This is the third in a series of interviews with alumni from the School for Social Entrepreneurs Australia which runs learning programs across Australia for people from all backgrounds that have an idea or business with a community benefit.
Wild Rumpus is a creative ‘skillshare’ social enterprise that aims to build a resourceful, creative and sustainable community by providing:
- affordable adult education classes in areas of sustainability, creativity and DIY
- entry-level opportunities for emerging freelancers, creatives and educators to gain experience in workshop delivery, public speaking and business promotion
- opportunities for local makers, creatives and designers to showcase and test their wares in the marketplace, and
- revitalising places and spaces through innovative, fun community events.
Based in Wollongong, NSW, we run a program of short, affordable classes in all kinds of locations, and taught by a local skilled person who may not be ‘professional’. We support the teacher in sourcing the venue and materials, as well as doing the marketing, promotion, managing bookings and assisting with class design.
The community gets the opportunity to try something new without a huge time and money commitment, participate in social activity, be inspired to continue their learning journey and build on their resourcefulness. Class topics have included Ethiopian cooking, backyard beekeeping, knitting, mosaic tiles, using power tools, learning guitar chords, baking sourdough, acapella singing, life drawing and building a vertical garden, just to name a few.
Wild Rumpus also hosts a quarterly Maker’s Market that provides opportunity for local makers, crafters, designers and artists to sell their wares. The market encourages new makers and emerging talent, by creating an easy minimal application and stallholder process.
Wild Rumpus offers private classes, corporate team building and parties, which also provide paid employment opportunities for local creatives.
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We wanted to give people the feeling that they were part of something with edge, that was innovative and exciting. Plus hopefully we are slowly building social change through nurturing the creative, skilled people here in Wollongong. After all, we need to invest in regional Australia. Our cities are full up!
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
We connected as friends here in our little community and spent a few years surrounded by incredibly creative, skilled people who struggled to find regular income here in Wollongong. At the same time we both kept learning these fun new things from friends – how to play ukelele, how to compost, how to lino-print. There was always someone to go and ask if we needed to learn a new skill. We kept thinking “wouldn’t it be great if there was somewhere to go locally that somehow harvested all these cool, fun skills that people in our community have, and share them in a way that is easy and practical?”
After 18 months in Melbourne, Caitlin moved back to Wollongong; we had been talking by phone and getting more and more inspired to start something. Our first meeting happened in one of our lounge rooms about two weeks after her return, and since then we haven’t looked back. We love our beautiful town; we want to create the cultural and creative life that we enjoy, and we want others to as well. We don’t want to lose the interesting, creative, talented, freaky people to the ‘Big City’ because they can’t find opportunities here.
Please explain your business model
Hmm, we are still working on it! We started out by running skillshare classes as that is the part of the business we were most passionate about. But to keep it accessible for everyone we need to keep costs and ticket prices really low, so it’s not going to make us money!
The Maker’s Market certainly gives us an audience and ensures we are financially viable in running the skillshare class program. We have lots of well developed programs that are still at the ‘ideas stage’ and we really need some dedicated (paid) time to make these a reality. Given that we are only 18 months into our venture this is where we expected to be!
This year is all about generating some seed funding to give us dedicated time to develop the other service streams of Wild Rumpus, which at the moment are a BIG SECRET! Watch this space….
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
We are really excited to be working with a local social enterprise, SCARF Catering, that supports refugees to start their own catering businesses. We have also just programmed a 12 month calendar of classes, which will be announced soon!
In the bigger picture, we are in conversations with the School for Social Entrepreneurs to co-deliver the Social Change 101 program here in Wollongong in 2015. This is a really exciting prospect for our town which is challenged by high unemployment – actually one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the country – and a significant lack of entry-level opportunities for people in creative industry and sustainability education.
How do you make ideas happen?[Caitlin] Lizzie and I have the most wonderfully intuitive and complimentary working relationship. We just continue to be on the same page, so it feels quite easy to make our ideas happen. Once we agree, they come together quickly and we like to act quickly instead of talking in circles.
While we share a lot of the same skills and interests, we have a natural divide of duties that has developed over time. Despite having LOTS of other things taking up our time: kids, home, other jobs, we seem to pump things out pretty quickly. We are pretty good at pulling back and slowing things down when the workload starts to be overwhelming.
What does your typical day look like?
In between juggling small people, and other day jobs, we meet at least once a week (often with our preschool-age sons tearing around us!) for 2 hours. Every other day is squeezing in emails, phone calls or updates to the website, social media, plus arranging meetings with potential partners and other folk we want to know about us! There is NO typical day!
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
It has been a challenge starting our enterprise in a regional city. We love our city, but it is a bigger ask to get people on board something like this here, compared to a capital city where the population and the audience is just right there waiting.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Social media is pretty much free, accesses an immediate audience and is used by most people. If you don’t understand it, or are scared of it – LEARN!
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
Culture Bank – Wollongong based crowd funding club to fund arts projects.
Big Hearted Business is an amazing organisation. We had the honour of winning a scholarship to the 2014 Big Hearted Business Conference.
The School of Life, Melbourne – teaching skills in how to live!
First Hand Solutions – a social enterprise working with the Aboriginal community of La Perouse, Sydney
Milkwood permaculture – A world class permaculture training facility.
CERES in Brunswick, Melbourne – A fantastic, inspiring space for sustainability education.
The Gap Project – Links a creative business with a photographer/stylist with a pro bono skill exchange
Dumbo Feather Magazine – Showcasing the extraordinary work of ordinary people.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Social change has always happened by groups of people getting organised. We think that the structures and umbrellas under which the organising happens can change, and have different things to offer. Ultimately, social change happens when enough people can see the potential in change and it’s just not an option to sit and do nothing.
Business offers such a unique element to social change in being able to provide economic empowerment. As two people with a background in social work, community development and adult education, we know there are zillions of examples both here in Australia where enabling communities with economic power – whether it’s Traditional Banks in remote Aboriginal communities, or microfinance initiatives for farmers in India – creates real, lasting impactful change.
Whether we like it or not, economic power also gives us social capital, a voice and most importantly – choice and options.
Having worked in the NGO sector for a long time, we wanted to make an offering that was genuine ‘community development’ but couched within a business setting. We wanted to give people the feeling that they were part of something with edge, that was innovative and exciting. Plus hopefully we are slowly building social change through nurturing the creative, skilled people here in Wollongong. After all, we need to invest in regional Australia. Our cities are full up!
Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like our readers to support?
SCARF – Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families here in Wollongong. They are doing amazing things.
Name some websites you would recommend to our readers.
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter.
We have avoided Twitter! We LOVE Instagram though. Follow @joostbakker @creativewomenscircle and @dumbofeather.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
YES! We often need volunteers for events, interns etc.
And yes, we are looking for funding for a range of projects.
Please get in touch! [email protected]
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?
Besides having a really sound, solid, awesome idea/product/service, what is it that makes it appealing for corporate sponsors to invest in your enterprise?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
At all and sundry, Princes Hwy, Woonona
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?
Sure! A gift voucher to one of our classes, advertising on our website, a ”Be Wild’ screen-printed note pad.