There is a lot of noise in today’s media about people chasing financial freedom. However, there is a growing minority of people who have their sights on a different “chase” – one that makes an impact by addressing social challenges while improving lives, communities and the environment – social entrepreneurship. Just making money is not enough for this dynamic group of game-changers. Join us as we discuss an innovative youth-led video project that redefines what it means to live in New Brunswick while creating meaningful opportunities for this generation and the next.
Welcome to a sample article of Brilliant Labs Magazine: The Entrepreneurial Spirit where we will explore what it means to be an entrepreneur through over 60 stories like this one of youth, educators and established entrepreneurs alike. We hope you enjoy this glimpse into the student led video SocialPreneur1.0
SocialPreneur 1.0 – The Video
SocialPreneur 1.0 is a short video documentary about social entrepreneurship in New Brunswick launched
this past February at Saint John High School. It was researched, written and directed by former SJHS students, Ethan Hickey and Hojun Lee, and produced in partnership with Hemmings House Pictures. The idea for the video came about as a response to the lack of relevant educational materials on entrepreneurship that students could relate to and discuss. Intended to be a youth-focused video, the project was entirely created and led by youth – who better to engage and inspire today’s youth than their peers?
SocialPreneur 1.0 engages students by connecting with their Millennial ingenuity and sensibilities, and their focus on sustainable development. In telling a different story about entrepreneurship, the video features some of New Brunswick’s leading entrepreneurs sharing their insights and advice about social entrepreneurship, its impact upon the province, and the opportunities for young people to combine social purpose with business.
Gabriel Nolan, narrator and Saint John High School graduate, opens the video by introducing viewers to a typically grim view of New Brunswick. A province with an average of 940 people leaving each year – 3 people exiting daily – and of course, the aging population concern. To paint an even darker future, we are also reminded of the 17.1% youth unemployment rate.
While this is a bleak glimpse of the current reality, Ethan and Hojun quickly turn the viewer’s attention to the possibilities of entrepreneurship in New Brunswick, with its over 25,000 businesses and home to growing entrepreneurial communities. With breathtaking drone videos of the province’s natural beauty as a backdrop, the video exposes students to the potential of creating economic opportunities that support communities and the planet. Gabriel explains the purpose of the documentary is to show New Brunswickers a side of the province that is often overlooked: “The side that has a true passion for sustainable development, the side that cares about communities and the environment. The side of Social Entrepreneurship”.
Through social entrepreneurship, students learn how to look at a situation critically to find ways of solving or improving it through business. This not only develops their entrepreneurial spirit, know-how and skills, but also the essential “human skills” that go along with becoming a successful social entrepreneur:
having awareness and possessing empathy
identifying solutions and business opportunities
taking direct action
communicating with purpose
undertaking lifelong learning.
Why are human skills more important for students to learn today than ever before? As the workplace becomes increasingly technology-focused, human skills will play a critical role for future employees to be adaptable in navigating pervasive technologies like AI, robots and machines, rather than competing with them. Furthermore, encouraging a social entrepreneurial mindset in young people develops an informed conscience that stimulates their creative thinking and enhances their problem-solving skills. This sets the stage for New Brunswick to redefine itself through a whole new generation of “doers, makers and cutting-edge thinkers”. Ethan and Hojun are two doers, makers and thinkers who have done an excellent job unpacking this form of entrepreneurship.
The Social Entrepreneurs in SocialPreneur 1.0
In SocialPreneur 1.0, business leaders from five New Brunswick social entrepreneurships joined the conversation to help unpack the social entrepreneur concept: Community Forests International, PLATO Testing, Porpoise, Naveco Power and Stone Soup.
“Entrepreneurship is a very rewarding journey,
but part of it is you have to take risk…
you will fail… learn from it…
keep fighting and try again…
some people say it’s having GRIT.”
– Amit Vermani, Founder & CEO, Naveco Power Inc.
Amit Vermani is the perfect example of a provincial repatriate. He studied at Queens University and operated his own business in Ontario for several years. He is now the Founder and CEO of Naveco Power Inc.
In the video, Gabriel asks what Amit thinks about so many youth exiting the province– “We often don’t realize what we have until we leave. Home is where the heart is and the heart is New Brunswick.
So when you come home, social entrepreneurship allows a lot of opportunity for New Brunswick kids to mix passion with doing good in the community as well as working on a project here in NB that supports businesses as well”.
Keith McIntosh, Founder, PLATO Testing, explains “I don’t think it’s a new thing, probably a new name, but people have been helping themselves for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
Keith thinks when people look out for their neighbours and ask “How do I make my environment and ecosystem better?” they feel like they own some of the solutions rather than just doing their jobs for a salary. “It changes the way people look at things”.
“People think of entrepreneurship as a way to get rich…
social entrepreneurship has a business sense, a way to make money,
with the social part instilling a tie to the community.”
Keith McIntosh, Co-CEO of PQA, Founder of PLATO
Through Gabriel’s genuine narration and interviewing in the video, we sense how much he cares about the project and is looking for answers. He asks Jeff Schnurr, Chairperson, Community Forests International, about an off-camera comment regarding the abundance of opportunities and resources we have in the province. “We often focus on what we don’t have… we need to start celebrating what we have, which is amazing land, really smart people who can do literally anything and combine that with some of the cutting-edge things happening globally, and really make something that’s unique to who we are as New Brunswickers… but New Brunswick isn’t for everybody… If you go [away], you’re still from here, even if you don’t move back here you’re still contributing ideas back to this place… and I think that’s invaluable”.
“The truly great entrepreneurs aren’t the ones who have taken the standard path everyone has been on. They’re the ones that have seen things around the world, tried things that didn’t work out – just had a unique experience.”
Jeff Schnurr, Chairperson, Community Forests International
With 17.1 percent youth unemployment rate it’s hard for youth to picture this province as being a place for growth. Claire Ashton, Social Enterprise Developer at the Saint John Learning Exchange ismore optimistic. Claire sees a different picture: “Millennials or people who don’t want to work for big
corporations… but who see the value in their work having a social impact are attracted to social entrepreneurship… I can see it growing for that reason.
It’s a different set of values that people who are just getting into the workforce have and so it’s a good opportunity to do business, but to do it in a way that aligns with our values.” Saint John Learning Exchange is a nonprofit organization offering adult education, training and career development. To help fund their programs, they have created two businesses or social enterprises that provide services to the local market and operates under a self-sufficiency model that historically was only practiced in for-profit businesses. Voila!, Stone Soup Catering and the Impact Market employ program participants at a living wage, with profits supporting fund core programs. This powerful, self sufficiency model helps to transform lives for the long-term.
“Social Entrepreneurship has a different set of values that people who are just getting into the workforce have, and so it’s a good opportunity to do business, but to do it in a way that aligns with our values.”
Claire Ashton, Saint John Learning Exchange/Stone Soup
Dan Gillis, Co-Founder of Porpoise is another social entrepreneur who calls New Brunswick home because of its opportunity and connectedness. “That’s why I’m here.” Dan shares with Gabriel that great opportunity lies in the 750,000 people of the province and their close proximity – it’s this connectedness that offers great opportunities for collaboration and innovation. Porpoise helps companies make a big impact in their communities by supporting them to develop a robust Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) workplace culture through an exclusive software platform that engages and inspires employees. This is exactly why social entrepreneurship should not be considered a fad, rather an age old method of sustaining ourselves, communities and our planet. SocialPreneur 1.0 has done a great job at introducing students (peers) to the option of social entrepreneurship in New Brunswick. Feeling good about who you are and what you do is an important first step in carving out a path in whatever education or career path you choose. In the end there is a trinity of potential benefits that will create innovations with healthy and sustainable methods for the business/individual, community and planet. Introduce your students to SocialPreneur 1.0 and be prepared to spark a positive outlook, creativity and innovation!
SocialPreneur 1.0 was titled with 1.0 as a starting point. Its producers intend for future videos to feature more women, as well as people from other cultures and ethnicities as the movement grows in New Brunswick and beyond.
Watch SocialPreneur 1.o by visiting the Brilliant Labs YouTube Channel and see first hand what SocialPreneur 1.o contributors are doing by visiting at these links:
Community Forests International
Naveco Power Incorporated
Saint John Learning Exchange
The video project was made possible through the generous support of Enterprise Saint John, Historica,
RBC Foundation, and the Governments of Canada and New Brunswick.
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