Deborah started out her career as a physiotherapist, went on to study law and spent several years working as a lawyer. But life had yet another opportunity waiting just around the corner. Deborah was reading the newspaper one day. On one page was a story about kids going hungry at school, while another column profiled ‘dumpster divers’ living off food thrown away by supermarkets and destined for landfill.
“[I saw] the challenge to build a business that used an environmental problem to solve a social problem. The opportunity to make a difference in my community and perhaps my country was hard to resist.”
This opportunity kickstarted Deborah’s new career as a social entrepreneur. The equivalent of 20 million loaves of bread is thrown into rubbish bins uneaten every year. She decided to bridge the dumpster-sized gap between wasted food and hungry families in her hometown, Dunedin. Four years on, FoodShare has recently celebrated its one millionth rescued meal going back into the wider Dunedin community.
Like I said, stories about ex-lawyers are great.
Deborah’s toolkit of past experience
Deborah’s previous work experience has been integral to the success of her current venture. She identifies several key skills that have been key to getting her social business off the ground. “The ability to create and maintain positive relationships with all people I interact with is very important. Appreciating the motivations and perspectives of our stakeholders helps shape the direction of our efforts.”
Deborah’s past experience as a lawyer is also on point when it comes to strategic thinking; “anticipating what the future might hold and setting goals that are bigger than our current capacity helps grow the business and makes the goals a reality.”Risk analysis is essential in any business, and lawyers are arguably better than most at attacking this side of things. And as Deborah points out, risk assessment is particularly important when dealing with perishable food: “identifying key areas of risk, its likelihood and potential impact allows us to develop policies, procedures and guidelines to minimise and manage them.”