On November 29, 2017, Innovate Niagara in partnership with Social Enterprise Southwest celebrated Social Entrepreneurship at the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club.
In October 2017, Innovate Niagara put out a call for applications to a brand-new event we called a Social Enterprise Pitch Competition. We received more than a dozen applications which were then reviewed by a committee of local business leaders. Five social entrepreneurs were selected to pitch at this event for the chance to walk away with up to $3,000 for their business.
The evening began with five pitch-style presentations from the chosen social entrepreneurs followed by question and answer periods with the panel of esteemed judges: Brock Dickinson, Kelly Provost, Leah Feor and Brendon Nicholson. The social entrepreneurs pitched to a sold-out crowd, vying for audience votes for the people’s choice prize of $500.
First to pitch was Debbie Van Grieken, owner of Moyaa Shea Products. Moyaa Shea Products imports raw, organic, certified Grade A shea butter from Northern Uganda. Moyaa Shea Products works with farmers to pay fair wages and provide education for children globally. Moyaa Shea butter is premium quality and can heal damaged or dry skin and provide relief from eczema, burns, rashes and dryness in both children and adults.
Our second pitcher was Yashvi Shah, founder of Code Niagara. Code Niagara was created to ensure that we are preparing today’s Niagara for tomorrow’s Canada. Code Niagara is aimed at improving digital literacy in the Niagara region by providing workshops on basic coding, design and project management skills; hosting events with industry leaders working in various field related to computing; matching students with mentors in the industry to help them navigate their careers while in high school and beyond.
Next up, was Dave Evans, founder of Falling Squirrel. Falling Squirrel is an independent game studio and a creative service provider that creates compelling story-driven game experiences with the specific goal of pioneering advances in narrative design and audio-based game mechanics for the visually impaired.
Laura Ip was next to present her social enterprise, Underdogs Boxing Club. Underdogs Boxing Club uses recreational boxing to help individuals realize their strength, better understand the relationship between mind & body, and connect with others in a fully inclusive environment. Underdogs Boxing Club is home to Shape Your Life – Niagara, which is for women-identified survivors of violence, and provides memberships to people experiencing poverty.
Lastly, Jane Ji pitched Springbay Studio Ltd. As a co-founder of Springbay Studio, Jane created the iBiome series in 2014 to educate children and create a generation that cares about conservation. In tandem with her team, she created the award-winning kids mobile game series iBiome and many games for online social networks.
After we heard all the pitches, and the judges asked some tough questions, the judges were then excused to deliberate as the audience was entertained by Emily Branton’s keynote address.
Emily is the President and part-owner of Link2Feed and has spent the past five years growing the company from a side project to an international business that has impacted nearly 1.6 million lives and been named one of B Corp’s “Best for the World” companies. Link2Feed is a social purpose business that believes, “We can’t end hunger if we don’t understand it.” They work with nearly 3,100 non-profits across North America who serve individuals facing hunger and poverty through the Link2Feed software.
After careful deliberations, the judges selected Code Niagara to receive the $2,500 grand prize. The audience had an opportunity to vote for its favourite pitch, and selected Underdogs Boxing Club to win the $500 people’s choice award.
Thank you to all the social entrepreneurs who applied and thank you to those who joined us to celebrate social entrepreneurship and doing well to do good.