The concept of social enterprise can often be daunting. Building a business that aims not only to generate profit, but to solve a social and/or environmental problem is difficult enough, but finding a community that is receptive to adjusting traditional business approaches to this new model can be even harder. We are proud to say that the Lancaster has both the innovative ideas as well as the local support to make social enterprise a strong foundation of our community.
On September 25, the Great Social Enterprise Pitch concluded with a Shark Tank-style live pitch event showcasing the top five business ideas that moved on from the crowd-funding stage of the competition. Presenting a five minute pitch for a panel of judges representing businesses in the community, the finalists competed for thousands of dollars in prize money and pro-bono services.
Here are the three winners for the 2015 Great Social Enterprise Pitch:
1st Prize ($5,000 and a package of pro-bono services totaling more than $25,000)
Already a quickly-growing business in the Lancaster area, The Stroopie Co. seeks to build on their commitment to hire members of the refugee population. Partnering with several other confectionary makers, The Stroopie Co. will open the “Lancaster Sweet Shoppe” with the hope of hiring refugees for full-time positions, giving them the tools they need to successfully acclimate to the community as well as become successful in their future ventures.
Make 717 Innovation Center
2nd Prize (($2,500 AND PACKAGE OF PRO-BONO SERVICES)
The Make 717 Innovation Center will provide community members with the tools they need to develop, collaborate, and hone their skills together, providing real-life innovation opportunities. Through the purchase of a membership at the Innovation Center, participants will have access to workshops in coding, machining, 3D printing, CAD engineering, sewing, and more.
3rd Prize ($1,000 AND PACKAGE OF PRO-BONO SERVICES)
Working with the homeless women in Lancaster county (in conjunction with Water Street Ministries), Revolution will train women through weekly crafter workshops. These crafters will be paid to create unique, handcrafted jewelry pieces while also learning essential skills to obtaining and sustaining employment. The jewelry will be sold through local retail outlets and online. Through its work, Revolution will raise awareness about issues of homelessness, and provide opportunities for women to not only earn an income, but also to build self-worth, hope and the ability to thrive in the workplace.
While there were only three prize packages awarded, the contribution and work of all eight 2015 social enterprise ideas cannot be understated, nor should their effect on the Lancaster community be forgotten.
Together, the businesses crowdfunded $42,500 for their business ideas, increasing last year’s crowdfunding total by nearly 200%. In addition, the businesses engaged more than 700 individual contributors in their crowdfunding campaigns, more than ever before. Finally, nearly 400 people attended the live pitch, surpassing the previous year’s attendance.
The evidence is clear: social enterprise is not only a more ethical and sustainable way to conduct business, it is a way to bring our community together to learn about practical solutions to issues in our society.
We can’t wait to see what next year’s Great Social Enterprise Pitch participants will create!
Learn more about the Great Social Enterprise Pitch at LancasterPitch.org