SEontario is highlighting individual social entrepreneurs through our Social Entrepreneur Profiles. Below you will find information about people across Ontario who are making a difference through social good and social innovation. If you have a Social Entrepreneur that we should profile, please contact us.
Julia Grady and Annie O’Donoghue are both co-founders of 10 Carden, a community social change hub that offers non-profits, businesses and individuals affordable and accessible shared space. This is a multi-purpose meeting space, designed to improve the sustainability of organizations and to offer an alternative for those who do not require a full time meeting space. 10 Carden offers a variety of spaces, ranging from large conference rooms accommodating up to 75 people, to smaller scale meeting rooms and individual work stations.
Annie believes that the experiences available through 10 Carden will stimulate new discoveries, increase capacity, broaden opportunities for inclusion, celebrate innovation and capitalize on both collective and individual learning, so that ultimately community collaboration becomes the default approach to social change in Guelph.
The Hammer Active Alternative Transportation Cooperative
Abram Bergen founded the Hammer Active Alternative Transportation Cooperative, Hamilton’s first sustainable delivery service in 2011. It uses member cyclists on cargo bikes, trikes and trailers to reduce emissions, support local business, and create meaningful employment opportunities. They specialize in local food delivery, print distribution, delivery of general goods and even furniture and household delivery.
Minga Skills-Building Hub
Ami is passionate about designing and coordinating skill building workshops. She says, “I spent a year in New Zealand to deepen my knowledge of traditional skills. I learned everything from milking goats and making cheese to building a straw bale house. I also learned a lot about food security, environmental sustainability and community.”
Minga is about connecting people to the right instructor. This unique business offers hands-on workshops in traditional skills to build community resilience. Local artisans teach how to butcher your own pig, can preserves, bake sourdough bread, make your own soap, and more.
Documentary about the popular Art of Butchery workshop on CBC’s Sunday Morning.
Back to Basics
Back in the summer of 2010, Miller and his long-time friend Shane Dennis found themselves spending 40 hours a week picking carrots on a friend’s organic farm. Working away, the two talked of the importance of environmental sustainability, community involvement and the need to provide the local hungry with donations of quality food. These chats led Miller to start a not-for-profit organization called Back to Basics Social developments, which tackles all of these challenges, and more.
Since its inception, Back to Basics has donated 35,000 pounds of organic food to local charities. But getting the food out the door, and the community interested in sustainability hasn’t come without cost. Miller and Dennis needed some way to raise money to keep the organization working. So in 2011, the two fulfilled their dream of opening a café that could provide the community with a place to come together, enjoy fresh food, local art and music and – most importantly – continue to support Back to Basics with its proceeds.
Back to Basics is a group of individuals, mostly volunteers, who are dedicated to eliminating poverty in their community and globally. They believe that through education and action they can elevate their community’s well-being and change the world one step at a time. They are farmers, artists, social activists, community leaders and youth who believe that a sustainable and abundant society is possible, where tools and resources are available to help benefit the overall welfare of society. (Luke Williams )
A silent art auction with a twist: instead of bidding money you bid your hours to volunteer with a community organization.
Working as a business analyst, Anil became interested in designing an efficient database to improve the flow of information. In his spare time, he started to study the issues and social problems affecting Toronto. A visual and a system thinker visual thinker, Anil started to map issues together, understand the system.
When Anil’s mother developed cancer… she explained that the world is more complex than one disease or one issue. She made him promise not to take any short cuts when addressing systemic issues. Approximately six months later, in response to some of the trends and linkages he had mapped, Anil started thinking about a way to bring together COs, volunteers, and artists. The idea of TimeRaiser came to him in what he calls a “bhag” (big hairy audacious goal) moment. Anil immediately put himself to work to turn TimeRaiser into a reality, just as he’d promised his mother he would do.
Anil catalyzes citizens’ engagement through a series of events called TimeRaiser which brings together potential volunteers, citizen organizations (COs), and artists to strengthen everyone’s actions and reach. Volunteers bid on art with volunteer hours that are then invested into the CO of their choice. (Ashoka)
Three Ontario locations: Toronto, Hamilton, and Ottawa. Peterborough has also run an independent TimeRaiser event.
Anisa Mirza is the co-founder and CEO of the crowdfunding platform Giveffect. This platform was built exclusively for charities, non-profits and corporations. Anisa was inspired by the revenue that crowdfunding was able to generate on a yearly basis and decided to apply the same model to charities. She was also searching for a way to integrate social media into the mix to get younger generations involved in donating and contributing to their communities. Giveffect was founded in 2012 and is based in Toronto.
Planet Bean Coffee
Bill Barrett describes himself as the sole survivor of the original group of founders and jokes that his experience building the business has earned him a poor man’s MBA. His official roles are that of media relations, marketing and president of the workers co-operative, but he is prepared to do whatever is required to keep the coffee brewing and promote the organic and fair trade movement.
“I used to buy fair trade coffee, and it sucked,” he said. “It was horrible coffee because it was before this movement came here. I purchased it because of my values.”
During a trip to the U.S. in the late ’90s, he discovered flavour and fair trade are not mutually exclusive.
“For me it actually came from a really good cup of coffee I had in New York City,” he said. “I thought, holy crap, what’s going on here, this is actually tasty.”
He did some research and concluded the future success of organic, fair trade coffee required taking a recipe from the past. (Guelph Mercury)
Since starting in 1997, Guelph’s first roastery has grown to three cafés within the city and a wholesaler. They are a co-op and passionate about promoting fair, sustainable business models and have shown commitment to this through reducing their ecological footprint, partnering with fair trade producers, and advancing organic production.
In 1975, four graduates of the University of Guelph Fine Arts Program launched Ed Video. It was not until the summer of 1976 that Ed Video was incorporated as a non-profit organization with 7 founding directors: Eric Cameron, Ian Easterbrook, Ronald Eyre, Peter Ferraro, Charlie Fox, Noel Harding and Gregory Hill. They felt that there was a lack of access to equipment and resources that promoted creative activity in the community and sought to change this. Ed Video continued to evolve over time, and for many years it was the only video and media centre of its kind between Toronto and Winnipeg. The work of many artists and producers has been broadcast internationally at various international festivals over the years as well.
Camino (La Siembra Co-operative)
La Siembra was established in 1999 by three young entrepreneurs. Having worked overseas, the founders of La Siembra experienced the exploitative nature of trade on the lives of family farmers. These three friends decided to provide Canadian consumers with an alternative to conventionally traded products by establishing a worker-owned co-operative. An organic hot chocolate recipe was developed and Cocoa Camino began packaging products in the community kitchen of First United Church—a socially progressive church in Ottawa, becoming the first fair trade and organic chocolate, sugar and cocoa powder manufacturer and distributor in North America.
Since 1997, Camino’s fair-trade and organic products have spread from its Ottawa origins to the rest of Canada. Camino is owned by La Siembra Co-operative in the Ottawa-Gatineau region of Canada. La siembra means “sowing” or “planting time” in Spanish, a symbol for the seeds of change we are sowing through our co-operative and fair trade business models.
The Remix Project
Gavin Sheppard, a co-founder and CEO of the Remix Project, an arts and cultural incubator working with “at-risk” youth. Gavin was inspired to start a social enterprise for youth who were considered disadvantaged or marginalized. In 2006, there was an escalation in violence amongst young people in Toronto and Gavin was looking for a way to develop a space for young people to acquire skills in through creative artistic programs.
The Remix Project has helped to enhance the talents of young people by providing them with top-notch alternative, creative, educational programs, facilitators and facilities. Over the years, the Remix Project has developed partnerships with other organizations, while providing youth with paid employment in the creative and artistic industries.
Evergreen Brick Works
Geoff Cape is the founding CEO of Evergreen since 1991. Day to day, Geoff is focused on the development and acceleration of good ideas that advance Evergreen’s mission. With a background in real estate development, sustainability and urbanization trends globally, Geoff helps to evolve Evergreen programs to offer leadership solutions for cities and citizens.
Inspired by his father’s decade of learning how to farm organically Tom and his wife Isabelle went back to the family farm to process what his father and mother grew. Established in 1988, Homestead Organics is Eastern Canada’s leading certified organic farm supply and grain processing business. “We are a business-to-business operation located between Ottawa and Cornwall, serving Ontario, Quebec, Atlantic Canada, & New York.” The business distinguishes itself with its dedication to organic agriculture, its range of products, the superior products and customer service, and its extensive outreach and educational supports. They are a staff of 14 with $1 Million in infrastructure.
A MaRS CII SVX Issuer
Izzy Camilleri is one of Canada’s foremost and most celebrated fashion designers. For 30 years, Izzy designed custom clothing for an international clientele, crafted gorgeous collections featured in fashion magazines from Vogue to InStyle, and dressed film industry A-listers like Mark Wahlberg, Angelina Jolie, David Bowie, Jennifer Lopez, Daniel Radcliffe and Meryl Streep. But a turning point in Izzy’s illustrious fashion career came in 2004, when a well-known journalist – who happens to use a wheelchair – contacted Izzy and asked her to design some fashionable, functional clothing. Inspired, Izzy accepted the challenge…and IZ Adaptive was born.
With the launch of her new e-boutique in 2009, Izzy began making IZ Adaptive’s sartorially savvy, super-comfortable, groundbreaking fashions available to people in wheelchairs around the world – and gaining legions of new fans along the way.
Niagara Training and Employment Agency Inc.
John Brennan founded the Niagara Training and Employment Agency Inc. in 1970. He had a vision for his son, Jimmy, and others like him, who were perceived as being unemployable because of their mental, physical and/or emotional limitations. NTEC was born and has blossomed into the unique agency that exists today.
Niagara Training & Employment Agency, or NTEC, is a non-profit organization that empowers people with special needs to participate more fully in community life. Programs such as grounds keeping, landscaping, food services, horticulture, light assembly, and waste management, provide cost-effective solutions for business, and meaningful opportunities and experiences for people with special needs.
John Patterson, the founder of Abbey Gardens in Haliburton County, began with the idea that ordinary people can make a huge environmental difference in their own communities after travelling the world with his family, pursuing his career in community and leadership development. While visiting Butchart Gardens, a national historic site near Victoria, B.C., and the Eden Project in Cornwall, U.K., where unconventional sites were converted to internationally famous gardens, John explored the idea of using a local gravel pit in Haliburton County to start a similar project. Local compost has been collected and used to feed the garden that is now growing in the gravel pit. Other initiatives, like raising chickens and turkeys and growing smaller gardens have contributed to providing local restaurants with organic produce and supply a weekly farmer’s market.
Lynda Watson is the founder of HorseTouch. She is a community builder and creative facilitator as well as youth engagement specialist. HorseTouch assists people in developing their teambuilding, self- leadership and creative thinking skills. Lynda is certified in the field of Equine Facilitated Learning and brings unique learning methods to her co-creative work with the horses. Lynda also attended the Ontario School for Social Entrepreneurs, which provided her with the education and resources she needed to launch HorseTouch.
Marc believes that innovative business models are needed to solve complex societal issues. His time spent at Ashoka working with established social enterprises reaffirmed these ideas and inspired him to contribute to the movement through the creation of Building Up.
Marc is the only known graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business to have canoed across Canada, and he intends to combine lessons learned from the classroom and life in the woods to lead this organization towards its vision.
Building Up is non-profit social enterprise that will install energy and water efficient retrofits in low income housing, while training and employing the marginalized residents of these buildings to carry out the work. We enable non-profit housing providers to reduce utility expenses up to 40% by becoming more environmentally responsible, and simultaneously providing sustainable employment to their tenants.
Marc is a MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, Social Finance Forum 2014 RBC Impact Entrepreneur
MarieNatie Cosmetics founder, Marie started her company based on her love of makeup and everything natural. Inspired by her growing awareness of natural cosmetics and concerned over what she was putting on (and in her skin), Marie researched and sourced ingredients, tested and re-tested products until she felt that she had created the best natural cosmetics. Her goal was to create products that were pretty on the inside and pretty on the outside. Top quality packaging were sourced and selected with the environment in mind. Natural ingredients were carefully selected and tested to create the MarieNatie Cosmetics natural makeup line and her dedication to present the very best ensures that consumers get what they deserve. She wants everyone to love their makeup and to love MarieNatie.
A second generation Canadian with a family background in cosmetics packaging and international trade, Marie has travelled across the world to places such as Italy, Hong Kong and New York in order to enhance her knowledge in this industry. She discovered that many products contain chemicals and was determined to create a line that is free of these harsh ingredients. Furthermore, she wants to ensure that these products contain ingredients that she is confident in, products that she will use herself and share with her friends and family. After years of researching and testing products, she has developed a makeup line that she is proud to call her own. These products will meet the standards of the modern day women on the go.
Mazyar’s passion for community-based initiatives and his understanding of the socio-cultural underpinnings of design and development have played a guiding role in his work. He is actively involved with a variety of different not-for-profit and community groups.
“Our business was started in 1983 by my parents Babak and Tooran. Over the first two decades our primary focus was design and building custom homes. In 2002, we started with our first development project ZED, and since then our focus has shifted from building single family homes to creating homes in multi-unit buildings.” (Urbantoronto.ca)
Shaping Beautiful Cities. TAS believes that great cities are shaped by a strong vision, one that continuously pushes the boundaries of innovation. As city builders, we are in a position to create and contribute to the built environment in such a way that strengthens neighbourhoods, and facilitates community cohesion. By connecting diverse partners and investing in socially innovative enterprises, our buildings reflect the modern concept of what it means to live urban.
Mike Brigham is a Toronto-based small business owner with a passion for renewable energy. In 1985, Mike designed and installed his first off-grid solar electric system at his island cottage north of Toronto. Since then he has designed, installed and helped maintain other off-grid systems for friends and neighbours. Mike is a Director and past chair of the TREC Renewable Energy Co-operative and is both co-founder and president of SolarShare .
SolarShare is a non-profit cooperative with a mission to grow community-based solar electricity generation in Ontario by engaging citizens in projects that offer tangible financial, social and environmental returns.
A MaRS CII SVX Issuer
Backyard Bok Boks
Mike Craig is the founder of Backyard Bok Boks, a social enterprise that provides people with hens and chicken coops so that they can have access to fresh eggs every day, right from their own backyard. Their packages include everything you need to take care of the hens in an urban setting – food, shelter and protection from predators at night. Mike is a strong advocate of local sustainable living and environmental design and hopes to see chickens in every willing backyard.
Screaming Avocado Café
Chef-turned-culinary arts teacher of Stratford Northwestern Secondary School is the inspiration behind the Screaming Avocado Café/blog/website. a place in both real and virtual time that gives the students the ability to communicate with one another and share what they’ve learned – or tasted.
inspired by Californian chef and food activist Alice Waters, he founded the Screaming Avocado Café—a hip culinary arts classroom-cum-restaurant where students from grades 10 to 12 learn to prepare, cook and serve everything from Mussels Puttanesca with fresh saffron noodles to braised rabbit in red wine and Muffuletta Sandwiches (recipe below). Serving 200 meals a day, five days a week, the kids make everything from scratch, using fresh, local ingredients. (Green Living Online)
The Screaming Avocado offers healthy and delicious daily lunches to the student and staff. Our students using locally sourced ingredients from farmers, producers and our own Seeds of Change Garden and Mud To Mouth Farm Project prepare the meals. The Screaming Avocado feeds up to 300 patrons every lunch hour from a black board menu which offers daily gourmet specials ranging from the more commonplace to the exotic.
Fresh City Farms
Ran Goel founded Fresh City Farms to produce organic food right in the city of Toronto. He describes their produce and their mission, “We deliver a fresh, local produce bag right to your door all year round. Our produce is organically grown. We prioritize local, work with fair trade suppliers and use minimal packaging”
Located in Downsview Park, Fresh City Farms includes several acres of vegetables and flowers,a few hives of honey bees and greenhouses for all year round production. His vision is to bring agriculture closer to the city dwellers who consume it. and to “help grow a new generation of planet conscious farmers.”
A MaRS CII SVX Issuer
The Raw Carrot
Rebecca and Colleen founded the Raw Carrot, a non-profit social enterprises that seeks to help those with employment barriers by providing them with skills and confidence to cook healthy homemade fresh and frozen soups and stews which are then sold to the community. The proceeds from the sales fund the salaries of the employees. Each employee has a moving story to tell, one in particular inspires them all with his hard work and drive.
Rebecca and Colleen first conceived of the social enterprise while volunteering with the Paris Presbyterian Church, of which they are both members. In this otherwise largely affluent community, the church runs a drop-in (started by Rebecca and her husband, Joel, who is a minister with the church) for those people who are struggling financially.
Fair Trade Jewellery
Ryan is the Chief Designer (Production) and Robin is CEO. Fair Trade Jewellery Company designs, manufactures retail and distributes the most ethical fine jewellery in the world. Fair Trade Jewellery Company is the first company in North America licensed to use Fairtrade certified gold. Every piece of jewellery Fair Trade Jewellery Company sells has a positive social benefit to artisanal miners and the environment. In fact they only work with artisanal miner co-ops that they’ve personally visited and have made efforts to understand.
“We provide an outlet for artisanal mining communities who are committed to eradicating child labour, improving environmental practices and investing in the future,” Taylor said.
His company is set up to cut out all the middlemen, so that only people directly involved in producing the ring get paid. The miners make more money when they get certified, and instead of scraping out a meagre existence, they’re now sending their children to university to become the next generation of mining engineers. “We provide an outlet for artisanal mining communities who are committed to eradicating child labour, improving environmental practices and investing in the future,” Taylor said. (Toronto Star)
A self-professed foodie, Seema Pabari, the founder of Tiffinday, is dedicated to providing her customers with good food. After 20 years in marketing for some of Canada’s biggest corporations, it was time to reassess, regroup and reinvent. Her deep commitments to environmental sustainability, social justice and access to nutritious food lead her to create Tiffinday, which brings convenience, taste and nutrition to her community.
Tiffinday lunches are delicious, good for you and ethically made to be gentle on our planet. All vegan, everyday, their menu features a delicious variety of dishes from across the Indian Subcontinent where a plant based diet does not mean giving up on taste or nutrition. Their food is available through a litter-less lunch tiffin service, catering, farmers markets and retail.
We believe that innovation & technology provides an ideal platform for companies, non-profits and individuals to work together to drive significant social change. We connect people to brands through fundraising. FlipGive revolutionizes both grassroots fundraising and corporate giving by helping people raise more money faster, driving sales, and giving brands a positive social impact.
“The inspiration for FlipGive came during my MBA at Ivey. Over the summer we did a business case on permission based marketing. I loved technology, but I realized no one was using it is a tool for social good. We started by targeting the advertising industry and our original platform has changed since we began. Now we’ve flipped giving on its head, instead of only having companies donate themselves, we allow companies to enable their customers to fundraise or donate to the causes they care about by shopping”. (Steve to Bmeaningful editor)
“FlipGive is credited with the invention of give-marketing and the associated technology. Give-Marketing is a type of marketing where a company pledges “to give” to a fundraiser in exchange for the fundraisers promoting and selling on the company’s behalf.”( B-Corp)
William (Bill) Marvel
Business management, interest in technology and youth mentorship have been connecting themes themes through most of Bill’s career in business start up and management.. In 2000 he founded CompuCorps , the high tech Canadian charity focused on the needs of other charities, the digital divide and the environment.. This Ottawa-based charity provides at-risk group with access to and training in technology. To date, they offer 3 different programs (TechReuse, TechYouth, TechMentor), are a registered refurbisher, engaged over 250 volunteers, and contributed to over 100 community projects through creating a nonprofit hub for sharing solutions.
Tim Jones, CEO of Artscape, is a champion for the role that the arts play in transforming cities and communities
Artscape is an urban nonprofit that transforms communities by creating spaces for people to collaborate on projects addressing local needs. Also hosts knowledge-sharing events and offers specialized coaching, tailored workshops, and webinars.
Under Tim’s direction since 1998, Artscape has grown from a provider of artist studios in Toronto to an internationally recognized leader in creative placemaking: leveraging the power of arts and culture to act as a catalyst of change, growth and transformation of place. Tim coined this term in 2006; today, city builders around the world employ creative placemaking strategies to make cities more vibrant, prosperous, sustainable and liveable. With Artscape, Tim has built an impressive portfolio of unique facilities that serve hundreds of thousands of people annually, and which play an important role in advancing the arts and culture, public policy agendas, private development interests, community and neighbourhood aspirations and philanthropic missions.