What is social entrepreneurship? What are its impacts? Why has it become such a dominant discussion topic? I asked myself these questions when I was first introduced to the term “social entrepreneurship” in junior high. Quite honestly, I was puzzled by the concept, because how do you reconcile the terms “Charity” and “Profit”?
Have you been hearing the words “social innovation”, “impact investing”, and “SROI” often? Interested in social entrepreneurship and don’t know where to start (or exactly what it means)?
Take a look at these resources and organizations for a grounding in social enterprise:
Crowdfunding has created a permanent shift in the financing landscape. Nonprofits, businesses, Entrepreneurs, and
potato salad enthusiasts individuals are using this new channel to tap into a mass of investors to fund their ideas. Crowdfunding should be especially appealing for nonprofits, as it allows hundreds or even thousands of supporters to vote with their wallets and bring worthwhile projects or causes to life.
As we head into the end of the year, many entrepreneurs will take this as a time for reflecting on both business successes, as well as reflecting on new opportunities to engage with in the new year. We want to take this time to summarize some of the top trends that we have seen in social enterprise over the last year, and provide insight on which we consider to be the most successful.
In this month’s issue, one of the overriding themes, is the idea of entrepreneurship as personal growth. To me entrepreneurship, and in particular social entrepreneurship is really about growing, growing what you do and how you do it to become better today than we were yesterday. It is about creating new ways of doing, and challenging accepted practices.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.