This post was first published as a series of emails from reSET and a blog post from CT By The Numbers. Above photo ©The Hartford Courant.
Why is social enterprise important for a city like Hartford? How does social enterprise make a difference? There are numerous reasons, but four stand out: by creating opportunities for employment, by solving environmental and social problems, by building community wealth, and by giving back. The alumni businesses of reSET embody social enterprise and each demonstrate a crucial aspect of impact.
Untapped Potential, a 2019 Impact Accelerator graduate, demonstrates how a company can create opportunities for employment. Candace Freedenberg founded the company to help professional women who temporarily opted out of the workplace (for motherhood, caregiving, or other reasons) return to workforce.
“It was important to me to start Untapped Potential such that educated-professional women are no longer sidelined for the remainder of their career simply for raising our next-generation,” says Founder and Chairwoman Freedenberg. “It is a loss of human capital our businesses and our nation that in the face of an increase in the global skills gap, we cannot afford to lose. The future vision that Untapped Potential enables is less ‘stigma’ around those that opt-out to parent.”
2016 Impact Accelerator participant, Blue Earth Compost, embodies the values of solving an environmental problem by collecting food waste in the Greater Hartford area and turning it into compost. In addition, the social enterprise has made a commitment to bring positive impact to the community in multiple ways through its company culture.
“We see ourselves as a business entity that exists to build sustainability in our community…”
“We see ourselves as a business entity that exists to build sustainability in our community,” says Samuel King, Marketing & Business Expansion for Blue Earth Compost. “In fact, the name of our business is inspired by the idea of ‘Blue Zones’ where people live longer, healthier lives because of their connection to their environment and their community. To that end we make sure that we stay involved in youth education, donating to non-profits organizations in the region, and by making an emphasis on hiring ‘second-chance’ individuals to earn a living wage doing beneficial work.”
So, really, Blue Earth Compost hits three of the above impact areas, which is fairly typical of social enterprises — making a positive impact in more ways than one.
Another startup that addresses a social challenge head-on is Engagement Solutions, a 2019 Impact Accelerator startup and second-prize Venture Showcase winner. The startup provides a mobile friendly cloud-based platform to link people in need to agencies and services in their community that meet their needs.
“I started Engagement Solutions to provide a mechanism to reduce paperwork and frustration within the social service system,” says Founder Shay Cantner. “In this era of rapid innovation and technology; families, social workers, teachers, and administrators deserve a tool that reduces paperwork and allows them to focus on meeting their goals and delivering high quality service.”
Raise Green, a 2019 Impact Accelerator alum that won first prize in reSET’s annual Venture Showcase, is focused on building community wealth through an equity crowdfunding platform that supports community solar projects. Their low-cost structure allows neighbors to purchase a share in community solar projects being built in their own neighborhoods. Raise Green is making sure that communities own their assets and can reap the benefits.
“ReSET is unique in its design and purpose, it is set up as the only Social Enterprise Trust that we know of in the state of Connecticut, and that creates a unique place for mission-driven companies like Raise Green to pursue our mission of tackling climate change and income inequality through inclusive financing approaches,” says Franz Hochstrasser, Co-founder of Raise Green. “Raise Green helps create opportunities for regular people to invest in their own communities, and themselves, while addressing the threat of our time, climate change.”
“ReSET is unique in its design and purpose, it is set up as the only Social Enterprise Trust that we know of in the state of Connecticut, and that creates a unique place for mission-driven companies…”
At reSET, we work hard to make sure companies like Blue Earth Compost, Untapped Potential, Engagement Solutions, Raise Green and others have access to the resources and tools they need build their social enterprise in Hartford and stay thriving in CT.
reSET relies on the generosity of individuals and funding partners to cover the costs of providing free services to Connecticut startups. This year, we are reaffirming our commitment to social enterprise as the way of the future, and working hard to ensure that our programs and services reflect our shared values: that every business should take a holistic view of its impact on the world.
Each year, a new group of social enterprise start-ups come through the doors at reSET looking to navigate the way forward. They participate in our Impact Accelerator class, meet with experts in finance, marketing, and more, pitch their ideas and synthesize feedback, fine tune, evaluate and revise business plans, and learn what it takes to build a successful business. Each of them, to varying degrees, will, as they gain traction and establish their place in the market, create opportunities for employment, solve environmental and social problems, build community wealth, and give back.
In doing so, they will contribute to the growth and vibrancy of our community, our region and our state. That is what social enterprise is all about – more than building individual businesses, these ventures build our communities.