Business School

Empowering Communities through Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship provides community organizations with an alternative to grant-dependence and an opportunity to be financially self-sufficient and sustainable. For NZEWI, this revolves around helping newcomers to New Zealand become more financially self-sufficient.

Since 2007, the group has run a sewing school to build technical skills and work experience that can lead to paid employment. NZEWI successfully secured a building from which to run the classes, sewing machines, and a professional sewing teacher. The women began to produce clothing that they were selling at a low cost at a local market. The chairperson and other members were interested in developing a sewing business to provide an income for the women involved.

The enterprise participants were all women who had attended the NZEWI sewing course. NZEWI selected these women as participants for the project due to their medium to high level sewing skills and their commitment to securing employment. Their countries of origin were Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and India. The majority were unemployed sole parents.

A variety of parties were contacted to explore the requirements and possibilities in establishing the enterprise. They received advice from government agencies, community organizations, and businesses on funding, organizational structure, business planning, tax, legal obligations, and mentoring.

A Business Mentor from Leadership New Zealand joined the project. A business plan was developed.

NZEWI made an agreement with a local business to produce bags made from old billboards. Enterprise participants made product samples and then carried out a two-week production trial to ascertain the production rate. The business ordered a subsequent lot of bags to be produced. The bag production service continued on an intermittent basis as orders were sought by the business.

The enterprise was promoted via a fashion industry newsletter, speaking at a cultural festival, interviews on two television programs, a newspaper article, and on a government website promoting diversity.

Comments by Participants:

  • “This group of women are amazingly resilient, they face so many hardships. The classes and the bag production are a break from their daily challenges where they gain a sense of worth and value. To have achieved something and learned a new skill is important for them.” (Susan, Past Sewing Teacher)

  • “I’ve learned a great amount on how to drive the business plan forward and to organize the business enterprise.” (Project Manager)

  • “My personal view is that these sorts of initiatives are vital to the well-being, evolution, and regeneration of many of the minority or underachieving segments within the wider New Zealand community.” (Business Mentor)

(From ‘Community Enterprise - A case study,’ Auckland Council)

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