RISBJ, The Startup Issue

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RI’s Entrepreneurs Accelerate Social Change | FEATURED NONPROFIT

RI’S ENTREPRENEURS ACCELERATE SOCIAL CHANGE by Emily Wanderer

It’s not easy to capture the imagination of an angel investor with a business idea. But recent JWU graduate Julius Searight’s innovative food truck, which doubles as a soup kitchen serving low-income Rhode Islanders, did just that. This October, Searight pitched Food4Good at the Get Started Rhode Island Pitch Contest. Moved by Searight’s vision, venture capitalist Josh Linkner announced a $1,000 personal donation, triggering two members of the audience to match his contribution. In addition, Julius walked away with the top prize of $10k. “Food4Good is from the community, for the community,” Searight told pitch contest sponsor, Cox. “When you buy a meal from us, you’re investing in your community.” Many of RI’s brightest entrepreneurs, like Searight, are creating businesses that are not only creating good jobs but also addressing some of the state’s most pressing social challenges such as access to healthy food, quality education, and healthcare. Thanks to community-oriented business leaders like Linkner, access to the investments, services, resources and networks makes Rhode Island a hot spot for social entrepreneurship. In January 2015, Searight and 12 other promising social entrepreneurs will join together as the 5th cohort of the Accelerator program, run by Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG), a Providence-based nonprofit that offers a range of programs to support social enterprise. The SEG Accelerator program helps social entrepreneurs take their ventures to the next level through technical assistance, mentorship and access to resources. The program has been a launch pad for some of the state’s most successful social enterprises, including Maternova, Capital Good Fund, RISD 2nd Life and Riverzedge Arts. Social enterprises, like Searight’s Food4Good, want to make money and create positive social change. This type of business faces a special set of challenges from ideation to scale; navigating emerging or new customer segments and

balancing priorities of profit and purpose are just a few. To navigate these unique challenges and take social ventures to the next level, Social Enterprise Greenhouse (SEG) runs a three-month Accelerator program dedicating resources, networks, and expertise to a select cohort. Each enterprise in the Accelerator program works through a series of online modules and in-person workshops, and meets weekly with a business coach. Entrepreneurs will conduct traditional business development activities like financing strategies and financial projections, but through a distinct social enterprise lens. Aside from business acumen, communication and storytelling are at the core of the program. Investors and customers alike are becoming more conscious of the sustainability and social impact of the businesses, making the mission narrative increasingly important. According to a recent Nielsen report, the percentage of global consumers willing to reward companies that give back to society grew by 5 percent, increasing to 50 percent in 2013 from 45 percent in 2011. With consumer trends, business acumen and a supportive ecosystem, the SEG Accelerator will continue to produce positive change and financial benefits by supporting social entrepreneurs. Social Enterprise Greenhouse is pleased to welcome the 2015 Social Enterprise Accelerator Cohort: West Elmwood Housing’s Sankofa World Market, Increment, HMSolution, Murray/Zoll & Associates, CleanPowerPerks, EarthFrendz, EbenGroup, EcoMadera Forest Conservation, Fit2Cook, Food4Good, Moving Mountains, Rhode Island Urban Debate League, and TextUp. Meet and greet Rhode Island’s hottest entrepreneurs! Please join us for the Accelerator kick-off event on January 15th from 6-8pm at Founders League in Providence, Rhode Island. RSVP at http://bit.ly/1xuVJIk. Emily Wanderer Enterprise Development Programs Manager Social Enterprise Greenhouse

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