Seed Waikato has quickly become a voice for Waikato’s young and the organisation has plenty more room to grow with the hopes of one day sending its model globally.
The charitable organisation was co-founded by Gemma Major in 2017 alongside an inspiring collective of young people, after she began with a conversation with her friend, Ryan O’Connor, while on a leadership camp. They asked themselves what opportunities were missing from young culture in the region.
Major, who was working at Momentum Waikato at the time, learned that she and O’Connor weren’t the only ones asking the question.
“I was surrounded by a group of young people who were all looking for opportunities to thrive and my work at Momentum Waikato through Waikato Vital Signs told me the wider community wanted the same things. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, so we started a Facebook page,” said Major.
The response encouraged Major to take the idea further.
“We attracted other young people who could help co-create that future. I wanted Seed to be a collection of young people who were willing to shake stuff up rather than just one young person driving the force,” said Major.
The main focus of Seed Waikato in its first year was to organise speaking events that would empower and inspire young people. The first event, which focused on growth mindset, had three speakers and attracted 80 young people. Major said this was the point where she knew they were onto something special. One of the last events of the year saw 300 people attend.
“My motivation is to engage, motivate and inspire young people because I really see the potential for our generation to change the world in such a big way,” said Major.
It didn’t take long for Waikato businesses, funders and individuals such as Tompkins Wake, Inspire Hamilton, MHB Photography, Len Reynolds Trust and Hamilton City Council to get behind the organisation. This support enabled them to provide events throughout the year which engaged around 1400 young people.
“What I love that about this region is that when there is a need and there is a great idea people will come together to make it happen,” said Major.
In just one year Seed Waikato was able to do more than it could have imagined despite working with a tight budget coming in the form of donations, said Major.
It went on to receive a youth award and a social enterprise award at the Hamilton Central Business Association awards and Major herself received a Waikato 125 award recognising her as a woman of influence. The organisation also made two submissions to the government regarding Hamilton City Council’s 10-year-plan and the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.
Seed Waikato is still just beginning though, and big plans are in the pipeline with Major working hard to land a million dollars’ worth of funding to cover three years of running the organisation.
A strategic plan is being drawn up by Major and her team. This year’s plans include appointing a board of trustees, more speaking events, a millennial awards ceremony, digital education platforms to improve soft skills, collaborations to get young people into governance, a pot-luck dinner programme in communities, storytelling to change the perception of young people in the media and personal mentoring for any need a young person might have.
It is working to become a social enterprise, offering millennial consulting and packages to businesses who want to attract, maintain and inspire young talent.
“With 46 percent of young people leaving their employer within two years, and the average cost to train young staff estimated at $25,000-$50,000, we know this is a priority for businesses. Creativity and innovation comes through fostering diversity and inclusion, and through our work we understand how to respond to millennial needs,” said Major.
Seed Waikato has also just been donated office space on Victoria Street from Foster Construction. It will use the office space as a co-working environment and hope to see other millennial start-ups, businesses and organisations joining it in the space.
“The goal is that by February we receive a $1 million, three-year runway set-up so that we can deliver the products and services in response to the need,” said Major.
She is also keen to take the model nationally and even globally. She has interest from Auckland and Wellington to expand and is figuring out how to adapt what she has developed here in Waikato to work in other locations.
“Millennials are the largest generation on living record, and the big vision is to send the model globally. Imagine if they were all engaged, inspired, encouraged and connected to dream and do. I think the world would see a very different social, cultural, economic and environmental landscape,” said Major.