Gold Coast, Bond University student, Hollie Gordon, came to NetEngine to give life to her idea which brings students, corporate entities and social causes together to deliver projects with heart. NetEngine educated Hollie in LEAN methodology and agile development and now Hollie finds herself operating as a social enterprise entrepreneur. NetEngine are proud to have helped her make the leap. Watch our interview with Hollie to hear her story.
NE: Tell us about Milaana
Hollie: The site [Milaana.org] is basically a platform for social enterprise to connect students and community organisations together for impact placements. So basically student placements where the student gets valuable experience and their effort goes directly towards benefiting the community in some way because they’re working with charities, Not For Profits, community organisations or even commercial enterprises who are running their own fundraising projects - like NetEngine is doing.
NE: What prompted you to get started on building a site like Milaana?
Hollie: There is very high student unemployment at the moment, and youth unemployment in Australia and for a lot of university students we’re really quite desperate to get good work experience and we may as well do it for causes that we support and at community organisations that I guess will really value and appreciate the work that we’re doing. I guess that experience has sort of led to this, but it really just hit me one day that students and these organisations just have so much to offer each other, they just don’t have a good platform for that interaction to take place and to facilitate that engagement.But it was really just the idea, because I don’t have any technical experience myself, so that’s where NetEngine played a huge part.
NE: How has working with NetEngine assisted or added the most value in your eyes?
Hollie: We really workshopped the idea, because I just had a really basic idea of almost like a job board really and then through workshopping the idea, the team at NetEngine really helped me develop it more into a project based experience and so we formulated all the different ways that this website could take place. So it’s more a platform for engagement than simply just a job board and once we had the basic premise down pat then we’ve been using the LEAN concept which Bruce is a big fan of, so basically just doing continuous deployment and development. Almost a couple of weeks after our first meeting we had a prototype of the site up and running which absolutely blew me away. And we’ve been able to take this around to different organisations and their really enjoying being part of this development process as well and they’re really excited about it. And…it’s almost functional now, the first iteration of it anyway. I only came up with the idea a few months ago, so its all been really fast, but at the same time well thought through and planned hopefully.
NE: Where did the name for the site come from?
Hollie: Milaana, means to connect people or, to get people to meet, in Hindi. I travelled a bit before I started university and it was in India that I really developed a passion for social enterprise and community engagement and its been doormant while I’ve been at university but its still there and I guess Milaana is a tribute to where my passion for social enterprise first came from, and I also like the name.
NE: What has been your experience of the incremental development process? Have you found that useful?
Hollie: Definitely being able to be involved in the development of the project was not something I had thought I would be able to do and it was something I was quite worried about because you know it is the project that I’m most passionate about right now and being able to… Poor Brad, every day I’ve been sending him emails, can we try this, how about this, this isn’t working maybe and I think it’s something that I think the team has enjoyed as well, having that constant feedback. And… as a student its also helped keep the cost down which is fantastic. And taking it at all these different stages to all these organisations to make sure that they are getting a site and a platform that they really want to use and also doing that with students and knowing from the outset that its a viable product and testing it and proving it with your clients is really valuable before you’ve even got the functional version.
NE: Did you have any specific budget in mind before starting with NetEngine and have you exceeded or underspent that?
Hollie: I’ve had to have a set budget in terms of a cap, which isn’t very much and so we’ve had to be creative because of that. We went through and basically had like a wish list of what we’d like to do and then prioritised those in terms of what’s the most important and costed it, and a lot of it has come under (way under) what they initially projected it would cost because they’ve been working tirelessly and creatively and its come within that budget and now there is a little bit left so we might be able to look at adding a few more features on before we’ve got the first iteration live but that’s definitely something the team’s managed really well.
NE: What projects have got you the most excited so far?
Hollie: There’s something from each sort of sector. There is one with the Youth Emergency Services working on their e-commerce project and then from the commercial aspect I love that NetEngine is actually getting on board and doing their own project where they plan to set up a web school between them and some students in Africa to teach their skills, which is fantastic. I didn’t realise how really just on board with the idea they were until they said, well we’re going to use your site, where do we sign up, and the passion and enthusiasm from the team has been really fantastic for me, in terms of that support because I guess it’s given me confidence because I’ve been operating really quite solo which has been really helpful for me as I guess a young startup.