On November 27, Innovate Niagara in partnership with Social Enterprise Southwest celebrated Social Entrepreneurship at the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club with a pitch competition.
In its second year, the Social Enterprise Pitch Competition brought the community together to support the five social enterprises that were selected by a committee of local business leaders to pitch for up to $3,000 for their business.
The evening began with a Meaningful Market, generously sponsored by Meridian Credit Union. Social enterprises from across Niagara and surrounding areas set up shop for the 100 people in attendance to purchase products and learn more about these socially minded entrepreneurs and businesses.
Madi Fuller, manager of Niagara College’s entrepreneurship and innovation program, ncTakeOff, then introduced us to the five finalists:
First to pitch was Andrew Newton and Jorge Siqueira from CanCovery. CanCovery is a health and wellness application for mobile devices that is specifically designed to help survivors of breast, colon and prostate cancer regain functionality of their body. Through individualized exercise programs that are based on the latest cancer rehabilitation research, CanCovery aims to help survivors of cancer regain a higher quality of life. This application helps these individuals fight everyday complications such as major fatigue, lack of energy, low levels of strength, depression, anxiety and by being able to complete activities of daily living once again.
Our second pitcher was Charissa Sanche. Chrarissa graduated from Brock University with her Master of Arts in Social Justice and Equity Studies after completing her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies at Acadia University. Combining a love for the arts and social justice, Charissa uses her passion for advocacy, creativity, and community development. Only 8 months ago, Charissa was offered the opportunity to establish Third Space Cafe as a social enterprise and non-profit organization to make a social impact in Niagara Falls. As the executive director of this new venture, Charissa has her hands full learning how to run a business while creating a much-needed safe space for community building on Queen Street, Niagara Falls.
Next up, was Zhen Qi of Iconthin Biotech Corp. Located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Iconthin Biotech Corp. is dedicated to developing high-quality microalgae products ranging from skin care to nutraceutical with the goal of improving human health through innovative research and development in biotechnology. Microalgae are ancient organisms that have tremendous environmental benefits in terms of greenhouse gas mitigation and contain extraordinary healthy components but not yet sufficiently explored by the industry and the public. Out of the research lab from University of Toronto, we established frontier knowledge and are dedicated to benefit your health from natural microalgae products.
Yaneth Londono was next to pitch Links for Greener Learning (LGL). LGL's programs and initiatives focus on protecting and preserving our natural environment while providing meaningful social and economic benefits to members of the community. LGL's Eco-Chic 3R's Boutique aims to raise awareness on waste management through sustainable fashion. As a program, Eco-Chic provides workshops to members of the public on various topics such as sewing, designing and colour coordination. Eco-chic members also gain valuable skills in business such as maintaining books and records, preparing financial statements and developing marketing.
Lastly, Brendon Nicholson pitched The Southridge Jam Company, a small-batch, premium jam and jelly producer in the Niagara Region. The operation is the social enterprise extension of the Southridge Shelter in St. Catharines, Ontario. It serves as a next-step opportunity for individuals who have experienced homelessness; a program where people can gain job and workplace skills by working in jam production. The program is in its third season and has seen steady growth since 2016. All profits from sales are reinvested in the operations of the shelter. All its fruit is sourced locally and the jam is made fresh in Vineland, Ontario.
The five pitch-style presentations were followed by question and answer periods with the panel of esteemed judges: Brock Dickinson, Leah Feor, Melanie Sodka and Brendan Yorke. This panel of judges would determine the winner of the grand prize, totaling $2500. The social entrepreneurs also pitched to a sold-out crowd, vying for audience votes for the people’s choice prize of $500.
While the judges deliberated, keynote speaker Heenal Rajani shared his thoughts on Zero Waste Living. Rajani is a community activator who seeks to help humans to be well together by holding space for conversation, sowing the seeds of collaboration, and believing in the impossible. A social entrepreneur, reiki master, dad, stepdad and poet, Rajani is co-founder of Reimagine Co, a zero waste community hub in London, Ontario, which includes the Naked zero waste store, an art hive, and free community workshops and events.
It was a sweet day for Southridge Jam Company. This social enterprise on a mission to end the cycle of homelessness in Niagara, was selected by the judges to win the grand prize of $2500, as well as by the audience to win the people’s choice prize of $500 to support Southridge Jam Company’s mission.