Social Enterprise Heroes: Tradeworks FabShop

This article is one of a series highlighting the finalists in the 2013 Social Enterprise Heroes event, presented for the third consecutive year by Junxion, along with KPMG and JDQ Systems.

Like all good social entrepreneurs who focus on the 3 P’s—people, planet and profit—Maninder Dhaliwal truly values the people she works with and for.

Dhaliwal, the Executive Director of Tradeworks Training Society, is one of three finalists competitively selected to pitch their mission-based business for prizes at Enterprising Non Profit’s Fifth Annual Social Enterprise Heroes event. The event takes place at Vancouver’s Roundhouse Community Arts Centre on March 27—officially Social Enterprise Day in British Columbia—capping off a full day dedicated to social enterprise in BC. [See our previous article about the event here.]

Tradeworks Training Society has the distinction of being the only nonprofit to have been invited back to pitch a second time at Social Enterprise Heroes. Based in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, BC, Tradeworks serves the community by empowering people with job related education, life skills counseling and job search support. As participants in 2009’s inaugural competition, they put forward their Custom Products program.

At this year’s event, Dhaliwal will be highlighting Tradeworks’ other social enterprise, the FabShop, operated in partnership the RONA Foundation. The FabShop is a training program aimed at helping at-risk young adults learn basic woodworking and job skills helping them achieve greater job stability, security and earning potential. Participant-crafted products, such as Adirondack chairs, benches, planters and picnic tables, are sold in local RONA stores. New graduates generally earn between $14 and $18 per hour, approximately 40-80% higher than minimum wage, according to Dhaliwal.

A recent cohort included two women with children. “At a minimum wage job, they wouldn’t be able to afford childcare,” explained Dhaliwal, adding that the FabShop isn’t a cure for someone who’s been on the street for ten years. “It’s prevention for people who would fall through the cracks if they didn’t have a job.”

In addition to her role as executive director of the parent organisation, Dhaliwal is also filling the role as interim manager of the FabShop. At the March 27th event, she will be making her presentation in the company of the FabShop’s carpentry instructors. “The whole team is excited about this opportunity,” Maninder said. She’ll be seeking advice and resources to help with marketing research, business development research, and the development of better business processes.

What does Dhaliwal love most about her work at Tradeworks? Without hesitating, she replies, “the people.” She’s talking not just about the program participants, but also about the FabShop staff and the whole Tradeworks team, whom she refers to as “the salt of the earth, incredibly hard working people”.


Presented by JDQ Associates, Junxion, and KPMG, the Social Enterprise Heroes event is an annual celebration that has attracted new sponsors including ASQ and TELUSVancity Community Foundation also continues to support the event with a grant available to one of the successful enterprises. The evening will be emceed by Derek Gent, Executive Director of Vancity Community Foundation, and Faye Wightman, President and CEO of the Vancouver Foundation. Learn more at

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