James Coddington wants to solve underemployment, one happy icecream cone at a time.
He claims to just be a guy with a conscience, but not many people would have founded a stylish social enterprise to address the huge problem of young folks without any prospects of work. Around 20 per cent of Auckland's young people don't have meaningful work (around four times the unemployment rate).
Mr Coddington's answer, Pride & Joy, provides mobile icecream pods to people wanting to set up their first business.
It's rough "when you've worked your butt off with a promise and then there's no job at the end", he says.
"We've made it our business to 'entrepreneurise' these wonderful people. They had vision, a passion for what they wanted to do, but not the opportunities."
Mr Coddington spotted the potential when he headed one of the country's largest ski businesses. Some 90 per cent of his 1200 employees were under 30, and under-used in seasonal jobs. With the help of friends and family, he figured out a business model to create meaningful work, to give people the necessary skills to own and run their own business.
The icecream bit came later when he was brainstorming summer opportunities for his winter workers.
"It is globally loved, but it also had good margins. The brand Joy puts a smile on people's faces, it's physically impossible not to smile."
Between smiles and ideas, there was a lot of hard work to develop the product, set up manufacturing, and bring the idea of 'podsters' to life.
Branding adviser Brian Richards introduced Mr Coddington to ice cream expert Ross McCallum, who had developed Kapiti dairy products. Mr McCallum designed a mini factory in a shipping container, and Franco Sessa (yes, he's Italian, calls himself the Neopolitan Penguin) came up with product formulations for the batch-churned artisan product.
Joy launched in November 2013 with five pods. It grew to 10 last summer and this summer there will be 15 podsters opening for business.
When the Herald called at the flagship store, next to the Maritime Museum, Starsha Samarasinghe and her partner Vivek Kumar were completing preparations to open their pod in Lynmall. The students had heard about Pride & Joy through the university social innovation club and immediately recognised they could be "remarkable unemployees" (as the retail aprons proudly proclaim). The pair had to write a business case to demonstrate they had seriously assessed a location and the competition. Podsters are given the pods but create their own market -- mainly through social media buzz to connect with "raving fans". And, as this pair have found out as they struggle through landlord paperwork, there are challenges.
Mr Coddington fully expects that. "It's a journey that they have to do for themselves, but they learn the most when things don't go right," he says. "Next time, they will be better prepared. This is a stepping stone to the future, to their next opportunity."
Of the 42 podsters so far, not one has gone back on unemployment. Tim Alston, still job-hunting four months after he graduated, opened the first pod on Queen St in November 2013, then took his pod to Sylvia Park for a year-round business last year.
"It was overwhelming, both good and bad. But I've learned so many skills that make me a more valuable employee; I know how a business runs," he says.
New podster Albert Mitton, underemployed since he arrived four years ago from South Africa, has dreams of involving his 20- and 17-year-old sons, then finding other youngsters keen to become entrepreneurs.
Mr Coddington can barely contain his enthusiasm as he displays case stories on the 'pride wall' in the shop (check them on the website too, www.joyicecream.com) and has dreams to take this global and launch a business academy next year.
"I have a great reason to get up in the morning. And now, so do they."