Turning Ideas Into Positive Impact: Reflections On The Elevate+ Social Enterprise Accelerator Program


How might people best unleash their greatest potential to create positive social and environmental change in this world?

You'd probably agree that there's no end to the possibilities here. Geographically and contextually we'd expect the answer to change dramatically.

But no matter where you live or what you do, we would no doubt agree that ideas are cheap. We've all had amazing ideas, but it's surprising how very few of these are actually successfully implemented, and how even fewer focus on solving real world problems. We're not short of wicked problems, yet our 'unicorn' focussed startup world (a startup with a valuation of over $1 billion), typically dominated by males, tends to place emphasis on financial returns over everything else. We believe business done well, is business that connects the financial, social and environmental factors in a beautiful balancing act.

The Elevate+ Social Enterprise Accelerator was designed as a place-based program to help grow and scale (where appropriate) social enterprises. That is, purpose-driven businesses operating to create positive impact. We provide the community, skills, knowledge, networks, mentoring, and exposure to help social impact entrepreneurs and their teams succeed and take their enterprise to the next level.


It's time we move from the ideas boom to the impact boom.


Whilst social enterprise is by no means the answer to tackling all community issues, we do believe that when done well, it can be an extremely effective means to creating a better world.

After over 125 interviews with global purpose-led leaders on our blog and podcast, there is no question that social enterprise is on the rise.

We believe accessible knowledge and education lie at the core of healthy, equitable communities and we're intent on helping people turn their ideas into positive social impact. We are most at home, when helping social entrepreneurs and their communities to thrive.

If you’re a Brisbane based social entrepreneur, don’t miss out on our next program. Apply now for our fully subsidised Elevate+ Accelerator, which will run February to June 2019, proudly supported by Brisbane City Council.


What happened last time we ran Elevate+?

After a highly competitive, city-wide application process, Impact Boom welcomed an amazing group of 25 passionate social impact entrepreneurs into the Elevate+ Accelerator Program in Brisbane. 14 high potential, early stage social enterprises tackling an array of pressing community issues joined us for the 15 week program. 68% of Elevate+ participants during the last program were female and 32% male.

The enterprises which took part continue to use innovative ways to tackle homelessness and an array of global health problems, provide refugee and migrant support, create sustainable consumption and reduce waste via sharing and circular economy models. Keep your eyes on these inspiring social entrepreneurs as they evolve, develop their projects and maximise their impact:


Having facilitated many programs, workshops and training sessions internationally over the past 10+ years, what struck me most about these entrepreneurs was their authenticity and passion to make an impact. From the moment we started, I knew facilitation of the program was going to be an absolute pleasure. Curating such a group had been at the front of our mind during selection.

Each week we would meet for in-person workshops, and over 20 local and international experts came in over the duration of the program to share experience, provide mentoring and help build our community. The cohort also had access to the Elevate+ digital modules, which allow participants to dive deeply into the core fundamentals of building a successful enterprise during their own time.

We also held a number of networking events and the showcase and pitch night was held at Brisbane Powerhouse to a sold-out crowd of investors, entrepreneurs, government (Lord Mayor Graham Quirk addressed the audience and the event was also attended by Councillor Krista Adams and Councillor Adam Allan), academia and the public.


Steve Williams (Co-Founder of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council) called it 'the best ever social enterprise event held in Brisbane’ and Phillipe Ceulen, a seasoned startup ecosystem builder and program manager at QUT Creative Enterprise Australia was 'blown away by the quality of the pitches, impact achieved and authenticity of the people involved.'


From our perspective, a number of key ingredients are necessary to create the optimal accelerator experience.

The Elevate+ Program has been designed (and will continually be optimised) to:

  • Build and grow a friendly, supportive community that takes the loneliness out of being an entrepreneur. We hold one another accountable and support each other through the ups and downs.

  • Help entrepreneurs develop the right mindset to see them successfully tackle the huge number of challenges they will face on their journey.

  • Provide the right tools and knowledge to help entrepreneurs tackle problems, plan, strategise, move forward and create impact.

  • Connect entrepreneurs with the right mentors, investors and the broader social enterprise community to unlock a range of opportunities.

  • Give our participants exposure through our channels to a global audience online, and at Impact Boom events, showcases and pitch nights.

  • Develop regional areas with a place-based, locally-led approach. We work closely with groups such as the Queensland Social Enterprise Council, to help develop the broader social enterprise ecosystem and create more awareness of the sector.


A few quick participant outcomes to date from the recent cohort:

  • Participants have received $380,000 as direct impact investment, crowdfunding or successful grants - this figure doesn’t take into account the sales they have made.

  • Bertonni was selected as one of the ING Dreamstarter participants and ran a successful crowdfunding campaign which raised $42,200. Bertonni has since employed their first two employees.

  • Strong collaboration between the cohort with a number of planned collaborations for the future. This includes Yaku Latin Goods and Ethni who have already delivered an event together, as well as Five Mile Radius and Brisbane Tool Library who have run sold out events.

  • Brisbane Tool Library secured a partnership with State Library, where they now operate from.

  • The Unknown Project won the Enactus National Pitch Competition Finals in Sydney in July. They pitched at the International Competition in Silicon Valley in October 2018 alongside Enactus QUT.

  • Michael Mersiades of Chatloop was accepted into the competitive UQ iLab Germinate Accelerator to get continued support. Michael recently ran a strong crowdfunding campaign which raised $35,000, but fell short of his goal. We’re confident that Michael will move onwards and upwards.

  • The Social Good Outpost secured the redesign of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council website. 

  • Lána were accepted into QUT Creative Enterprise Australia’s Collider, Creative Tech Accelerator.

  • Enrich’d Creative underwent a complete rebrand and successfully launched as ‘Ethni’ and is growing.

  • Mammojo won the People’s Choice Award at the Elevate+ Pitch Night & are shipping their ‘lactivewear’ globally.

  • Welcome 360 got a significant contract with SANDBAG Inc to provide a range of educational videos.

Where to next?

We’ll continue our work to help social enterprises and their communities to thrive and have a number of exciting announcements to make in the near future. We have 25+ presenters and mentors confirmed for the next program and have made a number of tweaks (there’s always room to improve!) to deliver a high-value program.

Join us!

Apply for the next accelerator or join us at our upcoming Brisbane Social Enterprise Drinks event on November 20, 5:30-8:30pm at Wandering Cooks in Brisbane, for a night of casual drinks, good company and great networking. Meet purpose-led founders, social business leaders and all-round good people doing great things. You’ll have the chance to meet many of the participants and mentors involved in the Elevate+ Accelerator and can find out more about the upcoming program. Please RSVP to this event on Facebook.


Elevate+ testimonials

“Elevate+ has provided us with invaluable information, practical tools & some amazing connections. The community of inspiring & passionate entrepreneurs we’ve worked with, has kept us motivated and helped us navigate the ups and downs of startup life.”

- Melita Shirley, Co Founder, Mammojo

“Elevate+ has become a huge milestone for our business. The support received by mentors and like-minded professionals has helped us to achieve a deeper understanding of our social enterprise, expand our networks and scale our impact.” 

- Santiago Mejia & Gabriela Gallardo, Co Founders, Yaku Latin Goods

“Elevate+ really helped us push forward through the final stages of our idea into launching the business. Tom has designed an excellent program for anyone wanting to launch or scale their social enterprise.” 

- Mike Lepre, Founder, Bertonni


About the author

Tom Allen is Founder and CEO of Impact Boom and is passionate about working with purpose-driven organisations, entrepreneurs, individuals and regions to deliver strong, lasting social and environmental impact. Tom works to help social entrepreneurs and their regions to thrive, building critical skills and design-led mindsets capable of tackling complex challenges. 

He also works with leading universities, governments and clients locally & internationally to develop and deliver world-class programs across social entrepreneurship and innovation, human centred design and marketing. Tom is highly active in building the social enterprise ecosystem and is a Board Member of the Queensland Social Enterprise Council and Social Enterprise Network Logan, Social Entrepreneur in Residence at Yunus Social Business Centre (Griffith University) and an Advisory Panel Member of ImpaQt (QUT Bluebox) and Brisbane Tool Library.


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