Moving from aid to trade: successful mentoring and investment projects in Vanuatu and Samoa expanding into Papua New Guinea

After the successful launches of sustainable small businesses in Vanuatu and Samoa, a donor-funded private sector initiative is preparing to expand into Papua New Guinea.  Anna Moegerlein from Melbourne’s The Difference Incubator explains the initiative to Business Advantage PNG.

‘We have a deep belief that business can be a power for good in the world and it’s on that basis that we work with businesses to both do good and make money,’ says Anna Moegerlein, TDi’s Pacific Investment Leader.

Set up in 2010, TDi has successfully run mentoring programs for hundreds of small business owners across Australia. ‘We think there are three elements which make for a successful sustainable business,’ she tells Business Advantage PNG.

They are:

  1. Having a clear purpose that delivers a positive social and/or environmental model;
  2. Having a commercially viable business model and
  3. Developing good management and team, ‘which makes everything possible’.

‘We came out of a philanthropic group called Donkey Wheel Charitable Trust, which was looking at how they could invest in organisations that they would otherwise grant to. We are a capacity building organisation,’ she says.

Anna Moegerlein, TDi’s Pacific Investment Leader. Credit: TDi

TDi works with business owners to build out sustainable business models, and then, when applicable, matches these enterprises with potential investors.

‘Our accelerator programs and bespoke consulting focus on helping participants build their ideal model, test it in the market, refine how they think about their impact, dig into their financials, and rethink how they organise their business.’

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Investment fund

TDi’s sister company Benefit Capital, set up an investment fund, Genesis Impact Fund, which gathers start-up capital from high-net worth individuals and other philanthropic organisations.

Three years ago, TDi partnered with the Australian government and mentored more than 100 businesses in the Pacific.

Perhaps TDi’s most successful venture has been supporting Vanuatu’s Tanna Coffee Company, following the devastating Cyclone Pam in 2015, which left 500 coffee farmers on the island of Tanna worse for wear.

‘TDi helped Tanna Coffee plan its recovery and growth, and mentor farmers. Genesis Impact Fund then provided capital to make the plans a reality.’

‘Tanna Coffee is now well on the way to increasing annual coffee production from 100 tonnes to 250 tonnes, and improving the lives of 5000 residents’, says Moegerlein.

‘We have trained and empowered all the farmers to become self-sufficient individuals and we now pay them up to 270 vatu (A$3.20) per kg for their sun-dried coffee parchment (up from A$0.25c), providing an enormous back-flow of money direct into the community,’ according to Terry Adlington, Managing Director at Tanna Coffee.

Mentor creative businesses

TDi is also working with Carnival Cruise Lines in Vanuatu, and shortly in PNG, using its accelerator programs to mentor creative businesses in Vanuatu’s ports of Santo and Port Vila.

Tanna Coffee farmer, Johnny Willie. Credit: Vanuatu Independent

‘The objective is to identify and grow new culturally authentic tourism experiences, that create a deeper connection to local communities’ says Moegerlein.

‘So local artists can invite cruise participants to learn about and take part in weaving, how to use coconut products, basically, activities which reflect local custom and culture.’

A similar program will begin in Papua New Guinea’s port of Alotau.

TDi is also partnering with PNG’s Women’s Business Resource Centre (WBRC) in Port Moresby.

‘This will be a long-term partnership,’ says Moegerlein.

‘We are planning to offer an accelerator program to small businesses who are members of the WBRC starting early next year. We are designing the program now so that it meets local requirements.’

Moegerlein expects the fund will make more investments in the Pacific over the next 12 to 18 months.

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