January 15, 2014
B.C. farming social enterprise gets set to flourish in 2014
Gavin Wright is eagerly anticipating this year’s growing season as his farming social enterprise tests new business tools and skills acquired through $15,000 in consulting services awarded as the winner of the 2013 Social Enterprise Heroes.
Situated on a half-acre plot in North Vancouver, Loutet Farm generates revenues through growing and selling produce on-site. It also has a social mission to provide education and engagement opportunities for the community around food and gardening.
|Pictured above, left to right: Jon Morris of JDQ Systems; Emily Jubenvill, manager of Loutet Farm; David Muncaster of ASQ and Gavin Wright, Loutet farmer.|
Now in its third year of operation, the social enterprise is an arm of the non-profit North Shore Neighbourhood House's Edible Garden Project which is dedicated to expanding urban agriculture's impact through various programs.
“We’re well versed as a non profit, but this was our first venture into social enterprise, into actually generating revenue, so looking at the business end of things it has been very beneficial to work with the consultants,” says Gavin, who calls himself a neighbourhood farmer for Loutet.
A team from the farm worked for about eight weeks last fall with a team from business consultancy JDQ Systems and the B.C. association of quality professionals, ASQ to create a Point of Sale (POS) system as well as develop activity-based costing.
David Muncaster, chair of ASQ, says he’s observed that while social enterprise practitioners tend to be strong in their passion and visioning for their enterprise, they often benefit most from support in building and streamlining systems and processes to track and forecast business activities.
“One of the things we always talk about in the quality field, is if you’re not tracking it, you can’t know how you’re doing and you can’t improve,” David says.
“You need to be able to get some data, so you can have a sense of what’s going on and then build on that and even improve your system so you can get even better (as a business).”
Gavin says he’s excited about the upcoming market season because the new POS is in place, enabling tracking of sales and harvest numbers that are vital in future decisions around the enterprise’s activities.
“I feel like we’ll have a much better picture of this market season then we have ever in the past so I’m excited to see that information and use it to improve our efficiencies,” he says.
Loutet Farm's goal to break even financially and it’s well on the way now, Gavin adds.
The JDQ team works hard to apply the same rigor to pro-bono projects as they do to billable projects so when clients are happy, the team is always proud of their accomplishment, says president Jon Morris.
“As a team, we felt good when the Edible Garden Project (Loutet Farm) expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of the project,” says Jon.
Social Enterprise Heroes 2014
Both JDQ and ASQ anticipate joining Social Enterprise Heroes 2014, which is slated for April 16.
The evening event will be preceded by a Social Enterprise Day of Learning, which will bring practitioners from around the province to learn business skills.
Enterprising Non-profits B.C. (ENP-BC) is a host and sponsor of both Social Enterprise Heroes and the Social Enterprise Day.
“We put on Heroes and the Day of Learning every year to celebrate, strengthen and empower social enterprises,” says ENP-BC communications and engagement manager Michelle Eggli.
“The day is intense and the evening is nail-biting and informative, and entertaining. There is the piecing together of the big picture of social enterprise in B.C., as well as hands-on information about how to run a better business.
“And there is the reciprocity of the evening where we apply layered and complex solutions to complex challenges and opportunities.
“For one day we’re all there together trying to figure out how to be the best at social enterprise so we can deliver the best impacts to our community.”
Michelle notes the events typically engage a large cross-section of the community, from students to non-profits to large corporations wanting to provide support.
“It’s in this mix that I see the possibilities really bubbling to the surface, in the getting involved and in the working together to do things better,” Michelle says.
“We need support to increase awareness and buzz in communities all across the province, so (social enterprise practitioners) know they are not alone, that they are doing good stuff and they should have their success recognized,” adds ENP-BC program manager Kim Buksa. “Also, to not be afraid to ask for help, since so many are ready and available to provide support, whether it be advice, coaching, networks or even documentation like business plans.”
For more information on these upcoming events, visit www.SocialEnterpriseHeroes.ca or contact Michelle Eggli of ENP-BC at 604-877-8268 or e-mail michelle(at)enterprisingnonprofits.ca
This year an event will also be held the evening of April 2 for the Vancouver Island social enterprise community. Building on the success of Social Enterprise Heroes, Catalyst will also include a pitch event and gala.
Writer: Michelle Strutzenberger
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