Monthly Archives: December 2015

Doing Business Differently with the Alberta Impact Fund

**This is a special blog post as part of a series highlighting social entrepreneurship in southern Alberta as part of Simon Fraser University’s CED Certificate program

 

Driven by a belief that business is an agent for radical change, Rosalynn Dodd’s entrepreneurial nature has her never quite satisfied with the status quo. Her willingness to take a hybrid approach to find solutions for lasting change is best exemplified with the Alberta Impact Fund. Originally intended to address poverty through business solutions, the Poverty Reduction Fund has morphed into the Alberta Impact Fund.

Rosalynn and her partner have a consulting company, Creating Eudomania, offering services to entrepreneurs seeking to create social impact in their business practices. “The Alberta Impact Fund is one way of scaling up our activities to work with more companies” says Rosalynn “creating a movement and proving that business can be a force for good in the world.”

Did you know, small businesses in Alberta represent 95% of all companies in the province? These businesses are the cornerstone of our economy, but access to capital and capacity building consistently rank as the biggest challenges facing these small businesses. More specifically, acquiring capital for social impact is a challenge as social finance tools are virtually non-existent in Alberta.

Rosalynn and a small team of committed individuals from various sectors chose to take on this challenge. They are developing the Alberta Impact Fund using a private debt fund that integrates social and environmental targets into the model. They intend to raise $25 million in capital from impact investors to invest in up to 40 of Alberta’s small & medium sizeAIF Final Logod businesses. These are businesses interested in blended value returns that have a willingness to transition towards sustainability.

The fund provides capital to businesses to integrate social or environmental impact into their business practices while offering capacity building in the areas of sustainable strategic planning, governance & leadership development. Companies would complete the B Impact Assessment at the outset of the investment and again at the end of the investment period. By aggregating impacts from companies that have accessed this capital, the fund will demonstrate and showcase movement to a more resilient & diversified Alberta economy.

This initiative has met challenges along the way. “They have faced many obstacles over the years. Impact investing terminology has several nuances so communicating the fund has been a challenge. The biggest hurdle has been regulatory restraints with the Alberta Securities Commission. They have had to redesign the prototype of the fund over the years to ensure they remain within regulatory rules,” reflects Patti Dolan. Patti is a financial advisor specializing in socially responsible investing. She has been a sounding board to Rosalynn and the fund development team since the early ideation phase of this initiative.

Rosalynn’s tenacity along with that of her team, generous in-kind support from Bennett Jones LLP and support from experts in the impact investing sector have been instrumental in overcoming these challenges. “It has not been easy” says Patti. “There have been many times they have wanted to quit, but they truly believe in the fund and have persevered. I admire their spirit and fortitude.”

For this ambitious initiative to succeed several things are needed in the outlying ecosystem:

  • A robust sector of impact investors committed to blended value returns. Impact investing generates a measurable social and/or environmental impact alongside a financial return.
  • Entrepreneurs that are committed to integrating social and environmental impact into their business practices.
  • Growing awareness that blended value returns are viable and resources are available to support that transition.
  • Policy change that enables the average Albertan to invest locally. Currently, only a small segment of Albertans that are accredited investors are able to invest in local businesses.

Rosalynn is also considering the type of financing they will offer. Originally conceived as loan capital, they are also considering the implications of equity financing similar to venture capital models. Consideration is also needed related to the initial stages of the fund. Raising a significant pool of capital prior to offering investments to small businesses may present challenges. The time delay in raising that amount of capital may slow the momentum that’s been growing in bringing this social finance tool to market.

The Alberta Impact Fund aims is to create economic innovation, social prosperity & environmental integrity by providing capital and capacity building to Alberta’s small & medium sized businesses. This fund is a pioneer, addressing the need for social finance in Alberta and self-determining a new path for doing business differently.

What can you do?
• Learn more about local investment tools in Alberta through Unleashing Local Capital
• Make the 10% Shift in your spending habits to support local business
• Stay tuned for more updates as the Alberta Impact Fund evolves

Tackling Waste in YYC with Alternate Root

**This is a special blog post as part of a series highlighting social entrepreneurship in southern Alberta as part of Simon Fraser University’s CED Certificate program.

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SOCIAL ENTERPRISE CASE STUDY

ALTERNATE ROOT YYC

ALTERNATE ROOT YYC & FOUNDER, CARLA BITZ

With a family history of farming and a career in the non-profit sector, Carla recognized multiple layers of food waste occurring within her community. While she was initially focused on addressing food waste at an industry level, she altered her course when she discovered both that LeftoversYYC was already working on this issue and that the majority of food waste occurs at a consumer level. She formed Alternate Root YYC as a society of concerned individuals focused on educating the public around ways to mitigate food waste at home. They currently address this issue through facilitating cooking classes that incorporate practical skills with awareness-building, and do not currently know whether or not they should scale up.

Having completed a pilot season, AlternateRootYYC could use support to analyze successes and challenges, redefine roles and responsibilities within the organizing committee, and plan for financial sustainability.

Carla exudes enthusiasm and professionalism, is frugal, and has a strong vision for the future of Alternate Root YYC

THE ENTERPRISE VEHICLE

Alternate Root YYC is registered as a society, which is defined as a society, which is defined as “an incorporated group of five or more people who share a common…charitable interest”* and must operate on a non-profit basis. As such, Alternate Root has not exposed itself yet to much profit, loss, or risk in a financial sense; they are only charging fees to cover base costs and to ensure that class participants show up. However, it seems that the workload division is not balanced yet and this poses a significant risk to the goodwill within the society. Data is accumulated through participant surveys and documentation of food donations by weight, but this information has not yet been consolidated into reportable outcomes. Other accountability structures have not yet been created. It appears that there is a strong attachment to remaining a low-budget non-profit, although it also strikes me that they are in a phase of determining what their culture will be.

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*Alberta Societies Act

ANALYSIS OF THE ENTERPRISE’S ECOSYSTEM
Key Financial Resource

Alternate Root received an Arusha Foundation Take-Action grant, which is awarded partially in Calgary Dollars (a local currency system) and partially in standard Canadian currency. Arusha raises the grant funds’ Calgary Dollars through partnerships with local businesses and other foundations, and distributes the

Canadian currency from larger federal grants. Arusha intends for this grant to both support local social and environmental projects, and to expand awareness of alternate currency in Calgary. Alternate Root used this grant to cover their business association fees, class materials, and space rentals, and is in the process of providing the required year-end report back on the society’s activities.

Key External Element:

Alternate Root has a definite need for strategic planning in order to reach scale. They are currently looking to the final report that I am writing for this class for some direction in this area. However, they are also looking to become part of a strong local business network (REAP) that both provides business guidance and exposes member businesses to a wide circle of expertise and professional services. It would be useful for Alternate Root to make the most of a membership investment in REAP by reaching out to other members for mentorship and assistance in developing a core strategy.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ALTERNATE ROOT YYC

As a fledgling society with little formality, Alternate Root looks at first glance like a hobbyist collective. However, Carla Bitz has expressed a desire for Alternate Root to grow into more of a social enterprise with long term stability. Their ecosystem includes a positive and receptive market for their work of waste reduction, a large pool of knowledgeable individuals to draw labour from, and a quickly developed supportive culture around their organization. As an educational entity, they have few policy restrictions. They also have a rich network of competitors (other food educators) around them, many of which already engage in degrees of collaboration, thereby making success a greater possibility through shared learnings.

Recommendation #1

What I recommend they do before launching into their second season is to do a thorough examination of all their evaluation metrics and to go through the practice of a business plan in order to refine their objectives as a social venture. By clarifying the steps necessary to become financially viable, they will go a long way towards both the sustainability of their own society as well as of the supply networks (eg. Local farmers) that underpin their work.

Recommendation #2

I see a need for greater interaction between experienced entrepreneurs and local social innovators in order to form a greater spectrum of educational opportunities. There is a need for innovators like Carla to be able to access mentorship and entrepreneurial advice in an organized and concise manner, much like other entrepreneurial sectors (such as tech) have been able to form (ie. Short term social incubators, etc).

 

Business Model Canvas - Jess

 

2015 Community Economy Leader Award – Muttley Crüe

Muttley Crüe Organics Grooming and Daycare

Each year Thrive takes part in REAP’s Be Local Awards by sponsoring the Community Economy Leader Award. This year we received a number of fantastic submissions, but were truly impressed by Muttley Crüe and their initiatives. Open to all REAP Members, the Community Economy Leader Award recognizes members that are adopting practices to build a resilient community and local economy. They are rooted in Calgary and it shows in how they invest in people and places, are committed to purchasing fellow local businesses, and provide valuable social benefit. Muttley Crüe truly exemplifies all of this and more.

Muttley Crüe

Muttley Crüe Organics Grooming and Daycare

In her video submission for the Community Economy Leader Award, owner Annie Cole said “we try to be as part of our community as possible. One of the biggest things starting Muttley Crüe six years ago was that I didn’t want to be just another building on the block. We want to be part of our community. Our community and this city is what keeps this business and other small business thriving.”

After six years of hard work, Cole and her Crüe have achieved what they set out to do. With a focus on creating partnerships with other local organizations in Calgary, Cole emphasizes that Muttley Crüe relies on “as many local businesses as we possibly can when it comes to products that we use, even what we sell in our retail.” The shampoos and diffusers come from All Things Jill, the cleaners are supplied by Small Planet, and the personalized Muttley Crüe biscuits are made by Bark YYC. Their retail area itself consists of over 60% locally made products.

It isn’t just about their partners in business, though. Muttley Crüe also ensures they are giving back to their community. Partnered with AARCS, the Spay Neuter Task Force, Stardale Women’s Group, and the Veteran’s Food Bank, Cole explained “we have a donation in lieu of a fee for our trial day of boarding.” By allowing new clients to make a minimum $5 donation instead of paying the normal $35 fee, Muttley Crüe is able to support valuable resources and organizations in Calgary and Southern Alberta. Cole is quick to point out that no one has ever left just $5, which led to $2,000 being raised for their chosen charities in just three months.

Muttley Crüe isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. In 2016, they plan to begin an apprenticeship program for First Nations women. Muttley Crüe pays for the cost of the six month grooming course, while paying a living wage to the apprentice so that they’re actually making a living to support themselves and their families while learning a trade.

We’d like to offer a big congratulations to Muttley Crüe and Annie Cole for being Thrive’s Community Economy Leader in 2015. They may be a small business, but they have a mighty impact in their community and city. Through their partnerships, local supply chain, outreach to non-profits, and focus on the environment, Muttley Crüe is paving the way to a sustainable future in Calgary.

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