Grants for social entrepreneurs who make the world a better place

11 June 2024

Take a tour of the Purpose Precinct in the heart of the Queen Victoria Market and get to know some grant-winning social enterprises that put people and the planet first

A cheese platter with purpose, an upcycled bike shop and a spicy kitchen challenge are among the winning ideas in this year’s social enterprise grants.

A quarter of this year’s grant winners will test their products or take the next step in the heart of the Queen Victoria Market at the Purpose Precinct.

An outdoor cafe painted burgundy with a striped black and white awning. City skyscrapers in the background.
The Purpose Precinct at the Queen Victoria Market

The Purpose Precinct is the front door to the not-for-profit sector in Victoria, according to General Manager Llawela Forrest.

It features the wares of more than 50 purposeful brands, a commercial kitchen and pantry, and more.

Staff are always up for a chat that can lead to social change.

“Young people onsite and behind the scenes at the Purpose Precinct are training in retail and hospitality skills,” Llawela said.

“All of them have experienced barriers to getting work.”

Get to know some of the social enterprises that will be based in the Purpose Precinct and the nearby Dairy Produce Hall at Queen Victoria Market, thanks to our social enterprise grants for 2024.

Pedalling towards a brighter future with Brainwave Bikes

In every abandoned bike, Brainwave Bikes sees potential, according to General Manager Kieran McMahon.

“You see bikes discarded in hard rubbish. Everyone knows of an old bike in the back of a shed,” Kieran said.

“It’s estimated that half will end up in landfill.”

Enter Brainwave Bikes, a second-hand bike shop which rescues old bikes from landfill and repurposes them to sell at an affordable price.

A man and several bikes next to a van with branding for Brainwave Bikes
Kieran McMahon at Queen Victoria Market

“Brainwave had the idea to prevent bikes from heading to landfill and create an employment model for youth with disabilities.”

A social enterprise grant will help the team match more upcycled bikes with city commuters, making it possible for Brainwave Bikes to make a pop-up shop at the Purpose Precinct more permanent.

“The grant makes it possible for us to fund the staff we need at the bike shop, so we can provide affordable bikes to people who need them in the city,” Kieran said.

Brainwave provides jobs and skills for young people with disabilities, especially neurological conditions.

“Brainwave Bikes gives young people a chance to learn about customer interactions and social interactions, and workplace skills such as getting there, being on time and wearing the right uniform.”

“We might take these skills for granted, but they are core skills to gain and maintain employment,” Kieran said.

Find a bike with good vibes at Brainwave Bikes
What will I find at Brainwave Bikes in the Purpose Precinct?

Look for Brainwave Bikes in F Shed at the Queen Victoria Market and you’ll find a friendly team ready to match you with the perfect steed.

Kieran usually brings a range of 30 to 40 bikes, along with helmets, locks and lights.

“If we can’t find the right bike for the customer, at least we can find the right size.

“Then I can pop back to the warehouse to get the right type and colour.”

Profits go to Brainwave Australia to support families and children with brain injuries and illnesses to adapt and thrive.

You can also drop in for a $20 bike tune-up, and if you need a full repair, the team can refer you to local project partners Good Cycles (also a social enterprise) and 99 Bikes.

Can I donate my old bike to Brainwave Bikes, even if it’s a rust bucket?

Definitely. Brainwave Bikes makes it easier for people to donate old bikes in the city, thanks in part to this City of Melbourne grant.

“We accept all bikes. Even if they’re covered in dust or rust, we can still find value in it.”

“If we can get the bikes sooner, we’ve got a better chance of refurbishing them before the weather gets to them,” Kieran said.

When you buy a refurbished model, you get a 15 per cent discount on a trade-in.

You also get the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from knowing each bike saved from landfill diverts 13 kgs of waste and saves 96kgs of CO2.

Since September 2022 the team has collected around 5000 abandoned bikes – around 1700 of them in the City of Melbourne alone.

“We estimate we only collect about 10 per cent of the bikes discarded in Melbourne,” Kieran said.

“The goal is to make sure we’re the point of intervention for all discarded bikes in Melbourne.”

Brainwave Bikes is open on Friday and Saturdays in the Purpose Precinct at the Queen Victoria Market.

A spicy kitchen challenge that cultivates community

Bring together a group of talented multicultural foodies for an immersive kitchen challenge, and the results are spicy.

Spicy, shelf-stable sauces like East African passata, that is. Or zingy finger food like Somali beef sambusa in the tradition of deep-fried yum.

A new project by social enterprise Cultivating Community plans to identify talented chefs within diverse and low-income communities and unlock their potential in an industrial kitchen.

The program recently won a social enterprise grant to run its Everything but the Kitchen Sink program in Purpose Precinct at Queen Victoria Market.

A man and a woman in an industrial kitchen, discussing a recipe
Rob Rees and a budding entrepreneur in the Moving Feast Kitchen

Participants in the new program will test and perfect their recipes in the Moving Feast Kitchen at the Purpose Precinct, according to Rob Rees MBE DL.

He’s the CEO of Cultivating Community – a social entrepreneur and former celebrity chef who brings out the best in people.

“Investing in these enterprise ideas provides opportunity for meaningful employment,” Rob said.

“Friendships can be built, and new business and jobs can be created.”

Some participants will trial ways to transform food waste into shelf-stable goodness, working with food traders at the Queen Victoria Market to source produce on the edge of its use-by date.

Others will bottle a spicy sauce from an age-old family recipe and learn how to market it widely, creating a welcome income.

Participants might even collaborate on a food venture that converts their shared love of food into a new business.

All of them will add richness to Melbourne’s multicultural culinary landscape.

Two smiling women in head scarvs hold out dishes for tasting
Graduates from the pilot kitchen challenge
A recipe for confidence and self-employment

The initiative is a delicious way for women to generate income, forge community connections and stock the pantry.

It is designed to build confidence, emotional intelligence, empathy and leadership skills among the women, as well as self-employment, advocacy and enterprise skills.

“There is also social connection and a chance for cultures to be recognised and respected.”

“Once we know who graduates from this next program, we will be able to recommend new food business as well as hopefully see items in the Moving Feast Pantry.”

The Moving Feast Pantry is a dedicated food social enterprise retail space in the Purpose Precinct.

Cultivating Community has teamed up with the Moving Feast Kitchen since 2020 to radically change the way we look at food waste and communities.

Do you have an idea for a food business or tasty product you’d like to test and take to market?

Cultivating Community is looking for participants from diverse backgrounds to take part in the next round of this Everything but the Kitchen Sink program. Email Cultivating Community to show your interest.

How a cheese platter can change the world

Meet the cheesemonger who sees the humble cheese board as a way to connect international students with Australian culture.

If you’re new to Melbourne and cheese is not an obsession in your home culture, who will show you how to cut the camembert?

A social enterprise grant is helping award-winning Ripe Cheese founder Hakim Halim connect international students with the very Aussie cheese platter through The Cheese Social.

A man in an apron cuts a wheel of cheese in a cheese shop
Hakim Halim at Ripe Cheese in the Dairy Produce Hall

Hakim is a cheesemonger and a former international student.

He knows first-hand how isolating those first few months away from home can be.

“I vividly remember how disconnected and lonely I felt as a new migrant in the country.

I didn’t understand the culture, I didn’t understand how to connect with people, how to make friends.”

He now hires international students to work at Ripe Cheese in the Queen Victoria Market deli hall, and he knows the problem of isolation has not disappeared for current students.

So he invented The Cheese Social to offer migrants and international students an insight into Australian culture through food.

“The cheese platter is a vessel. We’re able to socialise and connect around it.”

Cheese stacked in geometric blocks, topped with a candied pear. the walls are yellow and blue
Ripe Cheeses and candied pear
What happens at The Cheese Social?

The Cheese Social is a three-hour class for international students and migrants who are keen to get to know Australian culture. And eat cheese.

“I’ll be teaching the history of cheese in our country, the different types of cheese available here, the main cheese producers, the iconic ones.

“And we’ll taste all the different types of cheese.”

Participants will get to know each other, which will help people feel less alone.

And they will learn to curate their own cheese platter. A talking point to connect new friends with their history.

“I will encourage participants to bring along a condiment from their home country.

“Hopefully we can match their condiment with some of the cheese that they’ll be tasting on that day.”

A social enterprise grant will help to subsidise the cost of the session for international students, but anyone can join in the fun.

The Cheese Social will run on Wednesday afternoons starting 3 July at Ripe Cheese in the Dairy Produce Hall at the Queen Victoria Market.

International students get a 50 per cent discount thanks to a social enterprise grant. Bookings essential.

Meet all the social enterprise grant winners

Check out about all the purposeful businesses that received a social enterprise grant from City of Melbourne in 2024.

We can’t wait to see what’s next.

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