The Freed Food Society, a local non-profit that upcycles food waste from grocery stores, has been named the inaugural winner of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability’s Social Ventures Challenge.
The contest wrapped on Sept. 30 at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, where eight socially-minded entrepreneurs pitched their business concept to a panel of judges in a Dragons’ Den-style format.
Freed Food Society's Pol Lapeira and chef Patrick Henry took home the $3,000 prize for their sustainable venture, which saves edible goods from supermarkets that are initially slated for the trash and turns them into canned products, like preserves and soups.
“This was a really inspiring evening, and a great way to be reminded of what that fresh kind of passion of an idea looks like,” said judge and creative director for Origin Design Danielle Kristmanson in a release.
The panel of judges, also comprised of Gibbons Life founder Joey Gibbons and Sea to Sky Gondola GM Kirby Brown, were so inspired they decided to jointly contribute $1,000 to each of the other seven participants as well.
Pitches were evaluated on three criteria: a sound business model, “wow factor,” and whether the concept offered a solution to an existing social or environmental problem.
Applicants to the Social Ventures Challenge were selected from across the corridor and beyond to participate in a three-month coaching and mentorship program meant to bring their business concept to the pitch stage. Each entrepreneur participated in workshops and was paired with a local mentor in their specific area of business to guide them through the developmental stages.
“Our successful first Social Venture Challenge program proved that there is a lot of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in the region, and that there are lots of viable ideas of how we can use business strategies to achieve environmental and social good,” said Cheeying Ho, executive director of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability, in a release. “We look forward to next year’s applicants and ideas.”
For more information, visit www.whistlercentre.ca. More to come on this story in next Thursday’s edition of Pique.