A Venture Challenge to Create Change

Whistler Question
December 21, 2016
By: Michelle Ratcliffe
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Cheeying Ho, executive director of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability, and her team work with a vision to make their community (and the world) a place that keeps getting better.

From offering organizations sustainable goal setting and strategies to community recognition for leaders and innovators, the centre’s services and inspired programming contribute to a healthy vibrant community today and for tomorrow. This year their lineup of community-minded projects amped up with the addition of the 2015 Social Venture Challenge.

Social ventures are all about doing good things through business and the Social Venture Challenge provides an opportunity to develop new business initiatives that focus on delivering a social and/or environmental benefit.

The program guides aspiring social entrepreneurs from an idea to a solid business plan.

“Our successful first Social Venture Challenge program proved that there is a lot of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in the region, and that there are lots of viable ideas of how we can use business strategies to achieve environmental and social good,” said Ho.

From idea to action

The Sea to Sky corridor thrives on adventure, creativity and progression. The program set out to help some fresh thinkers turn their big ideas into reality.

“We know that there is a lot of creativity and innovation in the Sea to Sky corridor, and that many entrepreneurs are looking for ways that they can create impact in their communities,” said Moselle Dibdin, special projects manager for the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.

Whether a budding business owner spotting a need or a seasoned entrepreneur seizing an opportunity for something new, the transition from bright idea to viable business plan is often the hardest hurdle to hop, so the challenge kickstarts social ventures through capacity building, mentorship and raised awareness.

Business concept creation

In the inaugural year of the program, Ho and her team supported eight socially minded entrepreneurs in Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and Lillooet.

“We wanted to develop a program that would help entrepreneurs take that first step of business development to flesh out their business concept and be able to pitch their idea,” said Dibdin.

The 2015 participants in this intensive and highly interactive program were Ski Heaven, Change of Pace Men’s Centre, Lillooet Grown, Food First, Eat to Beat by the Green Moustache, the Freed Food Society, AWARE’s ecoActive and Lambrecht Surfboards’ Positive Paddle. The innovative ideas ranged a food hub building new markets for local food producers in Lillooet to getting hands-on with conference groups participating in environmental and restoration projects in Whistler.

The budding businesses jumped into collaborative learning sessions to develop their business model, one-on-one mentoring and production of a video to promote their social venture. Their efforts all lead up to a Dragons’ Den-style community pitch event where the “winning” social venture business concept, The Freed Food Society, received $3,000 of seed funding for their venture.

A social network

With local leaders lending expertise as trainers and mentors, a powerhouse panel of judges and an enormous network of supporters, the program has a powerful social impact on its community as a whole.

“Building a network of socially minded entrepreneurs, impactful businesses, and fun and creative learning opportunities are all goals of the Social Venture Challenge,” Dibdin said.

The program’s success in its inaugural year has the team working towards a second year fuelling a new crop of community minded businesses.

“We have such an innovative and entrepreneurial culture in the region, and everyone wants to do good for our community. So this is a chance to come up with new ways of doing both — growing business opportunities as well as providing benefit for our community, “ said Ho, who with this socially minded project is helping shape a thriving community and sustainable local economy.

Link to Whistler Question article: http://ow.ly/WJeSo