A handful of entrepreneurs are hatching at Winnipeg’s newest social enterprise incubator.
Social Entrepreneurship Enclave was founded by Joanna Nickerson and Richard Tuck, with a mission to support “atypical” entrepreneurs, including women, BIPOC, youth, and members of LGBTQ+ communities. SEE, which opened at the Social Entrepreneurship Centre on Main Street on Oct. 1, is self-described as a hub for social innovation and impactful entrepreneurship.
“It’s really (for) the people that are missing in the usual entrepreneurial scene and programming,” said Nickerson, who is the director of incubation and acceleration programs.
The Social Entrepreneurship Centre recently received $34,000 in funding from the federal government through the Investment Readiness Program, which supports social purpose organizations.
Approximately $20,000 of that went toward the enclave to begin programming and run its first round of mentorships.
This fall, seven entrepreneurs are learning how to develop their startup or social enterprise venture, under the guidance of Nickerson and Tuck, who both have extensive experience in the social innovation field.
“We really want to see entrepreneurship become more accessible to atypical entrepreneurs. So, if we can see long-term, a change in the number of that demographic that goes into entrepreneurship, or tries to start a business, that’s success in our minds,” Nickerson said.
Three of the entrepreneurs are hoping to launch their product within the next year.
SUBSCRIPTION BOX SUPPORTS INDIGENOUS MOTHERS-TO-BE
When Courtney Dale Clemons was pregnant with her three children, her grandmother gifted her a box each time, comprising items to support Clemons during her child-bearing experience. Her grandmother called it “Baby’s First Box.” This served as inspiration for Clemons’ start-up business.
“She was there for me, and my mom was there for me when I had each of my children. But a lot of expectant mothers don’t have the same supports that I had and the same opportunities I had,” Clemons, 32, said.
“It feels like she put her love into that box and gave it to my child and me. And it was beautiful. And I want other women to experience that.”
This is why Clemons established White Thunder Cloud Project — a subscription box for Indigenous mothers-to-be, designed to support them throughout their pregnancy and postpartum.
Items in the box may include pre-made bannock mixes, clothing, beaded jewelry, arts and crafts supplies. Clemons is hoping to procure as many items as possible from local artists, makers and businesses.
“I’ve seen other baby boxes, but nothing that is specifically Indigenous,” she said.
Clemons explained the subscription service, which is not yet up and running, will follow a moon cycle. So, a subscriber will receive a box each moon rather than each month. “The moon is very connected to the Indigenous culture,” she said.
Clemons, an Elmwood resident, has a certificate in social innovation and community development from Red River College. Now, she’s learning about the entrepreneurial process at Social Entrepreneurship Enclave and hopes to launch the service, which is called after her spirit name, in January.
CONNECTING YOUTH AND IMPROVING LITERACY RATES
Michele Lemonius already has experience running a social enterprise. But, she’s developing a new program designed to enhance literacy rates among youth.
Lemonius and Michele Mundy co-founded BreakingNew, a two-year-old social impact organization that works to eliminate sexual violence and exploitation in communities in Jamaica through community consultation and empowerment programs.
For example, in one community BreakingNew established a girls-only soccer program to teach them how to build confidence, competence, character and connection, she explained.
Lemonius was born in Jamaica and immigrated to Canada more than 30 years ago. She holds an MA in conflict analysis and management from Royal Roads University in B.C., an MA in adult education from St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, and is currently completing a PhD in peace and conflict studies at the University of Manitoba.
Lemonius said she noticed literacy issues within the communities BreakingNew was working in.
“Literacy is a huge issue when you’re in a low-income community,” Lemonius said. “They may not have as much access to develop their literacy skills. So, it led me to create a literacy project, and that’s something we’re working on now.”
The project will provide a platform where youth with low literacy rates from economically poor countries are connected to youth with high literacy rates from economically wealthy countries. Similar to pen pals, the youth can communicate and read together. The goal is to make the platform available to schools.
“That will open a huge door for both kids, because they will have so much learning,” Lemonius said.
By improving literacy rates in low-income communities, she hopes to eliminate a “root cause” that leads females into situations of sexual violence and exploitation.
Lemonius, a St. Vital resident, is currently working alongside SEE mentors to develop and eventually test the project. “I see it as something very simple — just putting together things that are already there.”
BLOOMBOX EDUCATES ON ‘TABOO’ SUBJECT
Normalize sexual education, wellness and pleasure, and make it accessible to the community — that’s Sheena Rattai’s mandate.
The 35-year-old West Broadway resident is a co-founder of BloomBox, a subscription box service designed for sexual exploration and pleasure, that offers education, products, and support for adults who were brought up in a society that stigmatized pleasure.
When she was growing up, Rattai said, the sex education curriculum in school failed to cover a number of important concepts and focused on pregnancy prevention.
“I think there’s a lot left out,” she said. “It’s not a very holistic approach, or a very inclusive and all-encompassing approach.
“We live in such a sexualized world. It’s astounding to me that we don’t better prepare youth and even adults for the kinds of conversations that I think, are really important to be able to practise safer sex, both physically and emotionally.”
The idea of BloomBox had been brewing in Rattai’s mind for some time. Ten years ago, she became involved as a facilitator with a Vancouver-based program called Safeteen, which aims to empower youth in their social, emotional, survival, physical, mental and sexual safety.
“This program was very valuable for me because a big focus of it — for everybody, but especially for the girls workshop — is empowerment, is learning that we have a voice.
“And that just kind of set me on a path of becoming more and more comfortable with my own voice, more and more comfortable with my own boundaries,” Rattai said.
This is what she’s hoping to help others accomplish with BloomBox. Rattai plans to pilot a prototype of the box in the coming months and launch the full service later on in 2021.
It’s really (for) the people that are missing in the usual entrepreneurial scene and programming.