MURRA alumna partners with OfficeMax and MBS Board Member for social impact

7/07/2015
Jasmin Herro, MURRA 2013 and MBS Outstanding Alumna 2014, this month announced a partnership with OfficeMax designed to deliver social impact to schools and Indigenous communities across Australia.  OfficeMax is one of Australia’s largest suppliers of office products and school supplies and its customers include major government departments across Australia.
 
 
A range of around 100 products designed by Jasmin and available for purchase through OfficeMax will be produced and a portion of the profits will be devoted to Indigenous initiatives through a not-for-profit foundation, the Teter Mek Foundation.  The inaugural chair of the Foundation is Frank Zipfinger, SEMBA2003 and MBS Board member.
 
In recalling how the idea came about, Jasmin said, “I was approached by OfficeMax in 2014, shortly after I finished the MURRA Indigenous Business Masterclass program at MBS.  What made OfficeMax stand out was that they gave me a blank page and the freedom to come up with an idea.”
 
Over the course of the next several months, Jasmin identified the lack of Indigenous teaching materials in schools.   “All primary students are required to learn about Indigenous history but there is very little to support teachers.  And the subject matter tends to be delivered from a non-Indigenous perspective.  Australian Indigenous culture is incredibly diverse and I wanted to bring those diverse stories into the classroom.”
 
With the profits gained from the OfficeMax range, The Teter Mek Foundation will work with Indigenous communities across Australia to create teaching packs that reflect their culture, language and history.  In addition to providing interactive teaching material, the initiative also enables communities to preserve their culture and language through the recording of their histories, much of which has been lost because it is an oral history traditionally passed down through the generations in the form of storytelling.
 
The initiative will draw on OfficeMax’s existing relationships with Education Departments and schools across Australia. For OfficeMax, it is a way to contribute to the Indigenous development space that combines a compelling idea that delivers true social impact.
 
"For some time, OfficeMax had been looking for ways to contribute to Indigenous development, but we wanted to do something that truly stood out – so many initiatives seem to be a case of ticking the box," says OfficeMax CEO Charles Agee.  " Jasmin brought that ‘stand out’ initiative to the table. The synergies between Tjindgarmi, Teter Mek and our schools heritage are exceptional. ”
 
Agee added:  “Jasmin’s exceeded our expectations in so many ways, embedding herself into our organisation and helping drive a huge sense of excitement about what we’re doing together. We now consider her part of our OfficeMax family.  It's a great example of how businesses like OfficeMax can truly partner with individuals and industries to deliver true social impact in a meaningful and sustainable way."
 
The initiative is also a case study in collaboration.  In explaining how he became involved, Frank Zipfinger recalls, “As a member of the SEMBA2003 class who gave the initial seed funding for MURRA, I was invited to a presentation that Jasmin made to MBS in December 2014 and I was blown away.  She has this vision, great idea and brilliant designs, and in-principle support from OfficeMax but details such as intellectual property and contractual matters had yet to be filled in.  And as a lawyer, you know, we like details!”
 
“That’s understating it!” laughs Jasmin.  “At the meeting, Frank asked me about governance of the Foundation, the flow of money, how it would be accounted for….My head was spinning.  Clearly, legal and accounting issues are not my strengths.”
 
Over the next several months, together with Frank’s advice and guidance, Jasmin secured pro bono legal services from King & Wood Mallesons and accounting services from Ernst&Young.   In early May, the Tjindgarmi Initiative was launched Australia-wide with senior representatives from all parties in attendance.
 
“I know that this wouldn’t have been possible without MURRA,” says Jasmin.  “It gave me the space to think, to reflect on my business, and challenged me to make a difference.  The support of Frank and the SEMBA2003 class has been amazing – I could never have done this without them.”
 
Frank commented: “When we gave seed funding to launch MURRA in 2012, Professor Ian Williamson convinced us it met a need – to provide talented and energetic Indigenous businesses with the skills to grow.  Economic development is crucial to Indigenous advancement.  So we knew that the program had the potential to make a huge difference.  But you know, when you provide seed funding, it’s also a leap of faith into the unknown.  What we could not have foreseen was how impactful it turned out to be.  I’m really looking forward to helping Teter Mek grow, and seeing how other MURRA alumni develop their skills and networks and contribute to their communities.”