two projects on my plate at the moment:  Rise  and Street Smart .

Rise advertises opportunities for young Australians to challenge themselves, increase their skills and broaden their experiences. We all know that some young Australians don’t have the same networks and support as others. NGOs can struggle to connect with young people to advertise the scholarships, competitions, and conferences they organise. Rise will promote equality of access to these opportunities for all young Australians, and empower every young Australian with internet access to apply for these opportunities. You can follow Rise on Facebook andTwitter.

The Rise website launched very recently, so at the moment, my board and I are planning how we will market the website and engage as many young people and organisations as possible.

Street Smart sprung out of my guilt and feeling of discomfort with the abject poverty of homeless people in Australia. I wanted to do something to help people who are new to the streets. So I’m researching and writing up a website to explain all the services available for people living below the poverty line in Australia: meals, packaged food, crisis helplines, medical assistance, and shower and clothes washing facilities. I recruited some of my fabulous friends to help research for Street Smart, and it’s due to their enthusiastic support that we have so many services listed so quickly.

How do you make ideas happen?

It’s important for me to get going quickly, before I’m tempted to latch onto a new idea instead.”

In the words of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, we must strike while the iron is hot. When I think of a new idea, I write it down in an Evernote notebook and think about it for a day or two: do I have the money, time and skills to make it happen at the moment? If I do, I get started straight away, because if I leave an idea to simmer for too long, my interest in the idea might pass. It’s important for me to get going quickly, before I’m tempted to latch onto a new idea instead.

What does your typical day look like?

Perhaps it’s lucky I don’t have a typical day, I find it’s better to be flexible and roll with the punches.”

I don’t have typical days. Perhaps I would be more productive if I did, but my days never seem to unfold that way, and I enjoy the freedom of figuring out my day as I go along. I’m a university student, studying law and international relations, managing four different social enterprises and occasionally volunteering for St John Ambulance and for my local politician. So I get up to a lot of different things. I also love being with my friends, I love to run, I love to cook and I love to read. On the day of writing this, I was on holidays with my Mum for Christmas, so I woke up at 6:30, cleaned the Paris flat I’ve shared with my Mum for a week, and then we caught a train to Brussels which has now been redirected back to Paris for repairs. Perhaps it’s lucky I don’t have a typical day, I find it’s better to be flexible and roll with the punches.

What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?

I think that more tolerance is needed within the community sector of the idea of profit-generating enterprises.”

Funding is a big problem for small start-up social enterprises. Typical sources of business capital, such as venture capitalists, are out, because these funders naturally look to maximise the return on their investment, while social enterprises generally aren’t prepared to maximise their profits at the expense of their social impact. The social enterprise business model is new in Australia, so banks may be wary of lending to an enterprise that is not solely focussed on returning its loaned money, but that also considers its social impact. The typical source of capital for not-for-profits, grants from businesses and government, aren’t given as freely, because social enterprises: a) are designed to eventually make a profit, and profit can be interpreted as a dirty word in the community sector, and b) can’t offer the tax benefits that come with donating to an organisation with DGR status.

On the positive side, crowd funding websites such as Start Some Good are perfect to jump-start those social enterprises that have a broad base of supporters willing to hand up a little cash.

I think that more tolerance is needed within the community sector of the idea of profit-generating enterprises (which have the benefit of being self-supporting, rather than eternally leeching), and more philanthropy in the community as a whole is needed, to raise the capital that they need to start up.

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

A late-night chocolate delivery service! I may have the strength to avoid the chocolate aisle in the supermarket, but when I’m in the zone and working hard late into the night, I’d pay good money for a chocolate bar delivered to my door!

What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry at the moment? 

The School for Social Entrepreneurs gives great education and support for social entrepreneurs starting out on their journey. I can’t thank them enough for all the help they gave me – perhaps they’ll be able to help you too! They have training programs in Australia and overseas.

I love the Start Some Good peer funding platform – it’s beautifully and strategically designed to give you the best chance of a successful crowd funding campaign.

What role do you think business should play in affecting social change?

Social enterprises are empowering, because literally can be a social entrepreneur and tackle big problems in their community.”

A successful business can sustain itself, build itself and continue to deliver its purpose for as long as it can make a profit. Our social and environmental problems need sustainable and adaptable solutions, which I believe are often best delivered by the social enterprise business model. The possibilities of social enterprise are endless. I love hearing about great ideas for problem-solving enterprises, like those in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs list. Social enterprises are empowering, because literally anyone can be a social entrepreneur and tackle big problems in their community.

Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?

My blog at www.emilymurray.com.au is designed to empower change makers – if you’re interested in campaigns or social enterprise then I hope it can help you as well!

For an unbiased and informed education about modern economic, environmental and political issues, you can’t go wrong with The Conversation, which presents academic research on current issues in language that’s easy to understand.

And there really is no website like Facebook for online marketing. It’s often overlooked or under utilised because its possibilities hide in plain sight. It’s quick, simple and free to set up a page and build an audience. If you want to spend some money, Facebook advertisements can be targeted precisely to your demographic. It’s really too good to pass over.

Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter? 

I get a lot of joy from following the Governor-General. When I had been following it for a few days I happened to meet the charming Governor-General Quentin Bryce, and I complimented her on her Tweets and told her I really enjoyed following her on Twitter. She explained politely but firmly that she didn’t like Twitter, because anyone can claim to be anyone and say anything. Later that day, I realised that the Twitter account isn’t actually hers- it’s someone impersonating her. Luckily, our conversation was short and Ms Bryce won’t remember me or my major screw up. But I still follow the account for the jollies!

Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?

Oh yes! Rise is looking for all sorts of new skills. If you can market a website, manage corporate sponsorship relationships, manage and improve a WordPress website, manage client relationships, or you’re just a generally awesome person who wants to come join the hottest online socent in Australia, then please get in touch! The work will be unpaid at first, but as our budget increases there will be competitive salaries. Send me an email with your resume if you’d like to join the team!

Our readers are smart, creative, talented and good looking. Here’s your chance to ask them anything.

What’s an idea for a website that would change the world?

What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?

This one’s easy: Cafe Essen in Garema Place in Canberra. The best chai lattes, banana smoothies and vegetarian nachos I’ve ever had. Such a shame that they don’t have wifi too.

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?

I’ll happily take the winner out for lunch at Cafe Essen the next time they’re in Canberra.

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