Meet Ronni Kahn, the entrepreneur with scruples

Ronni Kahn - OzHarvest founder

Ronni Kahn is one of the country’s most well-respected social entrepreneurs, having led the Australian shift toward social consciousness since launching her not-for-profit organisation OzHarvest in 2004.

Social entrepreneurship is one of the fastest-growing sectors of our economy; with a report finding the number of social enterprises has grown 37 percent over the last five years. Kahn was at the forefront of this trend, establishing her food rescue organisation eight years ago after being stunned by the food going to waste in the hospitality industry – something she’d seen happen too regularly while running a successful events business.

Kahn’s determination to make a contribution to society has paid off, with OzHarvest rescuing over 11 million meals and 3.5 million kilograms of food from landfill to date, and redistributing it to various charities around the country.

What exactly do not-for-profits, entrepreneurship and small businesses have in common? Quite a lot, apparently. Khan tells Dynamic Business how her skills as a business owner have translated into the charitable space.

Q. Where did the inspiration for OzHarvest come from, and what challenges did you face when getting it off the ground?

I wanted to make a significant difference. I’d seen so much food going to waste and had often taken left over food to give away, which wasn’t an easy process. So it seemed the best way of putting my skills to good use was to create an organisation that could make this happen.

Once I decided what I was going to do, I felt I had to take the same steps I took when I was building my events business – which was sharing the concept and getting people on board.

Q. How did your experiences in the events industry help you become such a successful entrepreneur in the charity space?

Events are about details, logistics and creating a fantastic impression within a short time. OzHarvest is like a transport and logistics company – we just pick up and deliver food

When starting OzHarvest, I had to share with people the possibility of what OzHarvest could become and having experience in running a business stood me in good stead for creating a new business.

Q. Congratulations on your recent win at the Verve Clicquot awards – would you say this is one of your proudest achievements to date?

I would say that achieving this award has been wonderful but I never set out to win awards, just to do what I can for the purpose of making a difference. Of course, an award like this helps our profile enormously and is incredibly important to make more people aware of OzHarvest.

Q. Are there any similarities between starting and running a charitable organisation, and a small business?

I don’t believe there’s any difference between setting up a professional, efficient charity and setting up a business.

In both cases you need to achieve maximum results, output and impact. The only difference is that one is measured by the dollars it makes for an individual and its shareholders, and the other by its social impact, dollars raised for the cause and how many people it can make a difference to in a particular community.

Q. Are there any entrepreneurs you look up to?

The late Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and late Bodyshop founder Annita Roddick

Q. So, what’s next for OzHarvest?

We’re rolling out an education program called NEST- Nutrition Education Sustenance Training which will teach healthy food preparation and eating habits to our recipient organisations as well as the wider community.

We’re also working on a project we hope to launch this year called NOURISH, which will create a pathway to employment for 24 disadvantaged youth and transform their lives.

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