ATN: Our Journey of Social Enterprise

The Journey of Social Enterprise

Making a social enterprise happen is more than having guts. In social enterprise, you dare to think beyond what your eyes can see, to the point where no one really understands what the hell you are doing. At least that is how we felt when we started.

ATN Access Inc. (ATN) supports people with barriers to find meaningful careers. So, it made sense for ATN to dig its heels into social enterprise as it gave us another set of tools through which to help individuals facing barriers.

In the beginning stage, when we began to envision ATN’s social enterprise, it is quite accurate to say that we had more questions than answers. The team typed up pages and pages of questions that seemed to question just about everything. The only thing we knew for certain is we wanted to start a community grocery store. Beyond that, all we had was our idea, the idea that maybe, just maybe, a grocer can do something positive for our clients and the local community.

It is one thing to dream about social enterprise. But, it is another adventure altogether to leap in.

The team working on this initiative was quite eclectic. The business guy was a Dutchman, who flew over here because he closed his eyes, pointed to a map and landed on Canada. Surprisingly enough, the Researcher on this project, grew up in EoA (East of Adeleide) in London and was fresh out of graduate school ready to make a mark in the community. The Executive Director and overseer of the operation was both a sh*t-disturber and a lover of people that built ATN from absolutely nothing to the community-driven non-profit organization it has become. Onward the team pushed, challenged by Board members, advisors and funders into this unknown territory. Armed with an idea that a food desert could be transformed, while training individuals with barriers to work in the food industry, all while generating a profit, we continued on our journey.

First on the checklist, research, research and even more research. From statistics to a massive literature review of the community, industry and consulting with folks who knew what they were talking about, the team began to understand that we really did not know as much as we thought we did. Any researcher knows, there really is not a finishing line in collecting information, but eventually, you need to say STOP, and start moving on. This idea challenged us -but we persevered.

The team thought the research was hard. Oftentimes, we took a step back as a team and just listened. Listened to the community, experts, people who knew the food business, and we just gulped their wellspring of knowledge. You could say we were in over our heads, but it was the most beautiful feeling of drowning in the uncharted waters of social enterprise.

In August, we turned a corner, literally. The team walked together around the Somerville Building on 630 Dundas Street in London, Ontario– the location of the future grocer. We were struck with a mass of supporters chatting, smiling, all standing with us. Following this tour, however, the questions did not stop and frankly, they probably will not stop and this is good. 

Your mission and vision are the driving force behind all you do: remember them. As we to researched, read, analyzed and consulted, through pages of research, floorplans, community meetings and partnerships, funding applications and grilling, we always remembered our mission, and used it as our compass, even during the dark days.

Your mission and vision are the driving force behind all you do: remember them

Ready to launch in 2016 with David Cook, ATN is happy to present the Old East Village Grocer, a community grocery store in East London that will provide more than just food. It will provide supports and needed training for individuals facing barriers in our community. For some, this will be the first opportunity they get at accessing full time work to get a full-time job to support their family. For many it will be training they cannot access anywhere else. Clients will experience a new beginning, and learn the skills to take control of their lives. This was our journey, and our story. We had to create our own path based on the story we wanted to build. In your social enterprise story, what will your path be?

By Bethany Innes-Mejia, Community Researcher, ATN Access, Inc.
ATN provides opportunities for individuals with injuries or physical, sensory and learning disabilities to gain access to employment or reach their learning goals through a variety of assessment, skills upgrading and personal development services.  ATN is led by Executive Director, Vicki Mayer ( Feel free to reach out. 

ATN Access,Inc.


What is the Best Legal Structure for My Social Enterprise?

Legal structure social enterprise

What is the best legal structure for a social enterprise?

There is no one definition of social enterprise. In general, a social enterprise is a profit-making activity that has a social purpose. A social enterprise can be legally structured in many different ways. It can be run by a charity, a non-profit, a for-profit or a hybrid corporation called a community contribution corporation.

A charity and a non-profit are different under the Income Tax Act (Canada). A charity must be registered with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and carry on charitable activities. A non-profit is not a charity and has to be operated for a purpose other than profit.

A charity, other than a private foundation, can carry on the social enterprise itself, if the activity qualifies as a related business. The benefit to carrying on the social enterprise for the charity is that a charity is not-taxable, and therefore profits from the social enterprise are not taxable. This allows all the profits to be used for the charitable purpose of the charity. However, the social enterprise activity must meet the definition of related business. [If the social enterprise is activity of the charity, then the charity is also liable for the social enterprise.]

CRA takes the position that a non-profit can only make incidental profit. Therefore, this is not a good structure to use to raise funds that will be sent to another entity, such as a charity. However, a non-profit can be a good structure for a social enterprise where the activity itself carries out the social purpose. For example, a restaurant that teaches people without a job how to cook may be structured as a non-profit, because the goal is not to make money to send to another project. Instead, the goal is to teach people a skill and help them gain employment.
A for-profit corporation is also used to carry out social enterprise activities. The benefits of running the social enterprise in a for-profit corporation is that a corporation can carry out any legal business activity, and the liability from the social enterprise is separate from the charity. While a for-profit is taxable, it can reduce its income by 75% by making gifts to a Canadian registered charity.

A new alternative in Canada is using a hybrid corporation called a community contribution corporation (CCC) or a community interest corporation (CIC). These new corporate structures are available in British Columbia and there is legislation pending in Nova Scotia. For tax purposes these new corporations are treated the same as are for-profit corporations – they are taxable.

However, under corporate law, they are required to have a social purpose, and there are restrictions on the use of assets to ensure the funds are used for the social purpose. A regular for-profit can use its funds in the same way, the only difference is that the CCC legislation requires the CCC to use the funds for the social purpose. Thus, this type of corporation can give the public some certainly that the funds will be used for a social purpose.

This has been a brief overview of the legal structures that can be used to carry out a social enterprise. The best choice will differ depending on the goals of the social enterprise and nature of the activity.

Kate Lazier is a partner in the Charity and Non-Profit group at Miller Thomson LLP,, 416.595.8197, @charitylawcan

Over55: Helping Retired Tradesmen One Hammer at a Time


Over 30 years ago, a group of semi-retired skilled trades decided that there were others like them – experienced workers with plenty left to give. Having trouble finding regular work, they came together and formed an association to help others like themselves who were age 55 and older to get work. Over55 creates income opportunities for the older worker by taking requests for home repair/renovation services, and referring them out to its roster of Associate Members, composed of trades people. With services ranging from house keeping to handymen and licensed plumbers and electricians, the organization sustains itself with referral fees from its members.

Founded in 1986, Over55 has been through several rebirths. As one of London’s earliest social enterprises, the path has not always been easy or clear, but this social enterprise has managed to survive, rebrand and redefine both itself and its mission in order to improve employment and quality of life outcomes for Seniors age 55 plus.

In order to further its objectives, Over55 has developed new programs that truly blend its service offerings and mission objectives. This is best outlined with its most recent pilot project, Home Extend. Home Extend is a project targeted at keeping seniors in their home longer by providing renovations that increase energy efficiency, improve safety & accessibility, or other repairs that impact the suitability of the home for those that demonstrate financial need. By partnering with Pathways Skills Development, Over55 brings together the necessary resources and community stakeholders needed to execute such an innovative program. Home Extend does not simply employ trades people; it directs them to the goal of helping seniors stay in their homes longer. It is well known that keeping seniors in their homes longer can reduce costs for all levels of government, while improving their quality of life.

While Over55 is working with local stakeholders, such as Pathways Skills Development, the path to social enterprise has not always been a straight trajectory but a winding one. As this group navigates its social enterprise path, its resilience and ability to endure is a testament to its membership, volunteers, and leadership. Being a voice for the older worker will be a necessity as our society ages. Evidence shows that fewer and fewer seniors are actually retiring, rather they are working less. Some work out of necessity, others out of desire to stay active and connected. This desire to push back, or even eliminate retirement is not without its challenges; ageism and other misconceptions create significant barriers for the older worker’s ability to find employment.

Regardless of what the future holds, Over55 will continue to build on its history as a social enterprise rich in experience, reputation, and tradition.
For more information on Over55, contact Betty Blasdell, Executive Director, Over55London, (519) 438-1111, or check out our website at

Social Enterprise and the Role of the Board of Directors

Board of Directors

Social Enterprise and the role of the Board of Directors

While there is much written about social enterprise and the role of Management teams, there is little written about the role of the Boards of Directors. As a board member, one’s role is to direct and protect the organization. While there are different types of boards, the role of a board member is to govern and to manage the risk level of the organization while ensuring its ongoing operation. In many ways social enterprise directly challenges the role of a board member. It creates new organizational risks. It is a departure from the known model of operation into something which may be completely new. It merges traditional public and private sector roles and the “grey” area that it represents in both tax and the law may leave more conservative boards of directors uncomfortable.

Boards, like organizations, are a spectrum. They can be ultra-conservative, to completely open and unorthodox, from structured to relaxed. The culture of a Board goes a long way to determining the culture of the organization. It will determine the latitude given to an Executive Director and team to experiment with new ideas, their aversion or openness to risk, and their ability to challenge the status quote. In short, the culture of a board can determine an organization’s success with social enterprise.

If an organization wants to be successful at social enterprise, they have to create a board and organizational structure that is conducive to this operational structure. All facets of the organization must be organized to support social enterprise activities, from reporting to financial statements, to team roles and responsibilities.   This is because social enterprise is a radical departure from traditional not for profit and charity work. It means adopting market principles and embracing risk, encouraging innovation, design-thinking and a private sector attitude. In spite of all of this, social missions sit at the heart of most organizations and balancing social mission with business principles can oftentimes leave board members confused at best.


What is a board member or Executive Director to do? Use the following principles as a starting point for establishing social enterprise in your organization:


  1. Establish your mission. What is it that you stand for? If money was no object what would your organization do?


  1. Establish social enterprise vision and long-term goals. Why do you want to enter the social enterprise space and what do you want to accomplish?


  1. Let your mission and goals guide your strategic discussions. These two items are your compass and map. They will be your “why” you do what you do, and will give you the path to get there.


  1. Decide what you sell or do. Most organizations are already businesses. The funders are the customers, and what funders are willing to pay for changes over time. Rather than suffer from mission drift, you have to ensure your organization “sells” something or provides a service that stands the test of time and is fundable by someone.  Social enterprise is simply saying, let’s turn the problem on its head. What do we do well, and what can we offer the public/government that is of value? Why do we exist as an organization should be the principal question driving your discussion.


  1. Develop a constraints matrix. Every organization is limited by constraints. If you do not know what those constraints are, you cannot effectively deploy your resources in a way that will bring you the best returns. Ensuring everyone knows the constraints, makes it easier to dedicate resources to particular causes


  1. Make your resource inputs match your desired outcomes. I have seen organizations involved in community development focus all their energy on doing a community event. The intended benefit is community building, but entire days and weeks of planning might be involved for an event that could have been organized in few short hours by an experienced event manager. The ideology behind this is that it empowers those involved to learn how to do something through self-discovery, however, the reality is that most of us learn best in teams and particularly if those teams are led by an experienced individual that can guide the project. People in turn, will learn by observing and participating. As they gain experience, they can then, take on additional responsibilities. If the focus is social enterprise, then a proportionate amount of energy has to be put into developing the project compared to what their desired outcome is. Programs can only run if the organization itself exists. Therefore, if social enterprise is the focus, then all activities must connect to social enterprise on some level and drive that mission forward.


  1. Change your financial reporting- I cannot tell you how many not for profits give Board Members line by line reporting, copies of bank statements, and transactional level information. A board member, with the exception of a treasurer does not require a copy of every transaction, but rather high level information that will help them see the big picture. Executive directors cannot give a list of expenses to a board and then wonder why the board wants to micro manage.  Give your directors information to match the level of involvement you want them to have.


  1. Give them tools to compare. Give them a basis of comparison so they can have standards to make decisions by. How is success measured in your industry and what are examples of other businesses that have achieved success. By giving them a basis of comparison, it makes decision making easier for them.


  1. When presenting, don’t give them problems. Give them solutions.  A solution oriented ED is focused on saying–this is the challenge I faced, and this is the decision I made, rather than always seeking board permission. It is easier to start a conversation around the words “what I did”, rather than “what I propose”. What i propose suggests you are seeking their permission. A strong ED, is not afraid of making mistakes, and so does not seek permission, but rather makes decisions and recommendations. I remember once telling an ED that it was easier to beg forgiveness than seek permission. While this is not something I recommend, it is important to remember that being assertive and bold in social enterprise will get you farther than being meek. This does not mean acting irresponsibly, but rather making informed decision and having the courage to stand by them.


  1. Do not fear failure. Understand it, calculate it, and then find ways to mitigate it. Always be aware that failure is a reality of any business venture. By definition it is inherent in everything we do.  Focus your energies on fighting and preparing for failure, and you will be farther along than most when it comes to ensuring the success of your venture.

While entire books could be written on this subject, I hope this begins to guide your discussions on the importance of boards and social enterprise  and over the coming issues, we will continue to look at different ways boards can support social enterprise in your organization.

Fostering a Culture of Innovation

Fostering a culture of innovation

Fostering a Culture of Innovation

“We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Innovation often seems to be the buzzword of the day. Used by the government and private sector alike, innovation is a catch all term used to identify both the act or process of creation, as well as the outcome of the process. Innovation has become one of the most overused  business terms of the last decade, and its permeance is not just limited to the world of commerce but extends through many aspects of technology and culture as well.

In academic literature, there is much discourse about innovation systems–the flow of information and technology among, people, enterprise and institutions as key to driving the act of innovation. How we let information flow and how that flow is facilitated by technology are key to fostering a community that is innovative. Yet, no structure can be created for innovation independent of people, companies and the institutions that support them. The social web we create around us and its many parts are as equally important as the framework we build to drive innovation.

There are two principal types of innovation,process and product innovation. Product innovation is largely driven by changes to technology. It is found in groundbreaking scientific developments, the ones that allow Elon Musk to build fast electric cards, develop rocket ships and fulfill the prophecies of science fiction writers. It can be imagined as leaps, that change paradigms within industry and take us to places we have never been before, from Mars, to nanobots inside of our bodies. It is truly the stuff of dreams.

Process innovation is different. It is largely driven by small incremental changes. It is the improvements to a process, the change in a work environment, or a new way of doing something. It depends on people and its whole is generally greater than the sum of its parts. It is built by the tacit knowledge and human capital we bring to our workplaces each day, and solidified by the relationships we develop and how ideas, information and visions are shared. It depends on people and can be imagined as steps leading upwards to a better way of working and doing things.

Each form of innovation has a role.We adopt the paradigm shifting visions, but at the end of the day, most of us depend on people and on each other,to continue innovating. Our innvoation is not found in rocket fuel, but in how effectively we are able to harness the power of our organizations and our people to collaboratively work together towards a common vision and mission.

Creating a culture of innovation is not easy. It requires bringing together very diverse people, creating a learning and work environment that is organizationally lean, transparent, and rewards risk. This is why we see so many startups being innovative. They are lean, team members work together, openly and constructively.   The risks of a start-up are enormous. Despite this, many individuals work long grueling hours for below average pay,with no benefits in order to get start-up experience.. Employees are passionate, driven and innovative.

There is a passion found at start-ups, that is hard to replicate in established organizations. Established nonprofits and companies, have a much harder time being innovative because they are established, cannot afford to take uncalculated, and unmeasured risk and have a more difficult time adjusting lean and transparent organizational systems.  THe organizations that do succeed have done so by following three principles:

  • Let it go- Just as a Disney princess can let go, so must managers let go of micro managing, documenting and measuring. Not everything needs to managed or measured, and most people given the opportunity will do their jobs. We live in a society of distrust. As managers, measuring helps us to justify that what we are doing is right. Unfortunately, innovation is difficult to measure and we need to create more  room in the work we do for the unpredicted, the spontaneous and risky. This is a terrifying concept to most large companies, but unless they can adopt this crucial first step, they will never achieve strong innovation.  
  • Learn to appreciate risk and failure- We have been conditioned to think of risk as a negative term. Failure scares us, particularly amongst those of us who are high achievers.  We need adopt an attitude that rewards risk, accepts failure as a part of learning and moves on.  Until we are prepared to accept that failure, experimentation and risk are an inherent part of success, we will never become truly innovative
  • Adopt design thinking.  We need to adopt the type of thinking processes used by artists, creators and inventors. We need to remove the boundaries and constructors of how we think innovation should occur and learn to appreciate innovation for what it really is: the coming together of minds to produce something better. Nothing is rejected until it is proved dysfunctional. All ideas are equally valuable and real innovations is built up block by block rather than identifying the formula that we think can replicate that success time and time again
  • Implement our Changes company wide- Innovation is not just one lone department in an organization. It must permeate organizational boundaries, from owners and managers, to advisory boards. All components of the organization must be willing to adopt these principles. The tools and technologies you adopt must mirror the structure or lack of structure you wish to create. So if you need leaner reporting to enable innovation, do so.
  • Develop your Community of Practice-Communities of practice was a concept developed by Etienne Wenger. They exist everywhere from manufacturing firms to tree planting camps. They are formal and informal associations that exist in the networks and relationships we build and they enable the transfer of tacit knowledge amongst community members.  Imagine an apprentice long ago. They learnt their trade from their Master, and then passed it down to their apprentices. This type of knowledge transfer existed before literacy was widespread and was built on mutual trust and understanding. This community is what shaped entire industries, and it was largely informal in nature.

As your organization begins to delve into changing its culture to become more innovative, remember that entire books have been written on this topic, but these high level guidelines will give you a way to start approaching innovation and diffuse it from an idea, to a way of being for your entire organization.  It will be hard work, but the benefits far outweigh the trials you will face.

Entrepreneurship F.E.A.R. Series: Introduction

Erasing entrepreneurship fears

Entrepreneurship Fears:




noun: fear; plural noun: fears

    1      1.
an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.


Over the next few issues , I will take you through my F.E.A.R. Entrepreneurship series; a high-level compilation of articles and ideas that relate to “fear” surrounding business; from start-ups to leadership and more.

Cliché? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely.

In business, we all face the same fears in becoming successful, whether you are a start-up guru, top-level CEO or self-acclaimed business professional.  Fear can throw you right into chaos or it could save your life – a natural response to physical danger, but oftentimes, fear is self-created and controls lives, decision-making and holds people back from reaching their true potential.

For example, imagine you have a presentation for a pool of potential investors next week.  Although you will not experience physical danger during the presentation, (unless you really suck at public speaking – jk) you might actually feel like you are going to die, because of a fear for failure. These series are meant to tackle exactly that; unnecessary fear.

Hopefully, I can inspire you to redefine fear. To understand that this self-inflicted “fear”, realistically stands for False Evidence, Appearing Real and that this new perspective might completely change your life.

So, let’s be honest? What do you fear? What are you scared of?

 Please stay tuned for the first installment of the F.E.A.R. series – Public Speaking.




The F.E.A.R. series are aimed at start-up entrepreneurs, small business owners and anyone that wishes to conquer their fears. Every article will offer helpful pieces of insight and advice, based on the experience of industry champions and business professionals.

May I Introduce the Social Entrepreneur?

May I introduce the Social Entrepreneur?

Paradigm shifts by definition are revolutionary changes in how we view, conceive or approach a particular issue. I believe we are witnessing a paradigm shift when it comes to business. More than ever before we are witnessing nonprofits and charities enter the business arena as they try to find ways to survive amidst declining donations and government funding. Private businesses on the other hand are creating greater and greater transparency in the they way they do business. They want to be socially responsible and sustainable.  All of this is fueled in large part, by a large demographic  group of people, young and old alike, who challenge the status quo every day to say that they want the world to be different and are no longer willing to sit on the sidelines and witness history, but instead want to be part of the change.

Social enterprise is not new. Generations ago, we lived in communities, we knew our neighbours, we helped each other. Most household had the capacity to earn their living– most were entrepreneurs in one form or another.

Over the last few centuries, we have lost our sense of community. We no longer know our neighbours. This strange new world does little to ease the isolation and loneliness we feel. In our desolation, social media has helped us to realize that these feelings are not limited to just one person, but represent entire generations that want to live a different way, that want to reclaim our connection to each other as human beings, regardless of race, religion, age, gender or other divisions we have used in the past. Part of this movement, is creating accountability in one another for the choices we make each day. We used to have this in our communities, but as our world grew we lost the connections to each other that held us accountable.

Social enterprise sits at the juxtaposition of commerce and social impact.  It is the vehicle we have created to improve the neighbourhoods, communities, and world we live in.  Social enterprise is the way we will create a better planet for next generations, and how we will start to hold each other accountable as humans for the choices we make, the lives we live and all that we leave behind  us after our time on Earth ends. It is both our connection to each other as humans, but also as neighbours, friends, and family that will hold us accountable.

For this reason, my team and I created the Social Entrepreneur. It is a place where you come to find information, products and practical hacks to being a social entrepreneur. It is also a place you can come to get advice from a friend, find out the latest in cool tech for small business and connect to others who share a similar life philosophy.  

In our first issue, I want to introduce you to our contributors from Kate Lazier, our legal expert at Thomson Mills, to Bart Mika who will teach you the latest in small business technology.  You can challenge your entrepreneurial fears with Nick van der Velde, or find out more about social enterprise from our in-house team of experts. You can also read about the great work other social entrepreneurs like you are doing, like Guusto, Velomobile and SnugVest and the positive changes they are making in the world around them.  

So let me introduce you the Social Entrepreneur and please feel free to connect with us on Facebook and via Twitter @socentmagazine.We look forward to your ideas and comments, as we grow and create our own community of social entrepreneurs.

VeloMetro: Bringing the velomobile to mainstream

VeloMetro: Bringing the velomobile to mainstream 

Before Tesla or Nissan put their electric cars in showrooms, engineers Kody Baker, Jon Faille, and Sean Boyd had already designed and built a commercial electric car and electric drives for other internal combustion vehicles.  Chartered Accountant and business executive John Stonier, was also out front in the electric car field, converting a Porsche Boxster to 100% electric prior to the availability of showroom cars. The four founders first met at Rapid Electric Vehicle Technologies in 2012, a Vancouver company pioneering electric drive automobiles. That business ultimately pivoted in another direction. Being in the electric car business is tough, and costs big money.

A year later, Kody and John met up to revisit opportunities for electric vehicles. They realized that cars, even electric cars, were massively overbuilt for the most common case of a single driver traveling around town. Was there another approach to urban mobility that had been overlooked? Was there a better alternative for commuting around urban and community cores, but still have an affordable personal vehicle you can use in any weather, by anyone?  What would be the best business model to reach the most people affordably and with the most value to their daily lives?

Velomobiles, sometimes called velocars or human powered vehicles, had been around for almost as long as the emergence of the bicycle in the 1890’s.  It was Charles Mochet that brought it to prominence in France in the 1930’s as a more efficient vehicle for cycling races with better aerodynamics and cycling position. Ultimately banned from racing for those advantages, the velomobile has since evolved as the ultimate three wheel cycle machine for enthusiasts for longer distances and the greatest efficiency.

Today, velomobiles are available with lightweight composite designs, and electric assist, but they all share the same characteristic:  they are built for speed and efficiency, and not for ease of access or personal comfort. Essentially not practical for ordinary use as personal transportation.

In the fall of 2013, given the experience and passion for electric drive lines and vehicle design the Velometro founding team took the design challenge to make velomobiles mainstream. But it was the last question that filled the imagination of the founders.  How do we reach the most people with our mainstream velomobile?  In fact, the founders saw a solution that could potentially realize an even more audacious goal of the founders. Could we bring more people to electric vehicles, than any other company?

Since 1996 Vancouver has had a long standing car sharing program with Modo being the first car sharing cooperative in the English speaking world.  Zipcar had arrived in 2006, but it was the arrival of car2go in 2011 that had put carsharing on the map.  One-way carsharing provides the most value, and flexibility for users. The Vancouver car2go fleet outperformed any other North American city that Daimler had entered and the benefits of access to vehicles, over ownership became clear to the thousands of users.

Carsharing, was the answer Stonier, Baker, Faille and Boyd were looking for to leverage the value of each velomobile they would create.  Enabling sharing of each and every vehicle became a key design consideration, and thus VeloMetro had its vision, design criteria, and its business model.

In order to keep the velomobile a power assisted cycle it was designed after an extensive survey of North American power assisted cycle regulations. With the completion of an alpha prototype in the summer of 2014, an open test platform to prove the functional drive capabilities, VeloMetro had its first feedback from users: they had never experienced such a sophisticated, fully suspended and stable ride like this.

This enthusiastic feedback is a result of the unique features and scrupulous design as created by VeloMetro engineers. An intelligent pedal drive system that takes away the exertion required for a cycle vehicle. Superior maneuverability with a tighter turning radius, better braking power, and good visibility with an upright seating position. Cadence (the speed of pedalling) automatically adjusts as you travel to a maximum speed of 32kmh (20mph) per regulation. In December 2014 VeloMetro registered a patent on its sophisticated drive system designed for cycled vehicles.

Communities and cities everywhere are building cycling infrastructure and making it less attractive to drive cars in urban cores. Some strategies include reducing the number of road lanes and increasing parking fees. Timing for the arrival of a new urban vehicle that is zero emission, energy efficient, and engaging to riders couldn’t be better. It coincides not only with increasing interest in cycling but also with the building of cycling lanes and bike ways in cities and communities everywhere.

Combining carsharing capability to the velomobile made this a powerful combination. The result will be VeemoTM a one-way, free floating sharing service that will debut in Vancouver later in 2016. VeloMetro’s velomobile and VeemoTM have had a warm reception from any civic governments that they’ve presented their idea to. Home City of Vancouver will be the company’s first third party pilot fleet as part of the Green Digital Demonstration Program. City staff will use the vehicles within various departments and provide feedback directly back to the company.  Later in the year, a major university will be the location for a first public pilot for VeemoTM prior to commercial launch in the city of Vancouver.

Cascadian sister cities of Seattle and Portland are naturals for the expansion of VeemoTM. Both have strong cycling and carsharing followings. The prospect of true ‘modal shift’ is alluring to civic governments everywhere.

VeloMetro has ten staff members and is located in Strathcona, a vibrant neighbourhood just east of the downtown core of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Bio John Stonier, CPA, CA

John is an entrepreneur, CPA/Chartered Accountant and business builder who has provided leadership to a wide spectrum of high tech Canadian companies over the last 30 years including leading edge companies in telecom, satellite communications, internet, renewable energy and SaaS software. He was an early electric car enthusiast long before they arrived in showrooms without waiting converted a Porsche to electric. Combining business strategy with his passion for applying technology to sustainable applications is what John loves to do, whether that be with advanced communications, solar energy, electric cars, or … velomobiles. Twitter @fullonelectric

Guusto: Gifting with a Social Conscious

Guusto: Gifting with a Social Conscious

How often do you buy restaurant gift cards for friends, business partners or clients? Now what if each of those transactions enabled someone to have clean drinking water for the day? This is the business model behind Guusto, a Vancouver based company that makes giving thoughtful gifts easy. Founded by partners Joe Facciolo and Skai Dalziel, Guusto has created an app that is hoping to revolutionize the way and purpose behind how we gift.

Imagine you want to give a client a gift. Rather than taking the time to think of, look for and purchase a gift, all you do is choose the type of gift to send, decide the amount and enter their email or cell phone number and PRESTO the gift is on the way. All the recipient has to do is click on the link and redeem it at one of 1400+ restaurants in North America. For every purchase you make, a day’s worth of clean drinking water is provided to someone in need via the charity One Drop. It is truly a win-win solution.

If this wasn’t innovative enough, Guusto has also become the first Canadian company to close a round ofequity financing via crowdfunding through Vancouver based portal FrontFundr. Closing approximately$50,000 in equity this past September,  and they will use these funds to grow their market share in Canada and expand into the US.

Equity crowdfunding is fairly new to Canada. In many Canadian provinces, only those registered to sellsecurities can sell shares of a company, but as of 2015, exceptions have been adopted by B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia that permit companies to sell theirshares through approved funding portals.

For the Guusto team, this is an exciting time. They will also be featured on the popular show Dragon’s Den on November 4th, 2015. It is proof that you can do social good and make a profit while appealing toinvestors. Guusto is truly an inspiration and model for all aspiring social entrepreneurs.

For more information on Guusto, check out their website at and feel free to download their app in the Google and Apple Stores.