Entrepreneurship comes naturally to Alex Jeffery, who at just 19 years of age, has founded numerous businesses, each with an underlying social purpose. Here’s the story of a remarkable young social entrepreneur who made the list for Anthill’s Top 30 entrepreneurs under 30.
At the age of 14, Jeffery embarked on his first business venture – selling guitar accessories through eBay and donating a percentage of the profits to charity. At the time, eBay Australia did not offer a payment system that would allow sellers to automatically designate a percentage of their sales to charitable foundations.
Jeffery campaigned for eBay Australia to introduce this system, but his efforts failed. But that didn’t stop him from opening up his own website to make it happen.
Two years later, he moved onto a new business – Dewalio, a clothing company with a social conscience. Jeffery implemented a one-for-one business model – where for every item purchased, one would be donated to a charitable cause.
One of his proudest achievements through this business is hosting a successful music event ‘Club to Clothe’ last year in Melbourne that generated interest among the local community who had to bring second-hand clothing before they could get past the doors. The event managed to collect 600 items of clothing that was donated to the homeless of Melbourne.
Now at 19, he is more driven than ever with his mind set on multiple projects. In February this year, Jeffery launched Hoothouse – an online musical event and talent management system that brings people together through music for a cause.
“We support a cause by raising awareness and occasionally raising funds. But we prefer to integrate some form of activity to bring the charitable organisation in. This way, instead of just raising money, people are actively learning about the cause and are inspired to get involved,” says Jeffery.
Hoothouse also helps artists manage themselves using technology, rather than hiring a manager. Aside from the passion Jeffery has for music, the inspiration behind Hoothouse emerged from noticing a structural shift where artists no longer require someone else to manage the behind-the-scenes of the unstructured music industry.
“We’re offering them the technology to manage themselves and cut out that extra cost of hiring a full-time manager…and the music industry is very disorganised making it harder than ever for musicians to make it. So we’re trying to bring the business back into music,” he says.
“A lot of creatives don’t quite understand the business side of things, because they’re busy being creative rather than building a business plan. We’re integrating technology into music talent management to help musicians grow and thrive again in a tough industry.”
Hoothouse generates revenue through the music events, and gets commission on the earnings of the talent they manage. They’re currently managing an Australian indie pop-rock band, Reika and expect to get more talent on board.
They’re also working to build a self-management platform for artists who can sign up and pay a monthly subscription fee to gain access to tools and resources that make it easy for artists to manage themselves.
Why social entrepreneurship is important
Jeffery says social entrepreneurship is especially powerful today because business has enormous influence on society.
“We interact with businesses everyday. Everything that we do have some relationship to business; and because of that I think it has potential to change the way we live, the way our world functions,” he says.
He adds that social enterprises are like “sustainable charitable organisations”; and the best way to bring rapid change is to have a mission-driven company that is profitable and scalable. This way companies “are more equipped to making a difference”.
“It’s come to a tipping point in time where things need to change, and it needs to change fast. But to do it fast means you need to scale fast, and you need to be profitable to be able to do that,” says Jeffery.
Jeffery also ran the inaugural One World Summit in Melbourne, Australia on August 17. The event brought together Victoria’s young social leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers to discuss big ideas and learn from those more experienced in the industry on how to move forward.
If you want to know what all the hootin’ is about, check out www.hoothouse.org.
To find out about other projects Jeffery is working on, visit www.alexjeffery.me.