This week Groundswell heard from two local social venture entrepreneurs, Shelley Bolton of East Van Roasters and Megan Branson of Olla Urban Flower Project. The businesses have been remarkable successes both commercially and critically while working towards some truly laudable social and environmental missions. Both Shelley and Megan’s stories were inspirational, and following are some key takeaways from their presentations.
Both women planned from the beginning that good works and social justice would be important factors, while ultimately the business’ success would come from being strong business managers. Solid business plans helped secure funding, and market research was used to identify unfilled niches within their market segments.
The businesses practice socially and environmentally responsible sourcing of their goods and materials, and they are able to produce high quality, sought-after products. Both have been effective in communicating their social missions to the public and media. They have been able to provide jobs and skills development for people with barriers to employment through a real commitment to that end.
Through the expected and unexpected problems faced by new businesses, the main factors that kept things moving forward were perseverance and a willingness to try unconventional approaches to problem solving. Commitment to their social and environmental missions provided the inspiration to work through these challenges.
It became clear from hearing the stories of both women that adhering to their social and environmental principles often made starting and running their businesses more challenging, but neither was swayed from these principles.
It was empowering to hear their stories of success, and to learn of two great examples of social ventures that are really making a difference in their communities. My heartfelt thanks go out to both Shelley and Megan for taking the time to share their stories with Groundswell.
Adam O’Neill The photos in this post were taken on my walks to and from Groundswell between January 5th and 14th 2015.