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Word from the street

“Relationships are key to social entrepreneurial success”

While many social enterprises operate on a not-for-profit model, some incorporate multiple business ventures and or operate for profit. With this in mind, Stephen Ung and Crystal Williams went to investigate a non-typical socially-led trader in Cairns.

Charles Street

Charles Street, director of Black Square Arts (BSA), is a businessman, philanthropist and self-identified social entrepreneur. He leverages a for-profit enterprise to fulfil a social and cultural mission. The enterprise is about building capacity of individuals who find the mainstream economy challenging to secure employment or obtain an education through traditional and informal pathways.

BSA nurtures ideas from the community at a grass-roots level and ensures that they succeed. A key component of the business is to reinvest a substantial portion of surplus into research aimed at addressing social issues.

Street attributes his success to spending time working on building trusting relationships. He finds that arts and culture is a non-confrontational way of engaging with the community. He further added that being raised by parents who acted as missionaries has influenced his motivation. Similarly, much of his personal time is devoted to mentoring youths on how to leverage intellectual property to earn a livelihood.

Street offers advice to early-career social entrepreneurs: focus on relationship building, as it is highly important to establish trust with people to collaborate towards shared goals.

“A network like SENT would support entrepreneurs accessing resources quickly and establish the types of relationships and networks they depend on to succeed and survive,” he said.

“Our mission is to have strong civic outcomes and look to improve what has been done before”

Street reinvests a substantial portion of his surplus back into innovative research and development aimed at addressing social issues.