In late 2011, Oliver hatched a plan to hold a unique fundraising event.
Having found out about the amazing support a friend received while undergoing cancer treatment, Oliver decided that he should do something to help the charities that had supported his mate.
The only issue was that he needed some help turning his idea into a reality.
All of this is relatively straightforward, until you find out Oliver was 11.
The idea he incubated was to become Ice Cream Day, which has earned strong support from some impressive quarters.
Oliver wanted to do something, in his own words, “to show that kids can make a difference,” and “because kids should help kids.”
And, he wanted to do it through “the awesomeness of ice cream”.
There’s no argument on any of those points!
With that, ‘Magnum Day’ was conceived.
After a little bit of encouragement from his father, Oliver penned a letter to Unilever, the parent company of Streets, the makers of Magnums.
He explained that he, at all of 11, would like to raise money for the Starlight Children’s Foundation of Australia, and would they be so kind as to enable this by providing 300 Magnums.
Within hours, his dad received a phone call from Streets. There was only one question asked: “How large is your son’s school’s freezer?”
It was at this point that we found out red tape provides the odd curve ball.
We were informed Magnum’s were not an “approved in schools” food item. This was interesting to me, as these did not exist when I was a child on Christmas Island; I attended a school with halal and non-halal canteens, complete with peanuts.
Luckily, the good people at Streets were quick to point out that they had a solution to this regulatory hitch: Paddle Pops.
These little blades of joyful protein and calcium are just fine for schoolchildren and approved in schools in all states.
I have been informed that Paddle Pops are ‘healthier’ than most muesli bars.
This was Oliver’s first pivot; Magnum Day became Ice Cream Day, and Oliver had a fundraiser to organise.
The MVP launch
The inaugural Ice Cream Day was held in a school in regional Victoria in 2013.
It raised $500 by distributing Paddle Pops in exchange for a gold coin donation, and all proceeds were forwarded to the Starlight Children’s Foundation of Australia.
After the success of his minimum viable product market test, and considering the relative ease of holding Ice Cream Day at his school, Oliver borrowed his dad’s mobile phone.
Using phone’s calculator, he worked out that if he got 50 schools to hold an Ice Cream Day, they could raise $25,000-$30,000.
When he found out there are roughly 5,000 schools in Victoria and New South Wales, he figured he could raise $2,000,000 without too much trouble.
Like all good entrepreneurs, Oliver had scale in mind, as soon as he knew his MVP had a market fit.
Planning to scale
Realising he would need a little bit of help from some grownups, Oliver asked some of his dad’s friends if they would be interested in helping grow Ice Cream Day.
I was one of them.
I said yes.
There can’t be that much work helping a kid out, right?
A few weeks later, in March 2014, Oliver met the CEO of Starlight. Then, unassisted, he presented to the Starlight Foundation Board, the pitch deck he had created about success of the first Ice Cream Day and, his plans for the future.
Late the same day, he presented the deck and his vision to the Senior Management team of Streets.
While some of his grown up support team was there, we were relegated to the sidelines and did nothing much other than pay for cab fares between the meetings.
In this second meeting, he raised the question of whether Streets was interested in providing ongoing support for this initiative.
Without hesitation and, on a handshake inspired by the pluck of an 11-year-old, Streets agreed to provide enough Paddle Pops to run a pilot program of Ice Cream Days throughout Victoria during 2014.
With backing secured, Oliver’s venture was ready scale, just as he had planned.
The beginning of my internship
With support and backing from Streets and the Starlight Foundation, my real internship kicked off.
Suddenly, the need for a team to support Oliver’s idea had rapidly developed into needing a proper, non-profit structure.
Establishing the structure for this non-profit has been an interesting process, more on that in a future article. The reason being, there probably aren’t that many non-profits that conduct fundraising activities that are built around the idea of a now-12-year-old socially-minded entrepreneur.
Kids Helping Kids is now a registered non-profit organisation that organises Ice Cream Day. And, with this operating structure, it’s ready to help kids help kids.
And, like any intern, I can tell you, I’m learning a lot.
Dominic Collins is a public affairs professional, specialising in stakeholder engagement, position development, communications and advocacy. You may remember him such articles as Three things Game of Thrones taught us this week. He is a consultant at edgelabs.