Photo: Brian Howell/UBC. Left to right: Shaun Strobel (Director), Emma Holmes (Operations Manager),and Sonia Strobel (Managing Director) of Skipper Otto.
Five social enterprises were selected to participate in the social venture accelerator Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub (iHub) based at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Sauder School of Business in Vancouver, Canada.
And they all have to do with food.
Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society and Shifting Growth Garden Society turn vacant spaces into commercially productive farms and gardens, respectively. Mealshare is the Toms for food – for every meal purchased at a restaurant, one gets shared with a person in need of food. Natural Source Vending builds vending machines packed with all-natural snacks for the workplace. Skipper Otto skips the middleman by connecting local fishermen to consumers to raise the income of fishers while protecting ocean resources.
This will be the second year of the 12-month accelerator program. Support for each venture in this year’s cohort is valued at $60,000.
The accelerator was launched in September 2012 thanks to a $1 million gift from Coast Capital Savings, one of Canada’s largest credit unions serving the Greater Vancouver region. Funding is provided over five years to help the university’s ISIS Research Centre, which runs the iHub, to grow social ventures by providing work space, mentorship, and student interns.
“It’s like when people first discovered the potential of the internet and the dot-com economy. It’s a whole new way of doing business. There is a major push to do socially conscious business. It’s actually the evolution of charity, going beyond asking for money to become self-sustaining enterprises. You really do feel that you’re part of creating the next wave of business for the next century,” said Winnie Sun, a UBC graduate who interned with last year’s cohort.
James Tansey, professor at Sauder and executive director of the ISIS Research Centre, said the program will help move the social enterprises from the prototype stage to one where they can attract investment into their idea.
Although Canadians may be familiar with the workings of venture capital popularized by television shows such as Dragons’ Den, Tansey added that rather than picking winners and losers, the accelerator creates a supportive environment where each venture stands a chance to become viable businesses.
If all goes accordingly, by next fall the participating ventures should be ready for outside investors.
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