Tag Archives: Social Entrepreneurship

7 Years of Patience

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks, Flickr Creative Images

There is a big story in Vancouver that is garnering little public attention but it is a great story. It is a story of commitment, of patience, of passion and of fortitude. Trevor Bowden, Jacob Malthouse, and Anastasia O’Rourke founded Big Room in 2007, here in Vancouver, with an aim to coordinate the community’s application for the .eco top level domain.

Back in 2007 Vancouver hadn’t hosted the Winter Olympics. William and Kate hadn’t married. The iPhone 4 hadn’t been released, let alone the 5 or the 6. The economic meltdown hadn’t happened. While 2007 seems a long time ago, it was the year that this dynamic team gave birth to the idea that the release of the .eco domain would be best served in the hands of a community body, not a private sector organization. With patience, passion and creativity these people have lived this dream for 7 years, taking on board supporters at every step of the way. There was no guarantee of a win, particularly as only one other community application had ever won a domain before them (.hotel).

Several weeks ago ICAAN (the body that monitors the global Domain Name System) announced Big Room as the winners of the bid.  For seven years, the Big Room team has patiently followed it’s dream, shifting fluidly from goal post to goal post as the ICAAN released ever-changing requirements.  In our fast-paced world, where we demand results immediately, this kind of determination and patience is dwindling and unheralded. It is simply fantastic that Big Room has beaten it’s competitors, that it’s investors have stayed behind the dream and with the team every step of the way, and that the future of the .eco domain is in the hands of Global Community Leaders.


Photo courtesy of davidpball.com Google Images

Congratulations to Trevor, Jacob and all of your ‘crew’ that have made this happen.

One planet, one internet, one domain.

#doteco @doteco

Scholarships Supporting Entrepreneurs

By Rebecca Cuttler

How Hollyhock is Supporting Entrepreneurs, One Scholarship at a Time

The first time I met Thara Vayali, I spent the first half of our conversation learning about her practice as a naturopathic doctor, and the second half trying to convince her to join me at Social Venture Institute 2013. We had met at an event curated by Loaded Bow, a Vancouver networking group for women entrepreneurs. Thara was telling me about her practice’s innovative pricing plan that makes it easier for families to cover the expenses of her services, and about the care and heart that she puts into her patients. It was just a few weeks before Social Venture Institute Hollyhock, and she seemed like exactly the sort of person who should be attending. But she told me that she’d put it into consideration for next year.

So it was to my surprise that when I arrived at Hollyhock on September 18 and settled into the comfy Lodge, Thara was the first person I saw. When I asked what convinced her to attend, she explained that it was the availability of a scholarship that tipped the balance, both as a monetary support and as a vote of confidence.
Continue reading Scholarships Supporting Entrepreneurs

People With Purpose

A Conversation With Joel Solomon.

Hollyhock Board Chair Joel Solomon talks about living with a purpose and what that means to him, what he enjoys and what inspires him in life.


Guest Post by a Secret Change Hero, via The Change Heroes

For certain audiences there are some people who really need no introduction. In the hearts and minds of many social entrepreneurs, Joel Solomon’s name resonates with special meaning.

Scan some of our past People with Purpose conversations and his name often makes an appearance.

It’s the present of what he’s doing, his humble presence and generous being that evokes almost a sense of wonderment in those who know him or have heard of his work. Taking time out from responsibilities including his roles as Chairman of Renewal Funds (Canada’s largest social venture capital fund); founding member of Social Venture Network (SVN), Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the Tides Canada Foundation and Board Chair of Hollyhock Foundation, to share some thoughts with us is meaningful. We’ll be forever grateful.

For a man who includes “Activating Money for Change” as a moniker, here’s our conversation that’s not really all that much about money.

Hollyhock Retreat Centre

What does living with purpose mean to you?

“One has to do the hard work of self-exploration and discover what you actually care about. For me, getting a health diagnosis telling me that I was going to die, is a reminder that we’re all going to die and there’s nothing we can do about it… so it’s wise as early in life as possible and throughout life to check in with the perspective of what life might look like from the death bed.”

“It’s important to guide one’s life from some sense of why… what is it that you want to leave as a legacy, and as your contribution to the world. I found that by exploring that question, it doesn’t end, you have to ask it over and over again. The clearer my choices and decisions are in personal relationships, professional relationships, and how I spend my time, it becomes a source of deep joy and nourishment. Purpose is a guiding light, an inner knowing of why, and it becomes a guidance tool for each little choice… what’s integrity, what’s authentic, why I’m doing each thing that I do? The clearer you get about your purpose, the more you know how to live your life.”


What inspires you to give?

“I feel that I’m among the most privileged people who have lived on the earth. Not suggesting there’s like only five of us, but rather we’re living in an era where many of us have access to food, shelter, wisdom, music, travel, goods and services from all over the world, and we can talk what we want to talk about.”

“It’s an incredible privilege to live in this time where human ingenuity has created so much , so many wonders, at the same time I’m less confident that wisdom has kept up with ingenuity. We’ve created the ability to harvest, exploit, manufacture and create… things like great cars and other great products; but if one is aware of how blessed and privileged we are to have so much, giving becomes a responsibility that is inherent with having. I think having and giving and generosity, is a philosophy of life that has to do with purpose and is why we’re here.”

give back words  in wood fonts

“So the more that I’m given, and more access to all of these blessing that I have, it carries with it a component which requires that I have to take responsibility to also give. I believe there’s an energetic formula and an equation… the best way to receive is to give more. The more I do it, the more I see what I’ve gotten in return, in terms of love, caring, friendship. Giving is sharing of ourselves.”

What do you find most rewarding about what you are doing?

“It’s gives me access to some of the very best of what people have to offer. As an investor, it means some people have entrusted some of their money with me (people are pretty attached to their money) so that is a great privilege. This also means I can, from time to time, write a cheque to support someone…I get people’s best intention to put their ideas out, and be as effective as they can and really share of themselves.I actually get a fantastic human experience from this very transactional world that I live in.”

“I also spend as much time as I can meeting with people who are career changing, or meeting with young people asking about direction in life, or giving a certain amount of my time to people who believe there’s something I can share with them… because hearing other peoples experience — what matters to them, what they’ve seen, how they think about things — there’s no better learning school for me.”

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your young self?

“I would be sure to devote a significant priority of life to understanding the emotional, spiritual, psychological, relational connections… appreciating this will get you through everything.”

“Money, business, accomplishment, ego, fame, they won’t get you through the things that really matter, and so I would make it a part of my daily life, my weekly life, my monthly life, my annual life to use inquiry and self-exploration, and mutual exploration, to understand life better, to understand myself better, to understand how better to relate to others, and relate better to the deeper questions.”

Who/what is the coolest person/brand making a positive difference in the world?

“My wife Dana (CEO of Hollyhock), how she cares for that place, and oversees it’s impossible business model.”

“Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson for going from a caring and successful entrepreneur into one of the least popular pursuits these days… politics. I’m inspired that he’s willing to go into the trench warfare that politics tends to be and keeps his centre, his purpose, and his values intact. He’s smart on a pragmatic level and is also carrying a vision for what matters in the future, and doing his very best to deliver that to all of us.”

What could you talk about all night?

“Pretty much all of what we’ve been talking about. I like hanging out with people who are questioning , doing honest inquiry, and loving inquiry. I like kicking back and talking about big philosophical questions, and esoteric things like the future of humankind. It’s about bringing it down to a practical and personal level. I feel like people have gotten distracted from having a grounded understanding of the meaning of life. We’re very, very smart and quite effective at a lot of things, but I think the kind conversation we can’t get enough of —what matters — is missing in our broader social discourse.

Do you have a motto or quote that inspires you?

“What a long strange trip it’s been…” Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead)

Random fact about you?

“In my mid-twenties (early ‘80’s) I was the caretaker of the Pacific Killer Whale Foundation on a remote island at the northern tip of Vancouver Island and given three basic instructions… feed the dogs, turn on the tape recorder when the Orcas come, and don’t burn down the house. I spent 3 years living most of the time alone, appreciating the deep silence, voraciously reading and connecting with nature, it was a real hunting, foraging, and gathering experience. When I arrived I didn’t know how to run a motor boat, or use a chainsaw.”

He shared a great parting message… “it’s all about love. I’d like to be a billionaire of love.”

There’s no doubt our communities, and our planet will be a lot healthier if more of us aspired to be billionaires of love.

Watch Joel Solomon’s TEDx Talk:

Mamma Chia’s True Confessions at SVI Women

BY HILARY MANDEL via Junxion Strategy

Like any good entrepreneur, Janie Hoffman gets excited by the thought of seed money. In her case, that seed is chia, which she sells in a variety of delectable snacks and drinks through the company she started in 2009, Mamma Chia. Based in Southern California, Hoffman is making her way to Vancouver, British Columbia for this week’s SVI Women to share the trials and tribulations of running a fast-growing company competing in an equally fast growing food and beverage category – one that she started.

Janie_HoffmanA Company Born From a Mission

Hoffman founded the first organic chia-based food and beverage company without any business or industry-specific experience. “I was teaching meditation and consciousness, and leading workshops on mindfulness and effective leadership,” Hoffman recalls, “when I fell in love with chia seeds. It wasn’t that I had a burning desire to start something – it was a pure passion for chia seeds and wanting to spread the love of chia.”

When Hoffman realized that the best way to “spread the love” was to start a company, she knew it would have to align with her social and environmental values. So before her product was even on the shelf, Mamma Chia had joined 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of annual gross sales to support farmers, community groups and organizations that are building healthy, local food systems.

At the same time, Mamma Chia became a certified B Corporation and a founding member of the Slow Money Alliance, a network of food entrepreneurs who are rebuilding local food systems around the U.S. In fact, Hoffman will arrive in Vancouver directly from the Slow Money Conference in Boulder, where she’ll be presenting a $50,000 Entrepreneur of the Year Award on behalf of Mamma Chia. “The social and environmental mission was at the heart of this company from the start,” Hoffman says emphatically. “If it hadn’t been, Mamma Chia wouldn’t have been born.”

Leading By Example

inset-image-02When she first shared the idea with her friends of an organic chia-based beverage company, many thought she was crazy. Having somewhat naively created a whole new category of beverages herself, Hoffman ponders, “I always wonder if takes someone from outside the food and beverage world to make that happen, someone who doesn’t really know the business that well.” Obviously, Hoffman didn’t let the naysayers deter her. Almost immediately after her first product launched in Whole Foods stores across the U.S. in 2011, Hoffman’s company took off by storm, helping to spread the love of chia to thousands of new customers. With shelf space in a growing number of major retail grocery chains, Hoffman has received numerous awards, including BevNET’s Best Non-Carbonated Beverage of 2011, and has received national media coverage.

“The cool thing is that by being a leader in your field by ‘doing good,’ you inspire other folks,” says Hoffman. She loves hearing from people who were motivated by hearing about Mamma Chia at the BevNET conference to join 1% for the Planet or become a certified B Corporation. “In the beverage world, natural products are a drop in the bucket,” she says. “Being able to inspire others to bring that [sensibility] into their culture and mission is fabulous.”

Supporting Women Entrepreneurs

Mamma-Chia-Logo-Fullsize-150x150When asked what excites her most about attending her first SVI Women as a True Confessions speaker, Hoffman immediately replies, “My heart is in supporting female entrepreneurs, so l love the idea of women coming together and sharing their stories.” She continues, “Women who have a mission to make the world a better place through whatever venue they choose, and sharing in that process and empowering one another – that floats my boat.”

Hoffman is still surprised that, given where her life was just a few years ago, she has created a successful commercial enterprise in the packaged goods world. “It wouldn’t have happened but for this bringing of two worlds together – the love of chia and conscious capitalism.”


Social Venture Institute Women is taking place at SFU Woodwards  World Arts Centre in Vancouver, May 1-3, 2013.


Meet Our Friend SPUD

binonporchFounded on the idea that there should be a more sustainable way to buy your groceries, SPUD.com has been connecting local farmers and food producers to the community by using a just-in-time home delivery system. The result is fresher food, and healthy convenience delivered to your door. Similar to an online farmer’s market, SPUD strives to make local, healthy food accessible and the new norm for everyday grocery shopping. Every product from SPUD is certified organic or locally and sustainably produced. Customers can choose from a wide variety including local and organic produce, organic grass-fed meats, gluten-free products, organic dairy products, healthy snacks, and more.

While working with local farmers and food producers is a priority at SPUD, so is delivering local and organic groceries to customers in a green and sustainable way. Every purchase at SPUD includes an “Eco-Audit” that allows customers to track their carbon footprint reduction by not driving a car to the grocery store.

SPUD has also developed a program to collect and reuse a wide variety of difficult to recycle items through TerraCycle’s Brigades collection programs. For every item recovered, TerraCycle donates 2 cents to charity. SPUD will match that amount for a total of 4 cents per item. Once collected, items are upcycled into a variety of consumer products such as toys and office supplies.

COMlogo-125x125SPUD is also active in the six communities it serves, supporting local community organizations and charities through it’s Community Outreach Program. By utilizing their delivery fleet, SPUD is able to collect donations from customers during various drives throughout the year. Whether the drive be focused on prom dresses, winter coats, school supplies or canned goods, all donations go directly to the charitable foundations SPUD is partnered with. Learn more about SPUD and how it’s contributing to a cleaner, greener and easier way to shop at www.spud.com.