A local business success story that’s all about people
Building and maintaining a thriving business in the community sector isn’t easy, so the ongoing success and growth of local organisation St Vincent Industries (SVi) is to be applauded. Not only has the organisation been in operation in North Hobart since 1972, but they have continued to look at, and embrace, new opportunities. Recently, this sense of vision saw SVi taking out the Excellence Leadership Award in the Work Safe Tasmania Awards for 2018.
We have been working with SVi for many years and recently had the pleasure of speaking with CEO Daniel Teague about this great achievement, and where things are going in the future for their team.
“We’re a Social Business and Disability Enterprise,” says Daniel. “We provide employment and training to people in a supportive workplace. As a Disability Enterprise, we employ people with a disability who find it difficult to work or maintain employment in the open labour market or who choose to work in a Disability Enterprise. We currently employ a total of 42 people, and 36 of our team have a disability.”
Empowering our people
“Over the past ten years we’ve worked closely with an RTO to provide training to our team. During this time 40 of our staff have gained a total of 84 separate qualifications, encompassing everything from Certificate II in Warehousing Operations to Language, Literacy and Numeracy qualifications” Daniel advises proudly.
The focus for SVi is on providing people with disabilities with the skills needed to remain in paid employment, and this includes delivering and assessing National Recognised Qualifications in the workplace. “We work with each employee to build a personalised employment plan, reflecting their goals. And then we help them achieve these goals.”
“If the goal is to move into ‘open employment’ we will identify and create the pathways to assist them in achieving this.”
SVi operates in both the business sector and the community sector, which can add some interesting challenges. With more than 600 commercial clients across Tasmania they face the usual challenges of any business selling product to customers. As a provider of NDIS support to people with a disability, SVi is required to meet many legislative requirements that other commercial business would not encounter or be aware of.
Our team at WLF has had the privilege of being involved with SVi for many years, with Business and Personal Advisory Director Chase McConnon currently serving as one of eight Board members.
“Chase’s contribution and expertise in the financial sector has proven to be invaluable,” notes Daniel.
Award winning initiative and development through collaboration
“One of the proudest moments in my time as CEO was in October 2018 when SVi was awarded the Excellence Leadership Award, as well as the joint small business winner award for Excellence in Developing and Implement an Initiative (solution) to an identified WHS Issue.”
“These awards were recognition of the work SVi undertook to modernise the equipment used by our employees.”
As with any expansion in the community sector this wasn’t a quick or easy process of simply purchasing the latest machines. Daniel explains
“We operate a clothing recycling business – unwanted clothing that is unsuitable for resale is cut into cleaning rags and cloths using state of the art cutting machines. SVi is the leading manufacturer and supplier of cleaning cloths and rags in Tasmania.”
“In 2013 I approached Dr Tony Sprent of TADTAS to discuss getting new rag cutting machines designed and built. Dr Sprent saw an opportunity to work with the University of Tasmania, challenging third year Engineering students to develop a machine to meet our needs.”
“Twelve students took on the project, working in small groups. They visited our workplace, spoke with our staff to find out first-hand what the team wanted and how to best meet these needs. For us, one of the most important parts of this project was having our employees being part of the process – sharing their experiences, getting their opinions heard and understood.”
“Once the plans were submitted, the decision was unanimous. The plan put forward by students Hamish Hingston and Matthew Christian was the most appropriate and a great fit for what we needed. A prototype was manufactured at UTAS and delivered to SVi.”
In addition to delivering a prototype that would serve SVi well as they moved into the future and continued to meet demand of their clients, this project also had the added benefit of providing real life learning opportunities for the students at the UTAS School of Engineering. And while the project may have ended at this stage, we were extremely fortunate that it didn’t due to the enthusiasm of Hamish.
Now graduated and with his own company, 2HM Designs, which he started with business partner Miles Mazengarb, Hamish approached Daniel to look at taking the next step.
“I was delighted when Hamish made contact. He and Miles were keen to work with us. They held regular meetings and consulted closely with our workers, continuing to refine the design of the machine. They produced a new prototype that was uniquely tailored to meet the needs of SVi workers.”
“We then had a machine that was the ideal fit for our current, and future needs. We were fortunate to secure funding for producing 16 of these rag cutting machines through the Tasmanian Community Fund. We then funded another 10 ourselves, so we are now operating with 26 new machines that are designed and tailored made for our organisation.”
The next steps…
Growing and improving the service and product offerings never stops for SVi.
“We’ve developed a new product – compressed blocks of cleaning rag” says Daniel. “Our focus is to start actively marketing them later this year. Our clients range from the industrial sector through to retail, mechanics, bicycle shops, plumbers, cleaners, hotels and bars, ship builders, artists, schools, councils… The list goes on.”
“We are also looking to expand our workplace, which will allow us to support more people. And with the roll out of the NDIS just completed we want to look at other supports we can offer to our existing employees and also others with a disability.”