The Okanagan Valley has a growing reputation for its entrepreneurial ecosystem. One of the hidden undercurrents is a growing cohort of social entrepreneurs. These people are using non-traditional organization models and business models to help achieve community, social, or environmental initiatives. They can be for-profit or non-for-profit, but a majority of the profits must be directed to achieving social objectives.
Here in BC, the number of ventures with a social or environmental mission has increased 35% over five years (2015). Here’s a quick look at six local social enterprises who will be sharing their stories at ChangeUP: Presented by Valley First on February 28, 2018.
Start Fresh: A partnership between Start Fresh – A Collaborative Kitchen Inc. and The Start Fresh Project Society
Start Fresh Kitchen is a socially-responsible, performance-driven, and innovative food + beverage provider and caterer, with a knack for engaging folks in an unparalleled discovery experience of the Okanagan’s finest food. The Start Fresh Kitchen partners with a non-profit organization called the Start Fresh Project Society to host the Culinary Arts and Farm Education (CAFE) Program. This is an 8-month, once a week employment training program offered free of charge to participants. It is taught partly at the Start Fresh Kitchen and partly at a 1/2 acre donated farm space just outside Kelowna’s city centre. The chefs from the Start Fresh Kitchen act as instructors and participant mentors in the CAFE Program, and the kitchen also rents its space to the non-profit free of charge for the purposes of running the program.
Started at the end of 2016, this social enterprise is a for-profit and non-profit partnership.
One Big Table
One Big Table is a cooperative-owned grocery store dedicated to providing seasonal fruits and vegetables, free-range meats and eggs, artisan cheeses and breads to its members on a daily basis. They offer the small, the unique, the traditionally made; heritage varieties that have been part of the land in the past but are now disappearing – in balance with the seasons and the natural rhythm they provide – all in one stop. One Big Table offers grocery, daily hot lunch and coffee, and catering. OBT also works alongside the John Howard Society to provide meaningful employment to marginalized individuals in the community.
Started in 2017, this social enterprise is incorporated as a cooperative.
Habitat for Humanity – Okanagan
Habitat for Humanity Okanagan is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity Canada, a national, non-profit organization working towards a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. Habitat for Humanity’s model empowers families to invest in home ownership. Through donated labour, efficient management and tax-deductible donations of money and materials, Habitat for Humanity builds and rehabilitates simple, decent houses. Habitat for Humanity homes are sold to partner families with no cash down payment required and are financed with affordable, no-interest mortgages. Mortgage payments go into a revolving fund, which is used by affiliates to build more homes for more families in need. Habitat for Humanity has helped 30 Okanagan families and aims to help another 30 by 2020.
Started in 2013, this social enterprise is incorporated as a non-profit (with charitable status).
From Elevation Outdoors’ first ever Learn to Shred program with 6 participants, their focus has always been on breaking down barriers and helping young people find a passion to help them lead a healthy happier life. Since their inception, they have expanded their program offering to include snowboarding, mountain biking, rock climbing and sailing programs. All of their programs are offered at no cost to any eligible youth or families to assist in providing them with an opportunity to develop a healthy passion. Elevation Outdoors also offers Intro to Adventure summer camps to families who do have the means to cover the cost of camp. This helps to offset costs related to running their free programs. Elevation recently started renting out their bus to other non-profits, businesses, and community groups; this also creates a new social enterprise revenue stream.
Started in 2007, with enterprise revenue starting in 2017, this social enterprise is incorporated as a non-profit (with charitable status).
Do Some Good
Do Some Good is an online network and mobile app that connects people, charitable organizations, and businesses to make a meaningful impact in communities all across Canada. Volunteers are the lifeblood of nonprofits and charities. Do Some Good empowers charities and non-profits to more successfully manage, recognize, communicate with and recruit volunteers, and sets them up for long-term success in effecting change to their specific cause area or social issue. Do Some Good users have logged nearly 1,000,000 volunteer hours, which has benefited more than 5,600 charities.
Started in 2015, this social enterprise is incorporated as a Community Contribution Company (CCC).
Change Gamers has created the iCAN app, which connects youth to people and ideas that are making a positive impact in their communities and around the world. It is a place to share stories of impact and positively inspire others. Youth can complete challenges, join campaigns and groups, take pledges, and donate to real-world projects to make a difference. Make friends and cheer them along. Learn more about causes that are important to you and level up along the way. It is the platform for you to change your world. Some partners include Canadian Mental Health Association and Kids Saving the Rainforest.
Started in 2015, Change Gamers is a for-profit social enterprise.
This is a small selection of the many social enterprises and social entrepreneurs in the Okanagan who are building solutions to tough community, social, and environmental challenges.