“WHEREAS the Province of British Columbia recognises the need to actively support and engage BC communities to identify new and innovative ways to tackle their most pervasive social challenges”
– so began the official proclamation declaring March 27, 2013 to be Social Enterprise Day.
On that same day, Enterprising Non-Profits hosted its fifth Social Enterprise Heroes event, celebrating the growing number of social entrepreneurs and the positive social impact these business leaders are making. The gathering took place in the Roundhouse Community Centre in the Yaletown neighbourhood of Vancouver.
The two-hour evening event, attended by a sell-out crowd of 200 people, 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 with a delicious selection of hot and cold appetizers.
Inside the main auditorium, the evening’s co-hosts, Vancity Community Foundation’s Executive Director Derek Gent, far left, and Vancouver Foundation’s President and CEO Faye Wightman, left, kept the two-hour program running smoothly.
Each of the three competitively selected social enterprises—the Edible Garden Project, Tradeworks Fab Shop, and Ktunaxa/Kinbasket Child and Family Services—had exactly nine minutes to make their most compelling pitch highlighting their successes and asking for help with their growth. They were competing for a total of $45,000 in combined cash grants and pro bono consulting services.
Listening intently was the panel of four judges, right, or “Super Enterprise Heroes”: Jon Morris (President, JDQ Systems), Lorne Burns (Partner, KPMG), Janet Austin (CEO, Vancouver YWCA) and Michael McCarthy (VP, BC Small and Medium Business, TELUS).
After the presentations, while the judges retreated for their deliberation, longtime community activist Melanie Conn presented the second annual Social Enterprise Top Hero Award to Susan Braverman, left, president of The Flag Shop, for her work in support of Common Thread Co-op. Both Conn and Braverman spoke about the natural fit between the for-profit Flag Shop, which produces street banners, and the nonprofit Common Thread, which converts used street banners and other fabrics into colourful and durable products, keeping these products out of the landfill while also providing training and employment to new immigrants and people living with mental illnesses. In her acceptance speech, Braverman stressed how easy it can be for for-profits and nonprofits to work together.
Jerr Boschee, right, founder and executive director of the Institute for Social Entrepreneurs, delivered the evening’s keynote address. Inspiring the audience with his engaging stories, Boschee pondered why social entrepreneurs do what they do, recalling his personal journey starting as a Peace Corp volunteer in an Indian village the late 1960s and reminding us that we can all make a difference.
The evening concluded with announcement of the awards. As in past years, the judges divided the prizes among the three finalists in a way that they felt best suited their needs:
- Edible Garden Project was awarded $10,000 worth of consulting hours of from ASQ Canada and $5,000 worth of consulting hours from JDQ Systems to help them with building partnerships, operations management and innovation development.
- Tradeworks FabShop received $5,000 worth of consulting hours from KPMG to help them analyse their business model and channels to market, $5,000 worth of consulting hours from Junxion to help them with their marketing strategy, and a $5,000 cash grant from TELUS.
- Ktuxana Kinbasket Child and Family Services was awarded $5,000 in consulting hours from JDQ Systems for support in setting up business processes, a $5,000 cash grant from TELUS, and a $5,000 grant from Vancity Community Foundation. The judges recommended using $5,000 of the cash to explore the feasibility of delivering their services through British Columbia’s new Social Impact Bond structure.
[Note: While the term “social enterprise” can be widely interpreted, in this context social enterprises are defined as businesses operated by non-profits with the dual purpose of generating income by selling a product or service in the marketplace and creating a social, environmental or cultural value.]
Photo credit: Bill Beatty