McGill Dobson Presents: The Art of Social Entrepreneurship

By Vlad Shapiro.

On October 28th, the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship hosted various guests to speak about their experiences in the growing field of social entrepreneurship. Various studies have shown that Generation Y has a strong sense of social purpose, with over 64 percent stating it is a priority for them to make the world a better place.

In order to inspire students who are considering social entrepreneurship as a career, the Dobson Centre invited Danica Straith, a founding member of StreetSuds, Augusto Sotelo from Goowi, and Meagan Prins from Penny Drops. Each entrepreneur got 20 minutes to have a round-table discussion with a small group of students, before rotating to the next group.

I was lucky to have been able to sit in on discussions with all three entrepreneurs and learned something new from each one.

Ms. Straith, who won the Dobson Cup in 2011 with StreetSuds (a commercial laundry service that employs and empowers marginalized individuals) had a lot to share with us from her experience in the field. She emphasized the importance of thoroughly understanding the problem you’re trying to solve and evaluating the impact you are having every step of the way.  She also shared the difficulty of recognizing your model may not be having the impact you expected, but affirmed the necessity of reevaluating critically, not giving up in the face of adversity and iterating on your strategy. Ms. Straith is now a Social Innovation Fellow at the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, but StreetSuds lives on in Sainte – Marie, providing an exceptional laundry service to the Montreal Community.

Mr. Sotelo is the founder of Goowi, a company revolutionizing the way corporate philanthropy works. Goowi proposes a new model of “getting to give”; we get money from participating corporations and choose which charities to donate to. Mr. Sotelo made an important point about keeping in mind all the shareholders in your business, whether that’s the customers, the people you’re trying to help, or the people invested in your business. It’s necessary to evaluate how you’re adding value to each aspect of your social enterprise in order to understand the success of your business.

Penny Drops, a growing initiative to spread financial literacy across Canada, shared with us some of the joys they’ve experienced in getting their idea off the ground as well as the challenge they’re facing in deciding how to best scale their company. As a new and quickly growing enterprise, they’re excitement for the future was tangible and inspiring. While they’ve seen their model work around the city of Montreal, they’re currently thinking about how best to scale it across Canada, and eventually, the world. Big plans ahead for this one!

For students looking to learn more about Social Entrepreneurship, check out this article on how to get started or come into the McGill Dobson Centre to get some mentorship about your idea.

Dobson Chronicles

The Dobson Chronicles is the official blog of the McGill Dobson Centre for Entrepreneurship.