Ilha Blue is a social enterprise

Social enterprises have people at their heart. Commercially viable businesses existing to benefit the public and the community, rather than only benefiting shareholders. Social enterprises intentionally tackle social problems, improve communities, provide people with access to employment and training, or help the environment. Ilha Blue does all of this, all of the time.

Social enterprises are often classified as Embedded, Integrated or External. Ilha Blue is embedded. Which means our social activities are central to what we do and funded through our enterprise activities so they are sustainable.

Have we always been a social enterprise?

Yes we have.  Our objectives have always been compatible with the ideals of a social enterprise but we haven’t always described ourselves using this label. Why? First, we didn’t want to create confusion. Everyone knows what a business is but social enterprises can be less easy to understand. Secondly, some business people regard social enterprises with suspicion. Particularly questioning their motives and commitment and even suggesting that they enjoy unfair advantages. Up to now its been easier to trade as a principled business.

Why change now?

Over the next 5 years we want to increase our positive impact and we think we can do this best as a flag waving social enterprise

We came to Africa for this very purpose

For many years we worked alongside Australian Indigenous people to support their ambitions. This included strengthening local languages and creating economic opportunities on their traditional homelands. We realised that many of the skills we learned in Australia could be put to good use in other parts of the world. So we visited Mozambique and searched for a place to establish a new type of responsible tourism enterprise. Ilha Blue was the enterprise and Ilha De Mozambique the place we found.

Catch 22

Even though tourism was growing in Mozambique, people explained how the jobs always went to outsiders with better education and more experience. It was the same old trap. Local people claimed “we can’t get jobs because we have no experience, and can’t get experience because nobody will give us a job”. Catch 22. This was what we needed to tackle first.

Our early solution

Free bike tours where ‘clients’ paid money directly to the guide, but nothing to the company. This way guides earn a little money and gain the experience they need by working in the ‘businesslike’ setting we created. We followed this up with kayak trips and other activities such as overnight camps on Ilha Das Cobras. Everything we did was new, tapping into the innovative entrepreneurial spirit. And everything we did was professional – leading the way and providing business models for others to learn from and later adapt to their own needs.

Now – eight years later

Ilha Blue has grown, now we employ 11 people full time plus many more casuals (sometimes more than 50 on a big day). We provide training not just for our staff but for many others. And we continue to work in a productive and friendly way with those entrepreneurs who have broken away to form their own tourism businesses.

The next 5 years

We have so many plans for the next 5 years. Building a cafe as a women’s employment and learning space. Developing the whale festival.  And, in partnership with WCA, creating a Whale Heritage sanctuary to protect this globally significant humpback birthing site. And more…

We will do this by developing strong networks with likeminded people. this way we are convinced that the next 5 years will be even bigger and better for positive social impact.