BRIGHT SPARKS - Making a positive charge
In August, Bright Sparks won top prize at Pitch for Good - a live crowdfunding initiative by Start Some Good, The City of Melbourne and The League of Extraordinary Women hosted right here at Donkey Wheel House. Four female-lead social enterprise start ups were chosen as the finalists from a pool of applicants, then, in a live crowd funding event, these startups pitched for funding.
Bright Sparks took home $3000, kindly donated by Forming Circles Fund. They also shared in the ticket sales of $3850 with the other wonderful participants who are definitely worth keeping an eye on - The Community Grocer, The Nappy Collective and Recipe4Change.
After this initial success, we caught up with founder, Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald, to see how the social enterprise has developed over the last few months.
What was your inspiration for starting Bright Sparks?
In 2012 I saw a video about Bright Sparks in London, the inspiration for this enterprise. It just made so much sense to me. At the time I was coordinating repair workshops through Fix It! and I contacted London for repair advice. It took me another year to figure out that I had to start Bright Sparks Australia if I wanted it to happen. I thought London might talk me out of the idea, but quite the opposite, actually.
Bright Sparks was nominated as the winner of Pitch for Good, a live crowd funding event for female social entrepreneurs. How did it feel to receive the funding and support from the community?
I was shocked and amazed. I get nervous when speaking in public, so I never really know how well I've done because I'm just trying not to freak out. Also, I've been to other pitching events as a spectator, and the enterprises that do well, generally speaking, help people directly rather than the environment. For an environmental enterprise to win was quite a coup. It shows people are really interested in what we're doing.
How does Bright Sparks plan on being financially sustainable while having a social impact?
We have a number of different income streams that we're testing:
subscription fees to councils and other businesses for the weekly collection of appliances from our donation bins
repairs for customers
sales of second-hand appliances (soon!)
Future revenue opportunities include workshops, hiring out appliances and selling spare parts, just to name a few.
Can you tell me about any memorable connections you have made with your customers?
Our customers are all lovely and adorable, and the nicest people you will ever meet. They are so excited about what we're doing and it's what keeps us going. We've had quite a few visitors travel more than 100km to visit us, which is crazy (in a good way).
I see you are overseas at the moment, what have you learned from visiting similar organisations in other countries?
The idea for Bright Sparks came from London. If it hadn't existed elsewhere, I never would have started one up here. It's always so much easier to take great ideas from other people and places and refine them rather than start from scratch.
Image courtesy of the Bright Sparks instagram - @brightsparksoz