Equip Yourself for The Challenge of a Lifetime

everest-summit-2010There is no more challenging a career route to take than that of an entrepreneur.  The personal pressures, the loneliness, the financial demands and the uncertainty can be overwhelming at times.  But like getting to the top of Mount Everest, the rewards can be deep and life-changing….if the challenges don’t kill you first!

Use the Resources Developed for Entrepreneurs

There are a few events and resources focused on social entrepreneurs but nothing like the number created for entrepreneurs in general, especially start-ups.  If, as a social entrepreneur, you’re ignoring events and resources for “traditional” entrepreneurs, then you are missing valuable knowledge and access to relevant networks.

Why participate?  First, the overlap is vast between the skills, knowledge and character needed to be a successful social entrepreneur and a traditional entrepreneur.  Whether you’re innovating as a nonprofit, for-profit or a co-operative, business-building skills are paramount if you’re going to grow a sustainable organization that realizes its social mission.  After all, social entrepreneurs are not unique in being mission-driver – 95% of all entrepreneurs are driven by mission, not money.

Second, events like Start-Up Weekends (of which there are a number every year across Canada; we just had one in York Region)  give you the opportunity to learn from your colleagues no matter their walk of life.  You’re all struggling to get a start-up going and sustainable; you share a lot.

Social Enterprise Resources in York Region

VentureLAB is one of 17 Regional Innovation Centres (RIC’s) in the Ontario Network of Entreprenuers (ONE), situated in Markham just north of Toronto. Normally, ventureLAB’s focus is on entrepreneurs in ICT, CleanTech and Healthcare. I am tasked as an Entrepreneur-In-Residence to mentor entrepreneurs and teach entrepreneurship with most of my focus on social entrepreneurs.   I have a handful of social entrepreneurs as clients from diverse sectors: education to sustainability to food security.

In 2014 we held the first Mash-Up at ventureLAB.  This was a Start-Up Weekend type event for social entrepreneurs focused on solutions for food insecurity and youth unemployment.  We had 30 applications and 3 ventures ended up getting funded.  We will repeat this in 2015.

In addition to ventureLAB, York Region has a number of other outlets for social entrepreneurs.  For York Region youth between 18-29, Seneca College has an incubator called Helix – Health Entrepreneurship and Lifestyle Innovation Xchange.  York University has just launched  a new incubator for students – Launch YU.  The program will identify students and youth interested in entrepreneurship as a career.  Finally, the York Entrepreneurship Development Institute, YEDI, is an incubator that takes in both for profit and nonprofit organizations with venture ideas.

Global Impact Competition 2015 in York Region

One of the major events to be held this year for entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers with a social mission will be the 2015 Global Impact Competition.  The competition occurs annually with a different theme each year.  In Canada, the challenge for 2015 is, “How can we improve the standard of living for one million Canadians within the next three to five years through the use of technology?”

The event will be a chance to share great ideas with equally passionate innovators.  The winner will be invited to attend the Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University in California free of charge of or reduced fees.  There is a maximum of 80 attendees and the application deadline is March 2, 2015.

The Canadian Global Impact Competition will be held in April in York Region, organized by ventureLAB and a number of partners.  Don’t miss it.

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