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PASSION FOR DISABILITY INCLUSION DRIVES INNOVATIVE BUSINESS FOR TOWNSVILLE, WITH GAME-CHANGER IACTIVATE

Published:27 August 2021

https://www.cqu.edu.au/cquninews/stories/general-category/2021-general/passion-for-disability-inclusion-drives-innovative-business-for-townsville,-with-game-changer-iactivate

CQUni student Ricky Esterquest

Townsville entrepreneur Ricky Esterquest was one of seven North Queensland business leaders who completed the iActivate social enterprise course in August 2021.

Townsville entrepreneur Ricky Esterquest wants an inclusive community, and he’s determined to grow the region’s meaningful work opportunities for people with disabilities.

The passionate changemaker has spent 15 years in community and disability services, and now he’s getting local businesses on board, after developing his innovative business model with iActivate, CQUniversity’s online social enterprise course.

Mr Esterquest is Managing Partner of Towards Better, a community organisation he founded in 2020 to create a better Townsville community through the inclusion of the 18,000 people with disability

Since April he’s been one of seven North Queensland business owners taking on the 12-week iActivate course with face-to-face support, thanks to a partnership between CQUniversity and Smart Precinct NQ (SPNQ).

Now expressions of interest are set to open for the next cohort, with SPNQ hosting an online information session on Friday 3 September.

Mr Esterquest said the accelerator helped him develop Towards Better’s unique business model, working with businesses to curate inclusive roles.

“I originally began iActivate with an idea to start a completely new service, but through the course I tested that idea and realised it wasn’t a good fit,” he explained.

“But that process and iActivate feedback highlighted how my existing work with Towards Better could actually deliver new revenue, if we refined our service for more impact, and grew profits that achieve community benefit.”

Pitching the new business model at the iActivate graduation, Mr Esterquest explained his business model would empower people with disabilities, by businesses recognising the value of their skills and creating valued work roles in local organisations.

“In the community, we all ask each other ‘what do you do for work?’ and 18,000+ people with a disability in Townsville don’t get to have an answer for that.

“Towards Better will work with some of Townsville’s 12,000 registered businesses to identify skills gaps, and opportunities and create roles that are tailor-made for the strengths of a potential employees with disabilities and provide development support to both parties.

“Profits created from that service then go to established community groups like sporting clubs, and service clubs, neighborhood associations, and not for profits, so local businesses are not only making a social contribution through their inclusive business operations, but also building community benefit.”

North Queensland businesses interested in working with Mr Esterquest can visit towardsbetter.com.au for more information.

For other entrepreneurs wanting to grow their social impact and revenue, Mr Esterquest says iActivate was a game-changer.

“Being in the room with other local entrepreneurs made a big difference, and brought so many great ideas – I can tell our organisations will be great allies and collaborators,” he said.

iActivate program manager Steve Williams said peak body Queensland Social Enterprise Council analysis showed every successful Australian social enterprise creates an average of 15 jobs, generating three dollars for every dollar of investment.

“iActivate uses proven experience to get started and to grow a social enterprise or business for good, for the benefit of the whole community.”

Subsidised cost is just $425 per participant, and applications close on Friday 10 September, with the course delivered from Tuesday 28 September.

With video, audio and written content, students get clear and actionable steps in defining goals and impacts, understanding business for good ecosystems, applying sustainable and innovative business models, and prototyping, pitching, scaling and measuring impacts.

The content builds on Impact Boom’s successful Elevate+ Accelerator Program for emerging social entrepreneurs, and CQUniversity’s range of social innovation courses and initiatives, from entry-level to postgraduate, that have kickstarted thousands of changemaker journeys for students since 2015.

CQUniversity is Australia’s only Changemaker University, accredited by global network for social innovation in education Ashoka U.

To register your interest, visit spnq.org/event-info/online-iactivate-smart-precinct-q-a

Ricky Esterquest Speaking
CQU iActivate Cohort
Ricky Esterquest at Jasmine

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