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Innovation Hub Propels B.C. Social Entrepreneurs

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A Google news search for "business accelerator programs" generates over 5,000 stories. These programs aren't exclusive to tech entrepreneurs either. Accelerators are a global trend, serving a diverse range of business types and needs.

This February, Vancouver saw the doors open to the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub. The credit union is teaming up with the ISIS Research Program at UBC's Sauder School of Business and helping the Innovation Hub propel social entrepreneurship forward in B.C.

Unlike other accelerator programs, the seven businesses chosen to participate are not getting direct funding, giving up equity, nor paying anything to participate in the year long program.

The program is providing these promising social ventures with:

  • A co-working space
  • An educational workshop series tailored to the unique needs of social ventures featuring industry expert guest speakers
  • Access to knowledge capital from the ISIS research center and the Sauder School of Business
  • Peer learning and support
  • Mentorship from industry experts
  • A full-time student intern for four months
  • Access to social innovation speaker series and events
  • Opportunities for exposure to B.C.'s social economy community.

Dr. James Tansey, the executive director of ISIS, shares that "the ultimate goal is to get social ventures investment-ready so that they are able to pitch for and accept investment, and move onto the next stage of growth."

The Innovation Hub recently held the "Propelling Social Ventures" conference, featuring great speakers, panel conversations, and networking opportunities. The knowledge exchange was valuable, but it was shining the spotlight on the current cohort of companies calling the Hub home that proved to be the real highlight.

Making it through an intense screening process to join the program, these seven companies have earned the opportunity to move their ideas faster, further, and to become real agents of social change.

ChangeHeroes is an online fundraising platform helping people engage their friends to fundraise for schools and libraries to support education in developing countries.

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Seamarket works to promote and increase the supply of sustainable seafood through branding, marketing, sales, and education. SeaMarket helps producers and catchers get their eco-friendly choices on the market.

Connect Health is pioneering a model of integrative medicine, providing effective whole person care by combining the best conventional medicine and complementary approaches. Their approach is proactive, offering the best preventative strategies to maintain good health.

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Shailah Interactive is developing gesture-controlled tablet educational games designed for children with physical disabilities who cannot use a touch screen. This is helping children with severe communication difficulties develop their communication and expression skills.

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Shift Urban Cargo Delivery is using pedal-powered trike vehicles for last-mile deliveries in the downtown core, eliminating congestion and pollution. Shift is a worker co-op providing empowering employment for young people within the green economy.

Green Challenge Waste Management is a waste and recycling management not-for-profit society that provides jobs for people with barriers to employment. They focus on creating more sustainable waste management solutions for single-room occupancy buildings and apartments as well as providing solutions for sensitive hoarding issues.

Victory Gardens provides garden infrastructure for any kind of space, helping people rethink urban space and bring food to where it didn't exist before. They also provide educational tools to make organic growing easy and accessible.

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Coast Capital is committed to turning the vision into reality by providing a $1-million contribution. President and CEO Tracy Redies sees this as "a one-of-a-kind initiative that will propel the success of young entrepreneurs, and provide them with direction, mentoring, encouragement and resources that they simply wouldn't have otherwise.

Establishing British Columbia as a world-class centre for social innovation and social venture development is the mission. By creating a dynamic and supportive space for social ventures to grow the Innovation Hub is poised to deliver a positive impact.