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Source My Garment: Sustainable Garment Manufacturing Meets Technology

When you put on a piece of clothing, do you ever stop to consider who it was made by?

This is the question Adila (Dee) Cokar found herself asking more and more, and it eventually brought her to this place – the founding of Source My Garment, a company that sources sustainable garment manufacturers in Asia and connects them to designers and labels throughout North America. Dee’s business is mission driven: to improve the working conditions of garment workers while creating opportunities for North American labels to access ethical, cost effective manufacturing solutions.

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Sort Africa

As an African living in the UK who works in the commerce industry, Thabo Tembo was acutely aware of the advantages that other regions of the world had over Africa when it came to sourcing business opportunities. For this reason, in June of 2015 he launched Sort Africa, a pan African business directory and online marketplace that is a one stop shop for those seeking to do business with Africa.

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Capoeira For All

Learning Capoeira is in itself a transformative experience; teaching it in a social enterprise, a whole different ball game. This is the initiative that Capoeira For All has taken—the desire to bring Capoeira to a main stream audience, but also to give others access to this culturally rich sport.  Founded in 2014, Capoeira For All CiC, a non profit and social enterprise, has been running a variety of programs in the UK, particularly in the Northwest region of the country. They participate in and host community events and collaborate with other non profits to make Capoeira accessible to all in their community.

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Snug Vest: Easing Anxiety One “Hug” at a Time

Wearable Therapeutics (also known as Snug Vest) provides high quality, effective and safe solutions for rapid anxiety relief. Their first product, Snug Vest, uses proprietary technology to deliver Deep Pressure Therapy – a firm hugging sensation which has a proven calming and relaxing effect.

There is a massive, growing number of individuals suffering with autism, developmental, and mental health disorders. Symptoms result in anxiety leading to problem behaviors, not being able to participate and not completing daily tasks effectively. Medications for treating these conditions have harmful side-effects. For some, deep pressure is a necessity and current deep pressure tools available are not acceptable and unsafe, causing fatalities.

“It was 6 years ago that I decided to dedicate my career towards helping children with autism” says Snug Vest founder, Lisa Fraser.  “As a designer, I applied my creative skills towards developing a tool that could help children on the spectrum function better in their daily lives.  I had been working with children on the spectrum for several years in classrooms already when I had this realization.

Many of the kids I worked with loved firm hugs and calmed down when feeling anxious, from pressure.  The application of pressure on the body activates the parasympathetic nervous system to regulate the sensory system and drive down cortisol, a stress indicator.

One day, one of the kiddos I was working with had his Occupational Therapist come by to put a weighted vest on him.  I understood that pressure had a calming and relaxing effect, but intuitively didn’t feel that the weight was safe or user-friendly as it pushed down on the shoulders affecting posture and the musculoskeletal system.  I wasn’t pleased with other products on the market for applying pressure and came up with the idea of using air, instead of weight to provide a squeezing, hugging sensation and so that pressure can be adjusted to the exact amount the child needs, controlling it themselves, thus fostering independence.

While developing this inflatable therapy vest idea, I met a special teen on the spectrum. He would get quite anxious and experienced meltdowns and self-injurious behaviors. I could see his pain and suffering he was experiencing and hoped the inflatable vest could perhaps alleviate some of that anguish he was experiencing in those tough times his dad called ‘episodes’. Danny’s dad would squeeze him to help him calm down but they both knew that the solution was only temporary and when Danny went to school, he would have no means of providing himself the pressure he needed to feel calm and secure.  It was inappropriate for Danny’s teachers and caretakers to squeeze him tightly, so Danny hid in bathrooms to put inflatable blood pressure cuffs on to get some pressure.  He even wore a tight women’s leather jacket to school one day and he was made fun of.  I felt I needed to do something about this.

I am happy to say that Danny was the first teen to receive an inflatable Snug Vest! His dad says that “the results are phenomenal! It calms him down. It comforts him. It’s very fast-acting. He pumps it up and he feels good. And unlike medication, it doesn’t have any side effects. It’s wearable therapy.”

Snug Vest is an award-winning, patent-pending vest that inflates to put pressure on the torso for rapid anxiety relief. The pressure regulates the sensory system, driving down cortisol and adrenalin. Snug Vest promotes independence as the individual wearing it has full control to decide when they want pressure and how much. The vest is fashionable so it does not stigmatize the individual. It also increases focus and attention for improved learning and quality of life, without side-effects. For the cost of seeing a therapist for a few hours, Snug Vest lasts years and is worn at any time!

22+ million children in the US alone suffer with autism (1:68), ADHD, and a sensory disorder (1:6).  Autism is the largest growing developmental disability in North America, costing the US $126 billion per year and with an annual growth rate of 17%. Snug Vest is initially focused on helping the autism community, and then will start to focus on depression ($23 mill adults + in US) and PTSD ($24 mill + adults in US).

Snug Vest has sold thousands of units worldwide to individuals with: autism, brain injury, sensory disorders, depression, traumatic brain injury, and many more conditions. Schools, clinics, and homes are enjoying the benefits of a calming hug!

Snug Vest is working on achieving endorsements and seals of approval from key influencers, and would like to create more partnerships with large organizations. They currently have partnerships with the Autism Society of America and Generation Rescue.

Wearable Therapeutics sells their therapy vests directly through their website at $400 CAD a unit, with a 60 day money-back guarantee. They are dedicated to making continuous improvements and new products that are safe and effective.  For more information, you can go to www.snugvest.com
 

Lisa Fraser, Founder, Snugvest

After developing a therapy product using proprietary technology as her thesis, Lisa started her first venture, Wearable Therapeutics  to commercialize Snug Vest in 2011. Previous to that, she worked in classrooms with children with special needs and used her design skills to develop tools that improve their quality of life and promote inclusion.

Lisa won numerous international awards for Snug Vest including Red Dot Product Design Award, Medical Design Excellence Award, and the Industrial Design Excellence Award. Lisa has also received BC Business’ Top 30 under 30 accolade, and the BC Creative Achievement Award presented by the premier. Lisa has appeared on CBC’s Dragons Den, Forbes Magazine, and national news television.

 

 

 

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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

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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 www.guusto.com and feel free to download their app in the Google and Apple Stores.

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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 http://www.over55london.ca/