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My Journey Founding & Leading a Tech Start-up ‘for good’ | Jeremy Meltzer | Leadership Speaker - 07 February 2019

My Journey Founding & Leading a Tech Start-up ‘for good’ | Jeremy Meltzer | Leadership Speaker

Jeremy Meltzer is one of Australia’s leading entrepreneurs. He is a speaker on ‘business for purpose’ and the Founder of i=Change, Australia's fastest-growing social enterprise tech start-up. i=Change was a 2018 finalist for Optus Innovator of the Year and won Australia Post’s Online Retail Industry Award for ‘best-bootstrapped growth initiative’ - the first time a social enterprise won this award in Australia.

Here Jeremy shares insight into his journey co-founding and leading a tech start-up, with a focus on changing retail for good!

What inspired you to build 'i=Change'?

Although the idea for i=Change came 5 years ago, the will to make a difference was born in my early 20’s. I lived in Latin America and saw how entrenched discrimination was holding women and girls back from fulfilling their potential. I left the continent feeling angry but determined to somehow make a difference.

I began travelling globally to meet with development organisations that do incredible work to empower women and girls. I learned how these organisations simply need more funding to accelerate their impact. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, I wondered how business could be a solution?

Then one morning at 3 am, an idea arrived… I imagined a tech platform that could make it easy for online retailers to give back $1 from every purchase, for their customers to choose where it goes and see with 100% transparency its impact on people’s lives.

So armed with this simple idea, I became (some would say) very stubborn. After many false starts, failures and constant refining, we built i=Change which has - I’m honoured to say - using the power of e-commerce now raised over $1 million (and counting). This is impacting the lives of over 250,000 people.

Why are you motivated to do ‘business for purpose’ rather than the standard 'for profit' business model?

While we all wish to ‘do good’, there still exists the expectation that we leave our higher selves at home in service of profit. As the hungry ghost that’s never satisfied, chasing only profit has normalised a profound disconnect between the expectations we have of our personal relationships, and the much lower standards we expect of businesses.

This is changing.

We are at the beginning of an enormous shift that is fundamentally impacting how businesses must operate in order to earn the trust, respect and loyalty of today’s consumers. As we enter this period of expected ‘radical transparency’, where consumers have more power than ever before, businesses must evolve - before it’s demanded of them - to offer full transparency, authenticity and integrity.

The rules have changed.

The good news is - this is very good for business. Businesses who do this well - who understand their customers all care deeply about something, and engage them purposefully on the issues that matter to them - often become significantly more profitable than their nearest competitor. It’s an exciting time for all kinds of businesses to understand the opportunity to innovate, to give back, to humanise their organisations, to begin to reverse decades of distrust while building new loyalties with customers and staff. This is values-driven business, and it’s now inescapable in order to be a sustainable brand.

What achievement are you most proud of throughout your start-up journey?

  • Surpassing $1,000,0000 in funds raised $1 at a time, and knowing this is positively impacting the lives of over 250,000 women and girls.
  • i=Change winning an ORIA (Online Retail Industry Award) for best-bootstrapped growth initiative and being a finalist for Optus Innovator of the Year.
  • Hearing people’s stories - from some of the most challenging parts of the world - and knowing we are helping make a meaningful difference to their lives.

How have you utilised partnerships to grow 'i=Change'?

Partnerships are key to the i=Change ecosystem, our growth and the impact this movement is creating. We partner with best-practice development organisations and passionate online retailers. It is interesting to see the unexpected consequences of partnerships.

‘Giving back’ has always been considered a cost, yet to see this drive retailers with new sales, is an exciting result. How for-profit businesses can grow and even exceed their goals by partnering with non-profit organisations is a profound reflection of what matters to today’s consumers - especially millennials.

How do you see the landscape of 'business for good' changing over the next 5 years?

In 2019, social impact is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but becoming essential to a brand’s DNA and their customer experience. 93% millennials wish to shop with brands that give back. Customers are now at the forefront of this movement, driving business to innovate fast. Businesses that aren’t considering and communicating their ‘purpose beyond product’ will be left behind as this evolution becomes the new normal.

As an opportunity for all industries, businesses must begin to reflect the world we wish to see - and the integrity by which we wish to live. Anything less will become a relic of the past. Anything more, well, go ahead. Excite and delight! No one in your organisation, least of all your customers and staff, will be disappointed.

Learn all about Jeremy here.

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