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Our Stories

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.

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Board of Directors Our Stories

Social Enterprise and the Role of the 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.

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Inner Balance Our Stories

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.

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Business Profiles

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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Business Profiles

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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News Profiles

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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Coffee Break

Confessions: My secret amusements

I want to confess something: I have a secret.  One of the things I do in my spare time is peruse Craigs List for enjoyment. I read the employment,wanted and even the personal ads. You get a chance to see humanity at its most vulnerable. It really is a entertaining to read. It was during this time that I began to realize that Craigslist is also a great place to start your entrepreneurial journey. You can pick up odd tasks, jobs, but just watch out for scams!

Once in a while (like once a week) you get some really interesting “opportunities”. Today was that day this week, and I just thought this one was too good not to share.It provides a perfect opportunity for someone seeking to earn some extra cash, albeit in kind of a weird way…..

This post was found in Victoria’s Craiglist:


65 $ CDN cash immediately after the job

I need to be baptized in a body of water
I will provide your pool pass if needed
YOU: ABLE TO READ AND PUSH MY HEAD UNDERWATER
ME: FULLY CLOTHED AND IMMERSED IN WATER, BRIEFLY ( not including all my hair, which is clean and nice )
If you know of a dock or even something more adventurous where you would like to do the immersion I’m allll ears.
The reason I’m offering so much money is that I can’t find any messianic people to help me out here.
Again, all you have to do is dunk my noggin and briefly read something that I wrote on the back of a zig zag papers pack. I am 100% serious.


Entrepreneurship is about seeing opportunity. For some, they might see an individual, who is a little on the weird side; as an entrepreneur, I see an easy way to earn $65.  Go out and seek those opportunities today.

 

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Coffee Break

The Entrepreneur Comic

The team at Lucha Comics has a strong history in working with entrepreneurs.  With stories ranging from horror to history, why not a story about a group of everyday entrepreneurs working hard to get by? It was so obvious that at first we weren’t sure where to begin.  Now that we have our core group of characters ready to go, what do you think?  Imagine Friends meets the daily struggle of the entrepreneur, and you have Entrepreneur: The Comic Book. We hope to have our first issue out soon, and of course you’ll get to see it here first, on the social entrepreneur.

Lucha Comics

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Business

Why Small Businesses Fail

From 1980 onward, business plans have become a staple in lending and investing. They provide, or so their supporters will argue, a standardized way to look at a business. Business plans require entrepreneurs to actually “plan” and they are the road map an entrepreneur uses from start-up through to a full-scale operation.

So why is it then that businesses with business plans still fail?

There are several reasons. Oftentimes, the challenge is not in the business plan itself but in the strategy of the entrepreneur and in the broader business model.

The first main reason that businesses fail, is that they are just generally bad business ideas. One of my favorite shows is the Canadian version of Dragon’s Den. Just watch one episode (they are available at www.cbc.ca) and see the sheer number of bad business ideas that exist. Bad ideas are bad for several reasons. The market for the product may be small or ill defined, the marketing or distribution strategy may be abysmal or non-existent, and the entrepreneur themselves may be the biggest obstacle the business has.

The second reason that businesses fail, is cash flow. Entrepreneurs are great at predicting prospective revenue, but poor at understanding cash flow. They are so eager to get orders that they will take any payment terms from their customers, even if it is at their own expense. I have seen entrepreneurs come to me and they offer 90 day payment terms for their customers, but have all payments due in 30 days or less from their suppliers. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that there is going to be a cash flow problem here. Unless the entrepreneur has a good line of credit, or a large degree of personal savings, this issue can mean the death of the business.

There are many other reasons. Poor management, inexperience, lack of contacts in the industry–take your pick. My favorite reason cited for the death of a business is poor planning. Planning in itself is not the answer. What these critics mean, but rarely get around to saying, is that the need to implement good risk mitigation strategies is key. Identifying what the risks are to a business and confronting ways to mitigate those risks is really where the crux of all business success starts.

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Inner Balance

Finding a Mentor

Nearly every self-help book will tell you that you need a business mentor. The general purpose of a mentor is to provide you with a foundation of advice, support and knowledge in the early days of business. The early days are tough. Cash flow will be tight, personal time will be non-existent, and to-do lists are never-ending. How is an entrepreneur supposed to find time to find and meet with a mentor?

Mentoring relationships need not be formalized arrangements. They can be as simple as having someone that you meet with for coffee every few weeks and discuss your business. Many entrepreneurs may have informal networks from which to choose a mentor; think industry associations, chambers of commerce, customers, and neighbours. For others, the choice to develop a relationship with a mentor is an exceptionally personal and large time commitment. Several mentorship programs exist which formally pair a mentor and a mentee. Having participated once as a Mentor, I can tell you what a fulfilling relationship it was. My Mentee would call me, often just to tell me what was going on in her life. Years later, we still keep in touch.

So, how do you go about finding a mentor?

Step 1: Decide on the type of relationship you want
The first thing is really figuring out the type of relationship you want, the realms of expertise the Mentor needs to have, and how they can help you. Set this expectation at the forefront, and make sure it is something that you can commit to.

Step 2: Research possible mentors
The next step is to research and brainstorm a list of possible mentors. These may be people in your community, industry or field of study. Make a list of the people who you would want to be your mentor and list the reasons why they would be good mentors for you, particularly what attracts you to having them as a Mentor.

Step 3: Try to find commonalities using resources such as LinkedIn
Did you graduate from the same school, have the same ethnicity, or are you members of the same association? Use points of commonality to open conversation or email about what you have in common with them. Much of this data can derived using LinkedIn or other social media platforms. Research the individual and show that you know something about them.

Step 4: Have an honest conversation with them about what you are looking for, the time commitment, and the goals you have
It is important to be honest to the prospective Mentor about the time commitment you require and what you are looking for in a mentorship.
If the individual is not interested or is not a good match, go to the next person on your list. You need to ensure that the match is a good one from the onset.

Step 5: Be realistic
Most professionals and business people cannot dedicate 10 hours a week to a Mentorship. You will be lucky to get 2 hours a month of their time. Use your time wisely. Communicate over email and phone, and when you do have face to face meetings, make sure you also give your mentor a chance to speak–there is nothing more irritating than a one-sided conversation.

By considering the commitment you expect from a Mentor, being realistic, and doing your homework, you will be leagues above the majority of individuals. If you do not succeed at first, don’t be discouraged. Finding the right mentor can take a while, but it is a wonderful experience that will help you professionally and personally, for years to come.