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Buy My Lemonade Teaches Youth eCommerce, Flips Fundraising on its Head

We spoke with Guy Shaham about his new start-up, BuyMyLemonade.com, his partnership with Junior Achievement Nova Scotia, Autism NS’s Promise of a Pearl, and on becoming the first Buy Social Purchaser in Atlantic Canada. The company BuyMyLemonade.com was founded by CEO Guy Shaham and Chief IT Officer Isaac Moscovich to teach entrepreneurship through social fundraising activities. It’s a similar model as the neighbourhood lemonade stand, but online.

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Guy just took part in Propel ICT Demo Day at the Capitol Theatre in Moncton, where he pitched his idea and secured the company’s first investment. Guy is confident that his idea will revolutionize student fundraising models, while focusing on the students and their interests, as well as developing their knowledge and experience with entrepreneurship, business and online trade.

So what exactly is Buy My Lemonade? Guy gave us the pitch:

“Think of it like this: when kids sell chocolate bars and cookies from door-to-door or at kiosks, we call them fundraisers. But when adults do it, it’s called entrepreneurship. Why can’t it be the same for kids? We think it can be.”

In order to raise money for their particular cause, whether that is a new playground, or a class trip, students learn about and use eCommerce through BuyMyLemonade.com to help fundraise for the causes they care about.   Students log into an online platform hosted by their school, and can post their own inventory of products like their art and craft, used video games or books and other pre-approved products and services they wish to sell in order to raise money.

“School fundraising as it currently stands,” says Guy, “is complicated, potentially dangerous when it includes contacting strangers, and in general generates a low return on investment.”

“And, we’re sending kids conflicting messages: that chocolate bars are unhealthy and should be removed from school vending machines and cafeterias, yet that it’s ok to sell these bars for fundraisers to others. We also tell our kids not to talk to strangers but yet, we send them to knock on their doors”.

On BuyMyLemonade.com, kids control what they sell for the fundraiser and what to projects their money goes. These items could range from an old toy or game the child chooses to give away, to a service they wish to sell, like drawing custom animal portraits or making paintings. They will event be able to sell products produced by local artisans and social organizations if they don’t wish to sell their own. The options are only limited to the child’s imagination, with some controls (Parents approval) in place for safety and appropriateness.

Schools will be able to raise more money with less up-front investment, while teaching their kids entrepreneurship and social responsibility. From the student perspective, they’re more engaged in online activities today than door-to-door or in-person.

“Buy My Lemonade wants to leverage that and give them the opportunity to learn about business, be more engaged in fundraising they care about, and be more motivated and connected to the activity,” says Guy.

This brilliant idea has come from years of work in school fundraising. Guy has first-hand experience helping schools fundraise through his previous business, Junk2Gym. Through conversations with schools on this topic, Guy realized what an operational nightmare they had on their hands with traditional fundraisers.

“I’m bringing 9 years of history helping schools fundraise so they would be able to buy my fitness equipment,” says

Entrepreneur and creator of Buy My Lemonade, Guy Shaham.

Guy. “Because schools couldn’t pay for what I was selling, we made an arrangement where they donated “junk” - old and broken equipment and gear - and we would sell the junk to a materials wholesaler for re-use, and make the money needed to buy the schools’ new gym equipment.”

The concept from Junk2Gym translated perfectly to addressing traditional chocolate bar fundraising. From that idea, and through the help of a couple programming courses, BuyMyLemonade.com was born.

BuyMyLemonade.com launches with Junior Achievement Nova Scotia on October 15 to students across Nova Scotia.

Guy is hoping that BuyMyLemonade.com will extend to schools across North America, and start involving social and environmental organizations. For example, they are already working with Autism NS’s Promise of a Pearl to supply jewellery manufactured by their clients to the platform as well. And this is where the Buy Social Canada certification comes into play. BuyMyLemonade.com was just certified as the first Buy Social purchaser in Atlantic Canada.

“I want to benefit from the network Common Good Solutions and Buy Social Canada have across the country,” says Guy. “At the end of the day, we see ourselves as a platform that can really connect. If an organization can produce something that is good for the community, but lack the ability to sell it and/or grow, we bring them a network of youth all across the country who can sell it on their behalf.”

The possibilities are endless. “Our goal,” says Guy, is to convert the estimated 44 million attempted school fundraisers in North America each year into 44 million young entrepreneurs.”

“BuyMyLemonade.com was formed to do well by doing good,” says Guy. “We see a greater good to what we’re doing - we want the school to see us as their platform to increase online education, help schools raise money, and encourage healthier fundraising options. It’s a win-win-win!”

Learn more about BuyMyLemonade.com at: www. BuyMyLemonade.com https://www.facebook.com/BuyMyLemonade

Learn more about Buy Social Canada and it’s efforts to increase social purchasing at: http://buysocialcanada.ca

 

 

LakeCity clients produce beautiful furniture while gaining independence.

LakeCity LakeCity Employment Services Association (LakeCity) is a non-profit organization that provides employment services to individuals living with mental illness. They are centrally located on Windmill Road in Dartmouth--the City of Lakes--but their service is mobile, enabling them to serve clients throughout Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM). LakeCity is dedicated to enabling people with mental illness to improve their quality of life by assisting them to gain independence through work.

LakeCity began in 1972 as the Dartmouth Activity Centre to provide life skills and recreation for clients of mental health services who were reintegrating into the community. They were incorporated under the current name in 1982 and currently employ 35 staff and support 350 people with mental illness.

One of LakeCity’s longest running programs is their LakeCity Woodworkers social enterprise. It was launched as a response to feedback from clients, who identified work as an important means of maintaining their health. Chris Fyles, Executive Director of LakeCity, explains that LakeCity Woodworkers is a place where “individuals can work in a supportive environment at their own pace” as they manufacture a variety of wooden products.

In listing some of their products, he states: “LakeCity Woodworkers produces high quality solid wood furniture. We will also customize our products to suit our customers’ needs. In addition, we manufacture ‘solid wood’ Vinland Wine Racks and are the largest supplier of Survey and Road Stakes in Nova Scotia.”

Fyles acknowledges that it takes a concerted effort to continue to balance an enterprise that is simultaneously generating income and staying true to its social mission, but he maintains that the outcomes are more than worth the effort. “Operating a business is always a challenge and integrating social outcomes doesn’t make it any easier; however, overcoming the challenges increases the satisfaction of our participants’ successes.”

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One such participant success story Chris shared with us involved a LakeCity client who was interested in trying bicycle repair and now works at a bike shop part time while he continues to work onsite at the LakeCity shop making furniture. This is an example of LakeCity’s focus on supporting their clients in any employment situation as they develop more independence and integrate more deeply into their communities. Simply put, Fyles states: “We support our participants in job search activities and provide ongoing assistance to keep their job.”

LakeCity Woodworkers also strives to operate with environmental sustainability in mind. Waste wood from their manufacturing is sold to a company which makes pellets for wood stoves, and wood cut-offs are bagged and sold for kindling.

In addition to the Woodworkers enterprise, LakeCity operates provides a flexible suite of other employment support services. This covers the full spectrum of employment services, from goal setting and personal inventory to job search preparation to helping to secure and maintain employment. They use “a client-centred approach that encourages clients to build skills that are necessary to sustain themselves in employment,” says Fyles. LakeCity works with clients throughout their movement toward increased independence, of which employment is a key component. Chris shared with us the story of “a young woman who worked with us for a few months as a receptionist gaining confidence and experience, and then got a job in retail clothing which was where he wanted to be.” This example illustrates LakeCity’s ability to facilitate their clients’ journeys toward attaining their vocational goals.

 

Why is Buy Social a good fit for LakeCity?

As of September 14, 2015, LakeCity is a newly minted Buy Social Supplier. As a Buy Social supplier, LakeCity operates a retail outlet for furniture produced through the LakeCity Woodworkers enterprise and also sells products from other local social enterprises in their store. Chris is optimistic that becoming a member of Buy Social will help connect more people looking for high quality, socially produced products with LakeCity: “We are hoping that our Buy Social Certification will let more people know about the work that we do and about the beautiful products that we produce.”

 

Want to know more about LakeCity? Visit them online at: lakecityemployment.com

To learn more about Buy Social, visit: buysocialcanada.ca

 

Metro Care and Share Society Breaking Down Barriers with New Scholarship

We interviewed Solitha Shortte of Metro Care and Share Society about their thrift store, and its link to their Halifax Scholars Program and new Buy Social Certification. From left to right: Mel Boutilier and Solitha Shortte from Metro Care and Share, and Rodney Small from Common Good Solution's Buy Social Program.

Metro Care & Share Society (MCSS) is a registered charity that has been active since 1984 as a fundraising organization for education and community initiatives. The organization has recently been re-energized to serve as a vehicle for new innovative charitable initiatives, such as the Halifax Scholar Program, which was launched June 2015. Each program offers unique services targeted at high-risk youths and families in HRM.

The Halifax Scholars Program is focused on empowering youths from low socio-economic backgrounds through education and making opportunities accessible for them to explore post-secondary institutions as a viable option in their future aspirations. Under MCSS’s Halifax Scholars Program, each participant will be assigned a mentor who will provide that extra support-system for the student, helping them navigate through the journey that lies before them.

The organization recently opened their thrift store on Agricola Street this year in June to help with their fund-raising efforts for the Halifax Scholars Program Fund. We caught up with Solitha Shortte, Marketing and Operations Coordinator for Metro Care and Share Society Scholars Program to ask her some questions about Buy Social Canada and MCSS’s new venture.

Q: What is the purpose of Metro Care and Share’s social enterprise, the thrift store?

A: Metro Care and Share Society’s main focus is helping high-risk youths in our communities attain a post-secondary education. The thrift store was setup to provide a constant flow of revenue for the organization. Our intent at MCSS is to present opportunities by eliminating obstacles, and to level the playing-field for high-risk youths in disadvantaged communities, who might otherwise be limited in their reach due to their born circumstances.

Breaking down barriers and building possibilities is why we’re here.

The thrift store is a way for Nova Scotians to donate household items they don’t need anymore, which we then sell back to the community at deeply reduced prices, with all the revenue going directly towards helping funding our Scholars Program.

I feel like for the individuals who take the time to donate, along with the customers who choose to support the store by making purchases, it gives a sense of ownership to what where doing here. In a small but significant way each of our supporters can claim responsibility for creating opportunities and making dreams a reality for our Halifax Scholars Program participants. The first student we sponsored - we were able to do so as a result of the funds raised through our on-going “IF WHAT $20 Campaign” challenge along with revenue generated from donations to our on-site thrift store.

The goal of MCSS is to present opportunities by removing barriers, and to level the playing-field for tomorrow’s leaders. We really want to instil in our youths the presence of hope. It is imperative that we try our best to debunk the perception that where you’re born is the dictating factor in fuelling your desired destination.

Q: Why thrift store? Why did you decide to use this model to fundraise instead of others?

The thrift store is just one avenue through which we plan to raise funds for the charity. Its purpose here is to provide a location so the community can have daily interaction with the organization. We believe it creates a community within a community. The donated items are available to people who can’t afford full-price items, or individuals who just want to support the organization. They buy at our store and feel good that their purchases and donations are going to help deserving students further their education, as they might otherwise not get the chance to go to college or university.

When someone donates furniture, or any other house-hold items- their contributions serve dual purposes: for one, the revenue gained goes toward the Scholars program fund, and two: the un-needed item is kept out of landfills, it’s recycled and repurposed. So the store serves not only the people but the environment as well.

Q: And why a scholarship program?

We realized there is a need for help beyond government structured programs. The individuals who are in desperate need are usually the ones who face the most obstacles getting the help. Our criteria is based on a simple structure: the applicants need to have the academic aptitude to pursue post-secondary institutions, lack the financial resources, and the family has to be on board with playing a supportive role in their journey; we interview the student and their families to ensure they’re committed, supportive and in serious financial need, after they’ve exhausted the standard channels for funding.

 

Q: So who has the program impacted so far?

A: We just sponsored our first participant, Denisho Goree. He had no way of getting into NSCC due to financial limitations. When his aunt applied to our program assistance Denisho was in his last few months at Citadel high school. His caretakers (aunt and grandma) knew they couldn’t afford to send him to further his education without help. Still they were hesitant to tell him there was no means to get him to where he needed to go - they kept looking for an opportunity. That’s when we came into the picture. When they approached us, it was a no-brainier for Mel; he thought the student was the perfect person to receive our assistance, making him the first recipient of the scholarship. Mr. Goree couldn’t get a loan or get into certain programs he applied for through the normal channels. To us he exemplified the spirit of giving, he volunteers in his community giving back to the kids around him, when he himself needed help. Denisho was very grateful for the help from all the people in HRM supporting the program and was beaming from the realization his dream was now attainable, once his enrolment was confirmed at the Nova Scotia Community College. To quote him from another interview”: “There is a joy in my heart.” It was as if a weight was lifted off his shoulders and he can now move forward with pursuing his dream. He can become a skilled carpenter as he loves working with his hands, and now he isn’t forced to do something else because he had no choice. Denisho will be a great role model. He’s going to be the kind of person younger kids will look up to, and hopefully they’ll say: “You did it so I can too!” It only takes one kid to spark that hope in other kids around them, hopefully starting a cycle of change.

Q: How’s it all going and growing so far?

A: Even though we have dedicated volunteers, it is a struggle to find new volunteers on a long term basis. We have plenty of donations for the store inventory, as well as the public has been very generous in supporting our “What If” $20 fundraising campaign! We however would love to attract more corporate sponsorship to help us achieve our fund-raising goals. Clearwater Seafood limited is a great supporter of the organization, and we're truly grateful to them for their support. Our hope is others will jump onboard to make this a lasting success.

 

Q: And what do you hope Buy Social will do for Metro Care and Share?

I hope it will help us in getting our name out there more, creating awareness, and generating interest in what we're doing here – We hope this exposure will get the message across that the organization is all about community advancement through education with our Scholar’s Program - there’s also an environmental aspect that’s important too, both creating a triple effect: People, planet and progress; it is very important that our supporters know that their contributions goes where it’s most needed.

Learn more about Buy Social Canada here: http://buysocialcanada.ca Learn more about Metro Care and Share here: http://www.metrocareandshare.com

Secret Market Happening in North End, held by iMOVe and partners.

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IMG_20150814_121445 (1) We visited Sobaz Benjamin at In My Own Voice (iMOVe) Arts Association located on the corner of Gottingen and Uniacke Square. It’s the home of the organization’s three foundational programs: Centreline Music Studioand their iMOVe program, which was co-founded by Lindell Smith, GotAVoice Community Radio, and the Uniacke Centre for Community Development. iMOVe is run and staffed by Charlene Gagnon, Director of Operations and Debra Paris-Perry, Outreach Coordinator.

We had a chat about iMOVe’s programming and its new social enterprise community market, which is a collaboration between the Community Carrot, Common Roots and Chef Paul Rothier of Knife for Hire. Sobaz is the Executive Director of iMOVe.

You can read our Q & A below, but first, a little background:

Centreline Studios was created in 2010 to engage youth in video production, performance and artistic personal development. It was a partnership between the former Communities and Uniacke Square Engaging (C.A.U.S.E.) organization and Halifax Regional Police in response to the community’s desire for more youth programming and activities. When C.A.U.S.E disbanded in 2012, iMOVe was asked, by C.A.U.S.E , to assume responsibility for the Studio.

Centreline Co-founders Sobaz Benjamin and Lindell Smith continue to run the youth drop-in and deliver programs to Centreline’s youth with the help of community volunteers who recognize the importance of keeping the Studio running.

Centreline hosts a youth drop-in every Tuesday, (Newcomers Night) Thursday and Friday (All comers night) evening between 5:30pm and 8:30pm open to any youth with an interest in hip-hop, spoken word, dance and/or theatre.

Centreline also offers studio access to individuals, community groups and organizations who wish to record their music and poetry, but who have limited resources or budgets, to do so in a commercial recording environment.

 

Steph: So what is iMOVe (In My Own Voice)?

Sobaz: In My Own Voice is a community - a deliberate community in the sense that the people who are a part of it, either by invitation or choice, are able to become a part of a network of people, organizations, but most importantly, relationships that provide artistic, leadership training, educational and employability experiences and opportunities. We provide all of the things you need in terms of equipment within a “family” context with one-on-one mentorship - It’s a one-stop-shop for community development and youth engagement.   The Hub model is something we use to describe the space.

We have a mandate around community development - youth engagement and reintegration for sure. But one of the things that’s really important is to be responsive to community needs and wants as they change. A big part of what we do under the iMOVe umbrella are the community programs, like Uniacke Centre for Community Development, Centreline Music Studio, Got a Voice, and Youth Now radio which is a weekly radio show. And we do a project out a life story project out at Waterville: The Nova Scotia Youth Facility. We’re getting ready to kick off another program called Inspired. Each of these programs has a basic mandate to respond to the needs and the wants that we see out in the community - that’s really important - and we’re flexible enough to do that.

 

Steph: And what gets you most charged up about this community?

Sobaz: I think that what I find exciting is that first of all - the people who are involved get to be able to influence the nature of the work that they do. So, it’s not a top-down approach to work - it really is about how the people doing the work shape how that work is done.

Myself included as the Executive Director - it’s great to work on my own terms and have the people I want to work with and surround myself with. To share and influence the iMOVe culture - it’s a living culture - it’s not frozen and written in stone, it’s not fixed - we’re always in flux. There are always new people coming and bringing their values, which then meet iMOVe’s values - it’s always a negotiation; finding a common ground and moving forward. It’s never a dull day - that’s for sure!

I wake up charged and inspired by the fact that I’m going to learn something new and be challenged. I find that some people may argue that there’s so much change in iMOVe and flux - and that can be discomforting for people. But I think the process of negotiation builds relationships and teaches us how to work through that discomfort of difference. And it gives us a sense of accomplishment when we succeed.

Steph: How does that collaborative and changing approach work for you and Centreline?

Sobaz:

It’s interesting - around the social enterprise aspect - we’ve been certified recently as a Buy Social Certified supplier - so one of the things we’re working on is to sell more of our art and services, and the products and services of connected clients, partners and collaborators.

So we’re working with Community Carrot Co-operative and a number of other organizations like Common Roots Urban Farm and Chef Paul Rothier of Knife for Hire to create a market - a market that is sort of an event - we have vendors that are selling their wares - and there’ll also be a cultural element to it as well. It’s happening on September 13th.

We’re going to set up the market behind the Community Carrot Cooperative - with vendors selling craft and their wares and of course food! And we’ll also have entertainment - a three piece jazz ensemble, rappers, and more. The whole market will be organized and executed by several young men iMOVe hired. They’re organizing this - as we speak they are designing the face of that market, and they are coordinating the Market.

iMOVe and our collaborators have jumped on the opportunity to coordinate the market to make this a unique event for this end of town, and it’s going to be different from the Night Market at Squiqqle Park. We have the element of surprise - we will design the alleyway to catch people’s attention and drive them to the market behind The Carrot. The branding of the market is going to be a real endeavour for these guys to pull it off successfully.

September 13th is the launch date for that! Very exciting!

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Steph: Now that you’re certified Buy Social, what do you hope will come of it?

Sobaz: Just to be part of a national group of Buy Social organizations first of all is important. People are going to go to the Buy Social website and see us, and we’re going to be linked with other social enterprises. Being social is a noble endeavour - it’s not just about the bottom line - it’s about creating things that have community and social impact and about creating sustainability around that impact so you’re not just looking for the next grant. The association with other organizations doing that is going to serve us well. And we’ll be able to market ourselves with Buy Social - adopt it as part of our identity. It kind of says to potential clients: we’re putting our money where our mouth is so to speak, and this is who we are and we’d like to demonstrate that to you. Around identity - in terms of connecting with other organizations that want to impact the business sector in this particular kind of way - it allows us to speak that language and demonstrate how we make the social impact we all can be proud of.

An important part of our programming is the Inspired Program: a film and video production company crewed with ex-offenders - I think now more than ever the out-of-province connections are needed. Selling videos outside of the province is really needed because of the film tax credit cut and because we need exports. Buy Social, since it’s Canada-wide, can help with that too.

To learn more about iMOVe, visit http://inmyownvoice.ca/

To learn more about Buy Social Canada, visit http://buysocialcanada.ca

 

Common Roots Urban Farm's Market Garden is Certified Buy Social

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Today we spoke with Jayme Melrose of Common Roots Urban Farm about their social enterprise Market Garden project. Here’s a little Q & A about their amazing urban farm in Halifax NS. Jayme Melrose standing under the Hay Bear at Common Roots Urban Farm, and holding her new Buy Social Canada certification!

Steph Pronk from Common Good Solutions: Can you describe to us in a few words what you do, in Common Roots Urban Farm’s social enterprise, the Market Garden?

Jayme Melrose from Common Roots Urban Farm: We are a social enterprise that grows nutritious food in an educative context in the middle of the city.   It’s the third year of our farm. There’s two staff , one summer student, four key volunteers, and many helpers!.  Our farm is beautiful with a few art installations and great veggies! Feel free to visit any evening between 3 and 6.

S: Cool! And what would you like to see CRUF and the Market Garden achieve?

J: My ultimate vision is to encourage urban agriculture so there are more urban farms throughout the city - less lawn, more farms!

We want to see more high quality produce as a result of providing a valuable social & ecological space.

S: My understanding is that you have a program that helps grow the food to sell at the market garden?

J: Yes, our Deep Roots program.   These are the four key volunteers I mentioned. The program is open to new Canadians with an agricultural background. These immigrants and refugees help run the market garden. We learn from each other – farming techniques for community connections: we help each other.

Like I said, many of the participants of Deep Roots are refugees - and refugees that are in their 50’s. Imagine moving to a new country in your fifties! It’s obviously challenging. I am always amazed at their strength and resourcefulness.

So one the folks in the program built this big, BEAUTIFUL water cistern - he saw the need, knew he had the skills, and found the resources, and just built it on our lot! It is amazing.

In the course of building the tank and working with others on the farm, he learned enough English to be able to tell us his story and communicate his needs. The growth was noticeable. This really increased my appreciation of the challenges of immigration and the value of this beautiful human: To see someone regaining their capacity is really rewarding.

S: Wow, that’s really an amazing story! So you obviously are doing great social work that’s supported by your social enterprise, the Market Garden. How are you then, in return, living your values? That is, are you also buying and supporting social and/or local?

J: We’re definitely part of the buy local movement - people are excited to buy from us because we’re so local and they can see what’s happening. They’re buying greens anyway so they might as well buy them from a place that they know is working on a variety of levels, not only through our social work but for the healthiness of our food, and for the peace of mind of knowing where their food is coming from.

And yes, we buy social and local at every opportunity: We buy lumber from small sustainable woodlots, we repurpose materials at every opportunity including bricks leftover from the old QEH school, we buy from other social enterprises whenever possible.

I’m really excited we’re part of Buy Social to help our customers and clients to see there is language around this and that there’s an opportunity to do more with their dollars. It helps us see that our dollars have much more impact buying social.

S: We know that trying to generate revenue like a business while running a social program is more difficult than doing just one or the other. What challenges are you facing these days?

J: We’re definitely facing challenges! We’re trying to find a financially sustainable non-profit business model in a period of austerity. As a non-profit we need to account our finances and our impact: two bottom lines on half the revenue!

And farming’s really tough because of the tiny profit margins and social expectation of cheap food Understanding our cost of production is challenging as the main input is many brief labour intervals, plus many variables..

Plus, we’re farming in a downtown public location where potential for theft is high, so there are compound pressures.

S: So then, how do you see Buy Social Certification helping CRUF and the Market Garden?

It’s great to be part of this social enterprise community, of projects contributing to our communities in multiple ways.

Part of the Buy Social program is about community economic development. I like that lens on our farm and so any sort of advice and encouragement and support we can get from that feels really good to me.

For more info about Common Roots and their Market Garden, go visit them!  See info below:

The Market Garden runs on Tues 3-6 on the Farm (corner of Robie St. and Bell Rd.)  Thurs 3-6 in the Hydrostone.

Stop by the farm to see it in action anytime 3-6 during the week.

If you’re looking to rent a plot and grow your own veggies there next year, contact Jayme as soon as possible as the wait list is filling up! urbanfarmers@partnersforcare.ca

More info:

http://partnersforcare.ca/urban_farm

and http://buysocialcanada.ca

DASC starts new social enterprise in Dartmouth, NS

Rodney Small of Common Good Solutions Inc. presents the Buy Social certificate to Cathy Deagle-Gammon, Executive Director of Dartmouth Adult Services Centre. Aug. 2015. Today we interviewed Cathy Deagle-Gammon, Executive Direction of Dartmouth Adult Services Centre, now at their (fairly) new location on Dorey Ave. in Burnside.

More than quality programs for adults with intellectual disabilities, the Dartmouth Adult Services Centre (DASC) gives individuals the support they need to realize their true potential and become active members of their community. Through a variety of vocational day programs and community employment programs, DASC ensures that each client can find personal fulfillment. These programs include: button-making, remote control refurbishing for Eastlink, mail services, plus a brand new program we’ll announce below! 2014_03_03_6368DASC is a $2.8M a year organization that part of its revenue from the sale of goods and services, in which clients are employed. Now they have over 45 staff, and offer over 180 different social program options for about 191 clients. “We provide services for people where they’re at and for what their needs are,” Says Cathy. “We try to find as creatively as possible how to do that to accommodate many different needs.”

DASC had humble beginnings in the early 1960’s as CAMR (Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded) and was an arts and crafts industry. Of course they’ve long changed the now inappropriate name, and much of how they operate has changed as well, moving from an arts and crafts industry to one that houses five business operations and many programs. Cathy has personally been with DASC 20 years, and working in the Social Enterprise field for 36 years, starting with Anchor Industries., now called Building Futures.

Speaking with Cathy, I could really feel the compassion she had for the people involved with DASC, especially the clients. Cathy points out that it’s she works for them, not the other way around. You could sense she highly values the people she works for, the staff , business and community connections she built over time with DASC. There is a true sense of purpose and commitment with her work at DASC – her passion.

Cathy and her staff and clients do this exceptionally well; connect to people and really bolster them up: “To work at DASC and their social enterprises, there’s a strong peer base of support - and that’s really healthy for people.”

Cathy, through the course of her time with DASC, has developed the community connections to really make the organization thrive. Cathy spends much of her time connecting with clients, staff, and partners in the community; for DASC, as large and successful as it is, it’s about community. And this mutual respect and support shows.

“Especially with our new building, the sense of ownership our clients have is phenomenal.” Says On-going Parts assemblyCathy. “It’s their DASC, not mine: I just work for them - and that’s absolutely lovely.”

This sense of ownership is very apparent in the clients. One particular client, Michael, is an excellent example: his job is to refurbish remotes for Eastlink, and is responsible for testing the remotes and sorting them for either cleaning or recycling. One day, Eastlink came in to film a news segment at DASC, among a few other news media groups like CBC. Michael wasn’t particularly interested in the fact that news stations were filming, but when Eastlink came in, Michael lit up. “His face was so happy, his expression was just incredible,” said Cathy. “He couldn’t wait to be interviewed.”

Cathy explained why it was Eastlink that excited Michael: “He fully understood that he was working for Eastlink, and that they are our customer; he was shown how he was part of quality assurance and therefore their brand image out there. He knew his work had an impact.”

The staff at DASC do a phenomenal job to help clients understand what they do, and what their work is for. “If clients don’t know who the customer is or what the product or service is for, says Cathy, we’ll take them to deliver the product, or for a visit, or look the organization up online together.”

This helps builds a real sense of purpose and responsibility with clients, and a loyalty to the organization. Clients even get involved with selling their services! “When the last election campaign rolled around, everyone knew that we would get busy with button manufacturing. One political candidate was campaigning door to door and one client saw their buttons weren’t made at DASC so they said to the candidate: ‘I’m not sure‘ll vote for you because you don’t support DASC!’” A similar thing happened with DASC’s newest social enterprise, DASC Refundables: “A staff brought back a business card from a business in the airport. They saw our clients sorting and taking the refundable as part of our project and wanted to get involved too!”

It’s the nature of the work, says Cathy that these connections happen so naturally. “People seeing people with disabilities being respected and getting opportunity in our community - it generates its own kind of positivity and people want to get involved.”

“All these connections happen in in a natural way, and that makes me very excited.”

This is how DASC became involved with the Halifax International Airport Authority for their newest social enterprise, DASC Refundables. “We met this lovely man who was a general manager at the Airport at the time, who, after some discussion, took on the initiative of helping DASC find a way to partner.” says Cathy.

MailingsHe took Cathy and her team on a 4.5 hour tour of the Airport - to go through their services and see if there was something at the Airport that would be a good fit for programming at DASC. After the tour a few ideas were pinpointed including baggage cart maintenance, and refundables collection and recycling. The refundables was something DASC could act on immediately, and they have.

Since then, the enterprise has really picked up, and partnerships abound. They purchased a four-door pickup truck for hauling the refundables with support from 100 Women Who Care, municipal councillors and a partnership with Ford. “We’ve got this beautiful truck with our logo, and it goes to the airport Monday, Wednesday, Friday for clients to take the recycling depot.

“It’s great for clients for learning numeracy and literacy and about our impact on the environment.”

Once Miller Waste saw the impact this work was making, they approached DASC about employing clients at their facility, and are in the process of employing DASC clients! And there is more seasonal work to come: “there’s going to be another seasonal work crew project at Miller Waste in Burnside - where we’ll be painting and doing some minor repair upkeep on commercial garbage bins.”

Again, it’s all happened so naturally. Cathy says the key is when an organization’s mission is “so transparent to people by seeing the work, that they want to be a part of it and take their own steps to be involved.”

Given how well DASC is doing, I was curious to see what added value they saw in being Buy Social certified.

“We want to be a good corporate partner in Burnside - I feel like there’s potential for good partnerships here. Whenever we look for goods from a private company, I check their website to see what they’re doing in Corporate Social Responsibility. I’m hoping that Buy Social will help with that - show us the buyers who want to do good and connecting us with other contract opportunities.”

It’s a no-brainer for buyers and sellers to partner with Buy Social, says Cathy.

“Whenever you can double the value in what you buy and sell by supporting social enterprise - that’s an amazing thing. It can only be good. There’s no downside.”

Hopefully this Certification will open people’s eyes to what’s available right here.

“Sometimes there’s the perception that if you buy local or social that it’s more expensive - I haven’t found that yet. When you’re a non-profit, that’s the challenge - we have to make absolutely sure of value for the dollar. Not only our dollar, but taxpayers’ dollars. As a non profit - we have to be responsible for that.”

“And we need to make sure that our message is clear,” says Cathy “that even though we’re making money - that the money goes is directly supporting the social program and helps cover the business as well as some non funded social costs.”

To learn more about DASC, visit: http://dasc-ns.ca

To learn more about Buy Social, visit: http://buysocialcanada.ca

Horizon Achievement community asset in Sydney, Cape Breton

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Our newest Buy Social certified supplier is Horizon Achievement Centre. Located on the lovely Cape Breton Island, in Sydney, NS, Horizon Achievement centre is an impressive charitable nonprofit that helps employ persons with intellectual disabilities. Established in 1984, the Horizon Achievement Centre has established its place in this community as a leader in the delivery of services and employment options for people with disabilities and a prominent supplier of quality products and services to the Business Community. Recreational programming is funded partially through the social enterprises.

Horizon has over 7 social enterprises currently in operation including: banquet services, catering, bakery, mail services and printing, assembly and promotions, job placements and a variety of general contracts including button making, custom parts assembly, and much more!

We spoke to Amanda Burt, Financial Coordinator for the centre, about Horizon and their recent Buy Social Certification.

“We have many social enterprises,” says Burt. “when you mention Horizon Achievement Centre to people - they definitely know what it is, since we’ve been around for 30 years, but most don’t see how much work we do and all the different contracts we have. It’s non-stop all the time - and tax bill season is especially busy.”

So, we asked, what IS it that Horizon does? Amanda explains: “We do lots of catering - which includes hot food like cabbage rolls, meat balls, rices, and we have our own banquet space in which we provide catering for weddings and events. But we also provide off-site catering too. Plus we have an amazing bakery that provides the desserts, pies etc. for these events. We’ve been doing this for a while and quite a few people know about this.”

However, there’s a lot more Horizon does than catering.

“We also have a variety of general contracts” says Burt. We’re a distributor for Canada post for tax documents - we print, package and mail them each tax season… We have a few other large scale contracts too: we assemble screw mechanisms for sound panels - We’ve been doing them in orders in the 1000s of units; it’s a big project for us.”

It looks like lots of in house work in their facility with catering, assembly and more, but Horizon also works in the local community as well.

“We have canteens, like small coffee shops, in Revenue Canada and CRA buildings for the people who

The bakery is one of Horizon's social enterprises!

work in the office buildings there”, says Burt. “We employ our clients there and in community employment programs within the community. Lots of people work or volunteer in the community through our programs, and we offer a variety of opportunities that meet the clients’ needs in terms of time commitment, type of work and paid versus volunteer.”

Amanda Burt loves seeing the affect the social enterprise work has on the clients. “The clients love to prepare the food and then serve it - and the wedding party usually gives a big thank you speech to the catering staff. I like seeing the sense of accomplishment they get from helping put on such a big event for people. They get to see directly the positive affect they have on people.”

The biggest challenge, says Burt, is getting the message out to the community and consumers. “The biggest difficulty is getting decision-makers and other outside the organization understanding what social enterprise means. We’re not just selling products and services here - we’re changing lives. We’re in a residential area right now. Our new site will be more downtown, but right now it’s hard to see us and what we do.”

Horizon achievement is helping marginalized people feel like they’re valued and that they’re appreciated for their contributions, some for the first time in their lives. As Amanda sees it: “our catering department is so much more than just getting a tray at the grocery store.”

Amanda’s hoping the Buy Social certification will really help spread the message about the added benefits of Social Enterprise. “We’re hoping to get the awareness out there”, she says. It’s always good to partner with other organizations and be part of other initiatives, as much we can, like the Prosperity Framework and Sydney Downtown Business Commission. We’re hoping Buy Social will expand peoples’ expectations of what a Social Enterprise is. ”It’s kind of like buy local - and those kind of go hand in hand in my opinion - they’re both about supporting communities.”

To learn more about Horizon achievement, visit here.

To learn more about Buy Social Canada, visit here

The bakery is one of Horizon's social enterprises!

Conway Workshop gets Buy Social Certified

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We spoke to Jill Baxter, Executive Director of Conway Workshop in Digby, Nova Scotia about the Workshop’s most recent successes and their new Buy Social Certification. Conway Workshop Association is a non-profit organization that provides residential and employment/vocational training programs for individuals with disabilities. Their mission is to serve people with disabilities to develop the skills and knowledge they need to live independently.

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The Conway Workshop is a staple of Digby, NS, providing many jobs and services in the area. They operate a sawmill and provide woodworking, firewood and kindling, survey stakes, electronics recycling, baked goods, and more. And all of these services employ their clientele.

They’re quite the operation, and they’re certainly not afraid to continue growing! “I’ve been with the workshop for, well, this is my 25th year!” says Jill Baxter, “and I’ve seen and made a lot of changes - and we’re still doing changes! I’m all about trying whatever we can - finding it and going after it!”

Jill has a few more ideas in the works, too: “I’m hoping before I retire I’ll have another nice social enterprise set up. I was initially thinking thrift store but there’s already one that recently opened up right here.”

Starting a business that’s similar to another local shop is a no-no in rural areas it seems. “It’s tough because in rural areas there is this idea that you shouldn’t start a business if it’s seen as competing with another existing business.” says Jill. “And I don’t necessarily think that’s true. But hopefully we’ll convince stakeholders over time to be more receptive to this; some time you have to take baby steps to make those changes - those changes have to come slowly over time. And with our Government’s transformation we will all have to rethink the initial game plan [of being non-profit] perhaps.”

In terms of employing workers though, Conway Workshop is on top. “We’re one of the biggest employers in the community now that the call centre is gone.” says Jill. “Even WalMart; a large number of our staff work for them as well!”

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Speaking of community, the clients of Conway Workshop are more involved in the local community than ever before.   There are twelve clients currently out working in the community. This has helped Conway Workshop market their products and services better, and Jill has seen this affect how community members see the Conway Workshop now as opposed to years ago: “We’re coming a long way. The language has changed in the community and now they see the hiring and community benefit work we do. “

The recognition is nice too, says Jill. People notice all of what Conway does now, as opposed to knowing about just the products and services they sell. “It’s nice to hear how the positive impact of our work is now seen and recognized in the community. This recent shift to the positive really makes me smile!”

The impact they have on their clients is certainly positive as well. In fact, the transformation their clients can see is really quite impressive. One man originally had substance abuse issues. “Before he joined with us he was ‘in the ditches,’ so to speak.” says Jill. “People would really take advantage of him when he’d get his social assistance at the end of the month.” Jill encouraged him to take an apartment with their apartment program. “We set him up with some used furniture, and got him a job at a fish plant. That was 8 years ago. Now, his life has turned around! He has not been to the Workshop in the last 3 years - does not get social assistance anymore - has money in the bank, and his drinking is under control!”

There are lots of success stories when it comes to Conway Workshop. Another client came to Conway Workshop through a literacy training program. “He would talk to me about his Dad and things really didn’t seem healthy. At one workshop he came up to me and said he couldn’t go home because his Dad was coming home from travelling. He showed me a bump on his arm from a time when his dad broke it because he went to the kitchen to eat between meals. It was terrifying. So, I welcomed him to stay at my house. He became a client of ours, and lived with me for about two years. Then we set him up in one of our small options homes, and he just grew from there!”

And where is he now? “He’s now on our Wall of Fame in town for Special Olympics. Once he left our homes he went off and found a girl and got married and had kids - and went out West! I just saw him back in town with the kids at Cora’s last weekend! He’s definitely another success story.”

Not everything is coming up roses though. Conway Workshop is in rural Nova Scotia, which on the whole is feeling the squeeze of its aging and dwindling populations. Finding the right staff and even enough clients is challenging, says Jill: “our clients are aging and there are very little younger clients since we’re in a rural area. And our older clients are the hardest-working and most dedicated. Sometimes it’s difficult to instil that work ethic in new recruits.”

Firewood cutting and selling is a big income source for Conway. The shortage of wood supply is also really affecting the organization. It doesn’t stop Jill though - she’s decided to find and manage her own woodlot. “We found a piece of land that can be donated that we can use to get our lumber. This has all just come together this past week actually! It’s very exciting.”

In the long-term, Jill would love to see Conway grow to provide many of the essential services to the community. “I’d like us to be a one-stop shop in the community.”

The only way to do that currently, though, is to increase sales. That’s one of Jill’s biggest wishes for the Buy Social Certification. “I’m hoping Buy Social will help promote us, and if sales go up, we can hire more people to deal with the increase in work.” And if Buy Social could help secure procurement contracts, Jill thinks that will help a lot too. “The NS government agencies had a procurement tradeshow a little while ago”, says Jill. “And that was really helpful - it secured us a large contract to make survey stakes. More of those connections would certainly benefit.”

Learn more about Conway Workshop at http://conwayworkshop.com and more about BuySocial at http://BuySocialCanada.ca. The first 100 to sign up in Atlantic Canada sign up for free!

Petstuff on the Go Social Enterprise for 23 Years, now a Buy Social Member

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Petstuff on the Go is one of our newest Buy Social Certified Social Enterprise suppliers! Learn more about them below and learn about Buy Social Canada here. Petstuff on the Go Store

Petstuff on the Go is a non-profit social enterprise, one of many social enterprises created through Affirmative Ventures. Petstuff on the Go sells pet food, toys, treats, beds, pets and so much more. But more importantly, it’s an employment-training centre that helps people gain the employment skills they need to move on to more permanent paid employment. In other words, their purpose is to help people find great employment, and the vehicle they use to get there is selling pet goods. In the words of Lori Edgar, Director of Operations for Petstuff on the Go, “the quality of the service we provide to the clients is our number 1 service!”

Lori Edger has been with Petstuff on the Go since the beginning, and was happy to chat with us about her recent Buy Social Canada certification and the organization: “We’ve recently celebrated 23 years in business - it feels like forever ago that we started! Right now we have six staff people who are trainers, managers, etc., and we work with 80 clients who work in the shop and receive training each year."

And it doesn’t stop at Petstuff on the Go - that’s just where it all started! They now have a ten unit apartment building, home delivery business and grooming service as well as the pet store. These things were added over time as Lori and her team saw the need and interest not only from customers but from the clients they served.

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As Lori says, “some [clients] wanted their license and driving experience, others needed housing; we help clients move forward in their lives through our various work programs.” Petstuff on the Go’s motto is: Helping people work makes a difference.

When asked how Petstuff on the Go’s programming has helped change lives, Lori had a hard time picking just one example; with 80 clients a year spanning over 23 years, she certainly has touched a lot of lives.

“We had one young man who started working here just after getting out of the hospital, and his dream was to work at a movie theatre. That was a real passion for him, and he wanted to do anything he could to make that happen. His social skills were fairly low but through the work program here he really built up his confidence and skill set. We helped him secure his job at the theatre, and it’s been almost a year now since he started working there! Management there really values him and he’s planning on working hard to move up to management himself one day."

Lori couldn’t ask for a better success story. “Success for us is when people move on and get paid employment in an area that they want, or they choose to go back to school to pursue their passion”. And this isn’t a one-off example, either. Petstuff’s major success is in getting people into jobs that work for them through their training and employment program.

“We have a 89% job maintenance success rate here,” says Lori, “which means of the people who move on to other employment after us, 89% of them keep that job and continue working there on a permanent basis.” And that’s not all Petstuff on the Go does, believe it or not! Through the passion of Lori Edgar and the staff there, they’ve even opened an Entrepreneurial Corner to help sell the products made by other employment agencies in the area including goods from clients of the Entrepreneurs with Disabilities Network, NS Autism Society’s Promise of a Pearl, and Always Us.

It’s really great, Lori beams: “someone brought in dog beds for sale in the Entrepreneurial Corner this week, and they’re really nice - very neat actually! We also sell jewellery, and hand-knitted things as an example. Some entrepreneurs from the Common Values store that used to be on the Halifax Commons sell their items here. This gives people a venue that helps them sell and grow their business over time - and there are some really neat things that come in."

Petstuff also mentors 24 youth each year through the Acee Program, to help build strong work skills and character. “First jobs are really formative in building a strong work ethic and building mutual respect for employees.” says Lori. “We all remember our first jobs and how lost we were in trying to figure it all out. It’s important to have good support and training at that time. Through our regular training and Acee, clients are part of the success and failure of our store; they get to be part of business and understand how it all works from the employers’ perspective. If more employers could do that from the beginning I think many young employees would be in a better place.”

Lori was asked how she currently buys social, in light of her new Buy Social Canada certification: “We buy as much as we can locally. We have to buy some food from outside the province but leashes and dog biscuits are purchased locally. Signage and advertising is done with local businesses.”

And by enforcing these purchasing habits at work, it has really encouraged staff to change their personal shopping habits. “When you buy local and social at work, it impacts personal choices,” says Lori. “We renovated our house and my husband and I shopped completely local. Even where we go to eat and get coffee - we have to know the product protects and supports workers and that the owners are living in and contributing to local communities. It’s second nature to us now. We know it’s something you have to do to keep our communities strong. We try to teach clients these value of social purchasing during financial literacy training.”

The opportunity and challenge, says Lori, lies in marketing, especially with their closest partners and clients. “We work with 80 clients a year, says Lori. “Probably only about 10% of their families shop here right now - so there’s a big opportunity for growth there. There’s no reason not to shop here - it’s convenient and our prices are on par with other stores and sometimes better, like in the case of our food.” Partnership with other non-profits for the sale of goods is also something Petstuff on the Go wishes to tap into in the future.

In terms of the Buy Social Certification, Lori is excited. “I think [Buy Social] will make the concept of buying to support social impact more front of mind for people. Like we talk about fair trade coffee and local shopping, buying to support people getting jobs and living more independently is something people would support if they knew that’s what we did. Buy Social gives us membership to a group and brand that people can ask about and that we can put on brochure and website.”

“It’s kind of like when you have a milk sign in your window that tells others what you’re buying. By putting Buy Social on our materials, people will start to understand that we’re doing much more than selling pet goods here.”

Buy Social Canada - What is it?

In April 2015, Common Good Solutions, with Accelerating Social Enterprise CCC Ltd., Open Door Ventures and Realize Co-op launched Buy Social Canada, a marketing brand to help buyers to identify legitimate social enterprises and social purpose businesses and accordingly make purchases that benefit our local communities.  Read on for more info about social purchasing, and how you can get involved in Buy Social.

What is Social Purchasing?

Social purchasing is simply adding a social value to your current purchasing. Social purchasing doesn’t sacrifice competitive pricing or quality products and services; it enhances purchasing by adding a social value as well.

Social purchasing happens whenever we leverage a social value with our purchasing, whether that is by buying local, assuring living wages, or purchasing from fair trade suppliers, ethical supply chains and other similar models.

Besides getting your needed products or services, buying from a social enterprise can create employment opportunities for youth, jobs for persons with barriers, provide community inclusion for isolated community members, promote cultural diversity, meet environmental challenges, respond to health or education needs, and much more.

Social enterprises are also addressing a spectrum of social issues. Scan some of the stories from the last year here

Buy Social Canada

Buy Social Canada focuses on purchasing from social enterprises as the path to creating social value.

To facilitate and enable the potential opportunities of social purchasing, we are launching Buy Social Canada. The Buy Social program has two key purposes:

  • Encourage social value purchasing across the community, private and public sectors; and
  • Provide an external social enterprise certification program.

Buy Social was originally launched by Social Enterprise UK in 2013. Our Canadian affiliated program was initiated in 2014, and was officially launched across Canada on April 23, 2015 at the Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise.

Shop Buy Social Canada

Social enterprises are filling every kind of business need — from manufacturing to retail, home repairs, business services, couriers, caterers, cleaners, builders, recyclers and more. Take a look at some examples here

Get Certified!

Get certified today!  The application process for both buyers and suppliers is simple and, for a limited time, the first 100 suppliers who sign up in Atlantic Canada are for free. Sign up on http://buysocialcanada.ca