The business of caring: Timmins eyeing social enterprise opportunities.

Author:Kelly, Lindsay

Capitalizing on growing local interest in social entrepreneurship, the Timmins Economic Development Corp. (TEDC) will offer training in 2019 to encourage more entrepreneurs to start up their own social enterprises.

A social enterprise is characterized as a business that generates enough revenues to help solve a social problem.

Maggie Matear, the TEDC's director of community development, said while the concept has been around for more than a decade, it's "percolating slowly" into the North.

"It's an emerging concept in this area."

Social enterprises shouldn't be confused with a non-profit organization that relies on government grants to operate, or a business that likes to donate to charitable causes.

A good example of a social enterprise is Birch Bark Coffee Company, founded by Whitefish River First Nation member Mark Marsolais-Nahwegahbow. The company sells organic, fair-trade coffee beans. A percentage of the profits go toward the purchase of water filters for Indigenous communities that are facing a clean water crisis.

Matear said social enterprises can be particularly beneficial to non-profits that are looking for ways to bolster revenue that can then be injected into programming or services. Many in Northern Ontario service a large region, but are constrainted by limited budgets and complicated geography.

"We see social enterprise as the channel for them to relieve some of that pressure and also to build capacity within their own volunteers and within their own people," Matear said.

"There's a possibility they can create jobs, they can create revenues that they can reinvest into the mission, relieve the pressure of funding, and do a better job for the people they serve."

According to a 2016 Canadian Social Enterprise Survey Report, social enterprises provided employment for 31,000 workers who earned more than $442 million in wages and salaries. The total revenue for responding social enterprises in 2013/'14 was at least $1.2 billion, including sales of goods and services of at least $828 million.

In anticipation of more social enterprises starting up, Matear...

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