Seven local entrepreneurs will be vying for thousands of dollars to take their start-up to the next level at the Social Ventures Challenge (SVC) Pitch Event on June 29.
Launched in 2015, the Social Ventures Challenge is a business mentorship program organized by the Whistler Centre for Sustainability that encourages the growth of socially minded startups in the Sea to Sky and Lillooet areas. The course links budding entrepreneurs with established business mentors to guide them as they get their company off the ground, and offers support in areas like marketing, value proposition and making the pitch.
"Part of the purpose of the Social Ventures Challenge is to encourage social entrepreneurship, but even if businesses don't have that baked into their DNA... hopefully the program will inspire more conventional businesses to think of ways they can give back to the community a little bit less conventionally," said Cheeying Ho, executive director of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability.
On June 29, the program culminates with a pitch event at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre where participants will outline their business concept for a panel of judges in a Dragons' Den-style format. The winner will receive $5,000.
This year's participants are:
Founded by Renee McNeil, owner of The Pie Company, the idea behind this venture is to offer skills-based training workshops in a number of different fields that can help people identify career goals, access hands-on work experience and connect with local employers. Launched in association with the Squamish Helping Hands Society, Cutting Barriers is aimed at improving the employability of disadvantaged and long-term unemployed members of the community.
"I thought if I were able to offer an opportunity to people who have barriers and who have been long-term unemployed... it would break down the fear of what the workforce might look like for them and also help them make some contacts with employers in the community as well," said McNeil.
Dooshi Pet Supplies:
Co-founded by Whistler resident Jeff Anderson, Dooshi (that's "dog" and "sushi" combined) sells all-natural pet food and treats made from organic, GMO-free fruit, vegetable pulp and recycled restaurant waste.
Sea to Sky Relocations:
Kathryn White built Sea to Sky Relocations to fill a gap in the support that's available for retirees and seniors in the region. Services will include help with downsizing, renovating and facilitating the ability to stay safely at home, or to relocate to a family or care home in an environmentally responsible manner.
Rainwater Harvesting Solutions with TBI Irrigation:
Launched by husband and wife Todd and Nieia Botham, this venture promotes conservation through the capturing, storing and reusing of water. An extension of the couple's irrigation businesses, Rainwater Harvesting Solutions strives to lessen the impact a low snowpack and climbing visitor numbers have had on Whistler's drinking water supply.
"What we've been seeing with the irrigation business is increased watering restrictions, and there's of course a lot of attention in the media these days on the amount of water irrigation consumes, so we really think that rainwater harvesting is smart, innovative and really necessary for our corridor to start considering," said Nieia.
The Seed Box:
Makoto Bruderer wants to get you back to your roots — literally. The Seed Box is an edible garden that contains seasonal vegetable seeds, peat pellets and instructions on how to grow them. It also offers online tutorials and tips to successfully grow and harvest veggies, promoting a more sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle.
Deals in Whistler:
A mobile coupon service founded by Peter Goff that offers free advertising for local businesses. The idea is to help companies reach more customers and drive sales through online coupons and a retail line of pre-loaded coupon cards. The company also gives customers the chance to donate five per cent of each sale to one of two local charities of their choice.
Goff said the SVC has been a great avenue for networking.
"For me, it's really helped me understand I'm not alone in what I'm going through and that many people have gone through it before, that the stages of a startup are challenging and there's support around you," he said.
School Ground Garden Program:
Entrepreneur and business owner Christy Craig wants to connect children to the source of their food, the environment and their community one school garden at a time. The program teaches students how to grow their own garden and acquire the skills necessary to bring to harvest and prepare their own food.
Everyone is welcome to attend the pitch event, scheduled from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on June 29.
"It's a great event to support the innovation in our community and people wanting to give back in innovative ways," Ho said.
Tickets are $6.50, and include live music, appetizers and a cash bar, available at www.eventbrite.ca/e/2016-social-venture-challenge-pitch-event-tickets-25518006043.