By Kaitlin O’Brien, Alumni Relations
What would happen if we provided an environment for socially conscious people that allowed them to bring about change through social entrepreneurship opportunities? It seems that the era of entrepreneurship is upon us, and no place would know that better than the University of Waterloo. GreenHouse has joined the ranks of Velocity in creating an environment for young leaders and social entrepreneurs at UWaterloo to take action on pressing social and environmental problems.
GreenHouse, a St. Paul’s University College initiative, is a live-in community for undergraduate students where they are provided with various support for their social-purpose startups in terms of coaching, mentorship, physical space, access to professional expertise, start-up funding and tools for measuring environmental and social impact. GreenHouse, led by UWaterloo alumna and Director Tania Del Matto (BES ’98, Environment & Resource Studies & Economics, MES ’07, Environmental Studies) began over a year ago when it was realized that there was an unserved group of entrepreneurial people that wanted support and resources to turn their social change aspirations into attainable goals.
Tania’s background makes her the perfect person to lead such an initiative. With over 15 years of experience working with both social-purpose businesses and non-profits. Tania is also an experienced social entrepreneur, having started and operated a national not-for-profit since 2007. In the first 8 years of her career, Tania managed national and international projects on sustainable consumption and production, greening small business and environmental education for both private and public sector clients. In 2007, Tania co-founded My Sustainable Canada (MSC), a national not-for-profit social enterprise.
Speaking to Tania, it’s not difficult to see why the GreenHouse program is such a success. GreenHouse provides students with a broader opportunity to make a difference using their degrees. With a Masters in Environment & Resource Studies and Economics, Tania credits her degree for her success because, “it’s a change maker type of degree,” she notes. “My degree was the perfect fit for me because it caters to people that are unsatisfied with the status quo and want to bring about change.” The opportunity that this new program provides students, coupled with being led by someone as passionate and inspiring as Tania, means that by Fall 2014 the enrollment total for the program will have doubled to 20 students, with a plan to expand to 70 students over the next few years.
GreenHouse is helping students realize their abilities and reach their full potential, and because of that it has seen the likes of Christina Marchand, CEO of Full Soul, take part in the program and gain the necessary knowledge and resources needed to branch off on her own with her social-purpose business. “When you see them shine like that,” Tania reflects, “it’s the best, it’s inspiring.”