Avalon gets a sharper edge

A Western Bay of Plenty not-for-profit organisation has appointed a commercial manager to drive profitability following a major restructure earlier this year.

Avalon is perhaps the Bay's best kept secret, general manager Leslie Wallace said.

Many people vaguely know the organisation as a provider of vocational services to adults with intellectual disabilities, which is its core purpose, but few know about the organisation's commercial arm and social enterprises.

The commercial arm of the organisation - which includes a mail finishing house, the Te Puke recycle centre and a 3ha organic kiwifruit orchard - exists purely to financially support the vocational service, Ms Wallace said.

A rethink about how to market the services of the mail finishing house in January this year led to the establishment of a new role and the appointment of Tania Wilson as commercial manager over all of Avalon's commercial businesses in March.

The commercial businesses have to be price competitive and provide customers with excellent value for money, Mrs Wilson said. Customers will not stay loyal just because of the social service Avalon was providing.

Mrs Wilson said her role was to drive the profitability of the current businesses and look for new opportunities to generate profit to support Avalon's vocational service.

"It's profit with a purpose," she said.

The social enterprises - which include a nursery, a textiles unit, woodwork, hospitality, a gift shop and a contracts unit - allow intellectually disabled adults to develop skills in the context of a functioning business and fit somewhere in-between Avalon's vocational and commercial arms.

Ms Wallace said government funding paid for about 65 per cent of the organisation's needs, the rest was paid for by gifts, grants and the profits of the commercial businesses.

"We want to be in control of our own destiny ...

"We will not operate out of a victim mentality. We will get out there and create what we need to in order to provide the opportunities for the people that we serve."

Avalon's commercial activities currently generate a turnover of about $600,000 a year.

Avalon trainees were constantly up-skilling and the type of work they can do was constantly expanding, Ms Wallace said.

One of Avalon's clients was Seahorse which makes electric longline fishing systems.

"One of our guys just simply ties the hooks on the lines for Seahorse," Ms Wallace said.

"That's all he does and he does it better than any machine or anybody else you would ever come across.

"He'll do it all day, everyday and love every minute of it. That's his unique ability.

"It's a matter of looking for that unique ability in each of our people and teaming it up with work they can do."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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