A forest school, a cohousing project and a heritage-based video game developer are the first graduates from the province’s only incubator for social enterprises at Memorial University.
Significant business growth
“Since joining the incubator in May 2020, we have grown significantly,” said Wendy Reid Fairhurst (MBA-SEE’20), founder of Cohousing NL.
That growth includes securing over $175,000 in grant funding and wage subsidies, raising $365,000 in investments to purchase 58 acres in Portugal Cove-St. Philips, creating a social membership program with about 40 members, hiring two employees, increasing its board of directors from two to six members, and attracting provincial and national media attention.
“The incubator funding enabled us to leverage employment subsidies for almost one year to hire our key startup staff, and build interested members and investors and strong public awareness about the project,” said Ms. Reid Fairhurst.
The Social Ventures Incubator was launched in 2020 and provides financial support, training, events, networking, business advising and office space to participating companies.
Currently, there are eight companies in the incubator including the three graduates.
Other member companies include:
- Howby: provides a safe and long-lasting home to dogs through value-added training while positively influencing the well-being of people with mental health conditions;
- Recycle on the Rock: aims to decrease plastic pollution through a network of community drop-off points that target commonly overlooked waste plastics;
- Renewabli Waste Solutions: aims to create zero waste and climate neutral waste disposal solutions and upcycle household food waste into energy;
- Rewild Wellness: provides experiential, outdoor learning including forest therapy, coaching and wilderness adventures for women; and
- RisingYouthPreneur: seeks to reduce unemployment and poverty rates among youth with disabilities through entrepreneurship while increasing the number of accessible businesses.
Space to bounce ideas, share struggles
Nora Trask (B.Mus./B.Mus.Ed.’04, MBA-SEE’20), co-founder of Cloudberry Forest School, says an important aspect of the incubator is the opportunity to be surrounded by people with similar goals.
“Entrepreneurship can be a lonely endeavour, even more so when the focus of your business is on social value. Being a part of the incubator helped me form relationships with people with like-minded goals, and a space to bounce our ideas and share our struggles,” she said.
“… Cloudberry has grown and overcome hurdles that I hadn’t expected for at least another year, maybe even longer.”
“In conjunction with the tools the incubator provided, and the amazing mentors we brainstormed with, Cloudberry has grown and overcome hurdles that I hadn’t expected for at least another year, maybe even longer.”
Incubator fosters business expansion
Evan Burry (BA’14, B.Ed.’15, MBA’ 20), co-founder of Stormy Shore Studios, says the incubator has been “an invaluable resource” in growing his company.
“When I began, I knew little about social responsibility for businesses, other than what I learned in a few courses during my MBA,” he said. “Building a network of like-minded business professionals, both inside and outside the incubator, has enabled me to keep pushing forward and has challenged my assumptions.”
“Additionally, due to ideas presented during incubator-related discussions, my business is looking to expand into multiple new areas well outside of our initial scope. It’s all very exciting!”
Dr. Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor of Memorial University, said the Social Ventures Incubator has an important role to play in supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“We’re proud to play a role in developing a generation of socially conscious business and community leaders.”
“Social enterprise and social entrepreneurship are a fast-growing sector of the provincial economy, and today’s student entrepreneurs want to not only do well but to do good. We’re proud to play a role in developing a generation of socially conscious business and community leaders,” she said. “I offer my sincere congratulations to the graduates on their successes to date, and for their vision and drive to help make this world a better place.”
Applications for the next intake in the Social Ventures Incubator will open on Jan. 6.
About the graduates
Cloudberry Forest School
Co-founded by Ms. Trask and Laura Molyneux (BA’12) in 2014, Cloudberry Forest School offers programming for various age groups, home school supplementation, community outreach and professional development opportunities that advance outdoor learning. In 2017, the company earned a $450,000 grant from the Lawson Foundation, in partnership with the O’Brien Farm Foundation in St. John’s, to act as a living lab that will inform the potential for forest and nature schools to become licensed in Newfoundland and Labrador. Cloudberry’s vision is to reduce barriers to outdoor education as well as play-based and child-centred learning and educational models.
Cohousing NL was initiated as an informal, community-led project in 2016 by Reid Fairhurst. In 2020, the company incorporated and has grown to include six directors, two staff and around 20 active volunteers. The group secured 58 acres of land in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s earlier this year, where it plans to build about 30 homes.
Stormy Shore Studios
Co-founded by Mr. Burry (BA’14, B.Ed.’15, MBA’ 20) and Jordan Galbraith (BA’15), Stormy Shore Studios is a social enterprise that preserves culture and history through digital media. The studio is currently developing mass market video games to preserve and share historical and cultural stories of Newfoundland and Labrador. The first two games, Regiment and Relocation, are focused on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the First World War and the province’s resettlement program from the 1950-1970s.