It’s abundantly clear that Yume founder, Katy Barfield has a big heart.
“I was the type of child if the cat got a bird in the garden I would prise it out of its mouth… Or rush to be with the child with no friends in the playground.”
It’s a trait she says she inherited from grandmother, Olive who she described as a huge philanthropist who always gave her time to people who needed her.”
These philanthropic principles steered Katy through her teenage years and into her early 20s. Among her best memories was the time she spent campaigning for animal rights in Egypt and also the United Kingdom where she was part of the campaign that freed the last dolphin from captivity.
“We are still waiting for that to happen here in Australia,” Katy told Kochie’s Business Builders.
With such inspiring experiences so early on, little wonder Katy has ended up leading a social enterprise.
“It was inevitable that I ended up in this space,” she agrees. “Even while I was studying (a Masters of Acting), I did volunteer work. My love for the not-for-profit and social justice space overtook everything else and that’s where I have dedicated my life to since.”
You need more than just a vision
Katy says respect and a commitment to “doing things right” are fundamental to her entrepreneurial spirit.
“My early experiences taught me that you can make a difference. You really can. If you begin your campaign the right way – doing it with respect. And that means trying to see both sides of the story,” Katy says.
“It’s not looking at somebody and saying, you’re a bad person because of how you are treating that animal. It’s a question of education and understanding.”
Transitioning to the entrepreneurial space may have been a natural progression for Katy, but she says the social justice sector brings its own unique challenges.
“I’ve had experience working in the profit and not-for-profit sector. And the not-for-profit space is a completely different ball game. As a social enterprise you can rely on volunteers and charitable donations, pro-bono gifts and services. But the downside is your own sustainability and viability – you do spend a lot of your time with your hand stretched out, asking for money. Which cuts back on the times you can actually spend doing the work needed to achieve your mission.”
Technology is crucial to Yume’s success
While Katy says she can’t speak for all social enterprises, technology has provided fuel for Yume’s fire.
“Technology has massively changed the space for Yume. It’s critical to the way we can scale and critical to the impact on the size of the food waste problem we have globally. Australia is our first stop. The challenge we have is visibility for our space. Thanks to technology we can upload a photo that shows we have 10 tonnes of mangoes that need to be used as fast as possible. For us this is key.”
Avoiding the pitfalls of “mission creep”
Asked what lessons she’d pass onto aspiring social enterprises Katy wastes no time in replying:
“Stay true to your mission above all. Hands down. The best indicator for success [in this space] is how you are performing against your mission. It’s not about your bank balance,” says Katy.
“While your bank balance is important – it’s great to return dividends to impact your investors, it’s most important to keep your eye on the prize. And that is ultimately the difference between why people [in this space] succeed or fail.”
Katy also advises wannabe entrepreneurs to foster their resilience, patience and flexibility when it comes to their vision.
‘Remember, this is a marathon not a sprint. There is no way it will end up the way you want it to, and there is no way you can set a plan and follow it step-by-step. You need to be agile, you need to pivot and recreate and also build a team that works cohesively.”
As a leader, Katy says she’s always found it helpful to know where her own skill set lies, and be able to delegate and even let go of the controls if that serves the vision better.
“I may or may not be the right person to take Yume globally. I’m great at planning and setting up a team. But am I the right person to carry this further? I don’t know and I think you have to be open to serving your vision.”
‘Put your money where your mouth is’
For Yume’s future to be the biggest and brightest possible, Katy is looking for a strong alliance with the federal government.
“If I had one thing to say I’d ask them to step up and buy sustainably from the Yume platform. They [the federal govt] are the biggest producer of food and if they stood up and said, we’ll purchase 2 per cent from the Yume platform, the results would be impactful,” says Katy.
“[Their assistance] is critical. There is a lot they can do buying services from social enterprises, they could revolutionise things very quickly.”
Katy Barfield is #2 on Kochie’s Business Builders Power List.
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