When Andrea Comastri applied for PRF’s Growth Incubator in December 2022, he knew his social enterprise needed help to mature and grow and hoped to secure a place in the new incubator program delivered by Sefa Partnerships.

“We were on a fast growth trajectory and like any business at that critical stage, we experienced some growing pains,” he says.

“We had a clear vision but lacked solid processes and some of the people to bring our vision to life.”

Andrea is the Co-Founder and CEO of Hotel Etico, a boutique hotel in Sydney’s Blue Mountains and Australia’s first social enterprise hotel, which provides employment and independent living opportunities to young people with disability, helping them to achieve their independence goals.

Hotel Etico is one of eight organisations from across Australia selected to participate in the Growth Incubator. The program, designed to fill a gap in the social venture ecosystem, commenced in February 2023.

“Many social enterprises have a proven track record of delivery,” says Abhilash Mudaliar, PRF’s Chief Impact Officer, “but require support to stabilise and accelerate their growth.

“The Incubator was designed to help grow the impact and pool of sustainable social enterprises in Australia by supporting the organisations through customised coaching and support, capability building through experiential learning, connection with peers, and potential access to capital.”

During the 10-month program, up to four team members from each enterprise worked with dedicated coaches to identify and support business needs and ambitions, participated in two in-person team ‘sprints’ focused on impact, strategy, finance, and growth, at the Yirranma Place for-purpose precinct, and joined their fellow participants for peer learning and network building. The eight enterprise leaders also took part in a complementary program to enhance their leadership skills and help them steer their organisations through this period of change.

Andrea says participating in the Incubator has been more about the journey than the destination but has nevertheless proved transformational for Hotel Etico.

“I believe we were in the right place at the right time. We’ve been able to implement new systems, make significant structural changes to reshape roles, and develop a really engaged culture.

“The ingredients were already there, but we’ve been able to make the right changes, supported by expert guidance through the Incubator.”

In July this year, Hotel Etico was awarded a $400,000 short-term capacity building grant to support the social enterprise to refine operational efficiencies and focus on business development.

“The grant has given us a great injection of oxygen,” continues Andrea.

“We’ve got the clarity of vision, the right team structure, and now the funding and capacity to do exactly what needs to be done.”

This story was originally published in PRF's 2023 Annual Review.