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Checking in with TEF’s 2017 Business Plan Competition winners 6 months later



In April, three emerging social enterprises who pitched at our 2016/17 Business Plan Competition received seed funding.  Although they are each developing very different kinds of businesses, their primary purpose, like all TEF enterprises, is to train and employ people with multiple barriers to employment. All About Kindness is a doula service training young mothers who are participants of Jessie’s. Jubilee Designs uses upcycled materials and sells high quality crafts made by street involved youth at the Yonge Street Mission.   Building Up sells low flow toilets and provides basic construction related labour while training people with employment barriers and helping them to attain pre-apprenticeship qualification.

In this blog post we want to let you know what has happened to each enterprise since they received their seed funding.

As with any group of businesses they have each faced multiple challenges, learned a lot much, and are progressing at different rates.

All About Kindness planned to have two intakes of 12 young mothers per year, anticipating that 6 of each group would become qualified doulas. At the end of the first intake, 9 of the 11 trainees who started have successfully completed their Doula certification training and are currently completing their required practicum: supporting three births. Several have already attended 2 births and have received excellent feedback from the mothers they supported. To quote one husband of a labouring mother, "We are newcomers here in Canada and were very nervous for the pregnant mom and whether or not she would be able to handle labour and birth. Our Doula, from All About Kindness, was extremely helpful in dealing with this tough scenario. Kudos!"

All About Kindness received funding from the Canadian Women’s Foundation to offer Doula services to low income mothers, who would not normally be able to afford such services. This funded service is already in high demand from public health nurses who want this support for their clients.

“The transformation we have seen in these women [who are training to become Doulas] is remarkable”, said Liora Sobel, the enterprise manager, “their confidence has grown tremendously and we are confident that they will make a success of this unique social enterprise”.

 To learn more about this social enterprise, check out their website at www.allaboutkindness.org/ 

Jubilee Designs got off to a good start, then suffered a challenging setback.This design and decor company provides customers with quality up-cycled hand-made products and crafting workshops. They had an encouraging launch with their first group intake, successfully selling a number of products at a wedding trade show and several other venues. The youth were becoming skilled on the sewing machines and had developed a workshop format which they tested successfully with their peer group. Unfortunately, most of the group then left the enterprise for personal reasons, bringing it to a virtual standstill. When working with street-involved and at-risk youth this kind of setback is not totally unexpected. Yonge Street Mission has risen to the challenge and are now working very hard to turn things around: they have assigned a staff person to provide personal support to the youth, and reorganized their intake process. To boost their sales and profit margins, they have made changes to their product line and the marketing for their craft products and workshops. They have also received an unexpected grant from Starbucks which is helping to bridge the gap.

Although Jubilee Designs is not yet a good news story, they have seen positive impacts on the lives of the youth, including those who left. One youth said, “Not a lot of people see a homeless youth and want to give them an opportunity. But I’ve seen the staff of Jubilee Designs work really hard to give us an opportunity. I wish more of the people I’ve met in shelters and on the streets could have the chance that I’ve been given.” Jubilee Designs is committed to succeed, and with their new strategy, there is every reason to believe that they will.

To learn more about Jubilee Designs check out their website at www.jubileedesigns.ca/shop/

 Building Up had a head start as they had already been operating for several months before they received seed funding. Since then they have been growing in leaps and bounds and, although rapid growth is a good challenge to have, it is still a challenge. Ensuring that they have enough trained employees to complete the contracts they have acquired can be difficult, particularly since they are successfully transitioning their trained graduates into employment with other companies, which is, after all, their primary purpose. To quote one of the the enterprise’s participants,  'Building Up has not only supported me but has also educated and equipped me with the necessary tools needed to be successful in the trades”.

In addition to their core business of retrofitting water efficient toilets in low-income housing, Building Up has recently taken on several interesting projects. These include window cleaning along Eglinton Ave to alleviate the impact of the additional dust that the LRT construction creates. As well, they have a new project where they are the renovation contractor for a dilapidated Heritage Home that will be transformed into affordable housing. During the first half of this year, these and other contracts have provided employment for 22 trainees who were marginalized, and generated sales revenues of approximately $400,000. As Founder and Executive Director Marc Sobrano says, 'The opportunity in this space is overwhelming. Buildings need work done, and people need work. We are here to connect those dots and TEF has allowed us to do just that.'

To learn more about Building Up, check out their website at www.buildingup.ca

So, all three enterprises are overcoming a variety of challenges as they become established and grow. All three have been able to use their seed funding from TEF to leverage additional supports and, most significantly, they are all having positive impacts on the lives of those they are training and employing. 


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