Whanganui is to get its first social enterprise expo and, if all goes well, a social enterprise hub to promote business with a conscience.

Three Whanganui people have started a group to promote and inspire "businesses with a social or environmental purpose" in the region.

They call their brainchild Thrive Whanganui and plan to launch it with an expo in February. Its ultimate aim is to make Whanganui the social enterprise capital of New Zealand.

Social enterprises are businesses with social or environmental purposes at their heart. They have to generate income in order to operate, but profit is not their main concern.

Advertisement

They range across a spectrum — from ordinary businesses that donate all their profits to charity to businesses set up primarily to help people, such as Trade Aid.

Being a social enterprise can help sales, one of the organisers, Marianne Archibald, said.

"As a consumer I want to buy products from places that have a social conscience."

The other two collaborators are Horizons regional councillor and Green Party member Nicola Patrick and Andre Taylor, chief executive of Maori health and development organisation Nga Tai o Te Awa.

There are plenty of social enterprises in the region already, Ms Patrick pointed out.
They include The Citadel, a cafe in Castlecliff that aims to provide jobs and lift the suburb's standing.

Another example is Pakohe Papers, Marilyn Vreede's business making harakeke (flax) paper and Maori educational material.

But Ms Patrick says those businesses can feel isolated, and they need to be with others.
The Thrive Expo will be in Whanganui on February 21-22, and will launch the initiative.
Day one will have speakers like Julia Milne from the ReMakery in the Hutt Valley.

Day two will have coaching and mentoring for people wanting to get started, plus tours of local social enterprises.

Following the launch, Thrive Whanganui plans a series of programmes in 2018, including workshops, a start-up weekend and a four-month incubator programme.

Places where people work in the same building could evolve, as they have at Double Farley Creative Partners and The Hive, and there is spare space in the Nga Tai o te Awa building and Whanganui District Council's new Innovation Quarter.

Ms Patrick has written a mini magazine with five stories about social enterprise in Whanganui. Thrive Whanganui will also have a website, www.thrivenow.org.nz and it has a Facebook page.

The initiative is supported by the Whanganui Chamber of Commerce and the expo already has a number of sponsors.