This case study examines how business planning and mentoring helped community organisation Food Skil to clarify its business objectives, analyse its short and long-term finances, and argue more persuasively for funding.

The challenge of business planning

In 2012, Geelong’s Food Skil* faced a challenge shared by many not for profit organisations. Funding cuts amid a tough economic climate meant the organisation was spending significant time chasing grants. This took staff away from Food Skil’s purpose: providing affordable, healthy food to the local community.

Looking to improve her business skills, Food Skil’s founder and General Manager Katie Gillett attended a one day workshop on writing a business plan for not for profits. She found it invaluable.

“I am an entrepreneur by nature, but I still needed to learn the business skills, gain the financial knowledge, and analyse the market to know whether there’s a market for our product and what area we’re targeting.” Katie Gillett, General Manager

*Please note from 2016, Foodskil is known as 2and5.

Support through business planning and mentoring

The business planning workshop led Katie to work with a mentor for three months, who helped her to realise that Food Skil needed a more thorough business plan. So, Katie applied for Social Traders’ business planning program for new social enterprises called ‘The Crunch’.

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With the support of Social Traders, Foodskil developed a new business plan with a vision of its current financial status and its future funding needs. This:

  • improved its effectiveness in securing funding
  • enhanced its ability to plan for self-reliant growth.

Katie says the planning process clarified the organisation’s goals and the areas that still needed work.

“If I think back a year ago to what I didn’t know, it’s incredible. I’ve been able to write a really concise business plan and break down what areas of the business are working and what we need to work on. Also, it means that when we’re explaining the enterprise to philanthropic organisations and asking for funding, we’ve got a really concise pitch we can give to them, which is highly persuasive.” Katie Gillett, General Manager


Calculating future funding needs

As part of the Crunch program, Food Skil analysed its cash flow for the next eight years. This showed that during start-up the organisation would run at a loss for the next two or three years, but would then make a profit of around $30,000 a year - enough to operate viably.

Katie says Food Skil now knows how much funding it needs until it breaks even. Following that, she predicts a strong future for the enterprise.

“Right now, we’re seeking a large amount of start-up capital, but the idea is that after that, we should ideally never need to seek funds again. So that will reduce the time and pressure of chasing grants and we’ll be self-reliant. You never know, we might be able to give other people money in 10 years; we might be able to give someone some funding to set up a small garden to grow produce for the shop.” Katie Gillett, General Manager

Board’s role also significant

As part of its business planning, Food Skil has come to realise the importance of an efficient, well-informed board, with members who thoroughly understand their role in the organisation. Katie believes that the board will play a key part in implementing Food Skil’s business plan in coming years.

“A good board is really important because they set the foundation for the business.” Katie Gillett, General Manager.

About Food Skil/ 2and5

Food Skil was set up to improve access to fresh, affordable, healthy food in Norlane, a low-income suburb of Geelong. Initiatives include a fruit and vegetable shop, a cafe selling healthy food and take-home meals, and a fruit cart that sells to office workers.

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