The sixth annual Social Enterprise Heroes event took place the evening of April 16, 2014, at the Roundhouse Community Arts Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. Produced by Enterprising Non-Profits BC (“ENP”) and sponsored by JDQ Systems, Junxion, KPMG and TELUS, the evening featured three businesses competing in front of a team of judges and a live audience for almost $50,000 in cash grants and pro bono consulting services.
Not to be confused with popular television shows that pit mainstream entrepreneurs against a “ferocious” panel of venture capitalists, in this event the judges are benevolent “heroes,” and each non-profit business has a social mission to achieve, as well as a financial bottom line.
To open the evening, the co-Masters of Ceremonies – Vancity Community Foundation’s Executive Director Derek Gent and Vancouver Foundation’s President and CEO Kevin McCort – read a Proclamation by the Province of British Columbia declaring April 2014 to be Social Enterprise Month. They then introduced this year’s judges: JDQ Systems President Jon Morris, Vancouver YWCA CEO Janet Austin, and TELUS VP of Business Solutions Michael McCarthy, all of whom were all returning “heroes” from previous years, as well as KPMG manager Marco Tomassetti, who was making his first appearance on the panel.
The three social enterprises whose pitches were the evening’s main event were selected from across the province by a volunteer committee, and were coached in advance of their presentations.
- Pet Treat Bakery, coached by Vancity Community Foundation, is a producer and wholesale distributor of pet treats made from locally sourced and natural ingredients. The business employs people who live with disabilities, and is a division of Beaufort Association, a registered charity supporting people with disabilities. Pet Treat Bakery has grown steadily since it opened in 2010, and has been struggling to keep up with customer demand with its current machinery.
- Pearl’s Value & Vintage, coached by Junxion Strategy and Sierra Systems, is a second-hand store in downtown Squamish that sells gently used goods to generate supplemental funding for its parent organization, Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society, a registered charity dedicated to providing programs and services to women and children in need of social support in British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Corridor. The team from Pearl’s was looking for help to improve the operations and inventory management system in their store.
- The Cleaning Solution, coached by KPMG, is a contract cleaning company that provides supportive and quality employment to people living with mental illness. The Cleaning Solution has grown steadily over its ten years of operation and is now considering expanding into new markets, so was seeking advice on business and marketing planning.
Each team had nine minutes to make a pitch highlighting their successes and asking for help with their growth. The judges then had six minutes for clarifying questions from each team, and then moved off-stage for their deliberation.
During the “half-time show,” as they jokingly called it, Mike Rowlands from Junxion and Sherry Campbell from Sierra Systems joined in a lively dialogue about the challenges of talent management, particularly for purpose-driven businesses that can’t compete with market-rate wages and benefits. Some of the strategies mentioned included offering personal days, coaching and development, and recognition programs. The discussion, which included questions from audience members, also highlighted how different generations in today’s workforce value benefits differently.
At the end of the evening, the judges returned and announced the distribution of prizes:
- Pet Treat Bakery received a $10,000 grant from TELUS and a $5,000 grant from Vancity Community Foundation to help with the purchase of new machinery to meet their demand for product. Additionally, the enterprise received eight hours of consulting from Demonstrating Value to help monitor both business performance and social impact.
- Pearl’s was awarded a total of $20,000 worth of consulting hours, $10,000 each from JDQ Systems and ASQ Vancouver.
- The Cleaning Solution was awarded $15,000 worth of consulting hours — $5,000 from KPMG, $10,000 from Sierra Systems, and $5,000 from Junxion.
The two-hour evening event followed a full Day of Learning and tradeshow. North Shore Culinary School, a social enterprise providing job training and placement to under-employed youth and adults, catered the pre-awards reception.