Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON, Canada N2L 3G6
Since joining the Epp Peace Incubator in 2015, Rachel Thompson, founder of Marlena Books, has been busy growing her social enterprise. From making sales to developing and beta-testing a Marlena Books app, Thompson and her team have brought the business a long way since its earliest days of incubation.
Despite her busy schedule, Thompson still finds time to participate in pitch competitions to help expand the impact of her social enterprise. On October 17, she competed in the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge in Vancouver, BC and earned first place, winning $75,000 in cash and in-kind prizes.
Starting as a challenge for Canadians to generate novel ideas to support healthy aging, the AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge received an overwhelming number of submissions for the competition. Marlena Books was chosen as a stakeholder favourite amongst the submissions and qualified as a finalist at the AGE-WELL Annual Conference. Thompson competed against seven other finalists that had businesses ranging from games that exercise memory and practice cognitive tasks, to devices that use artificial intelligence to optimize and support clinical decisions.
In spite of the strong line-up of competitors, Marlena Books impressed the judges with its app that provides individuals living with dementia access to age-appropriate, cognitively stimulating, and dignified recreation. Thompson shares that the team at Marlena Books was very encouraged by the positive response from the conference. The overwhelming support for the business reassures their progress and vision, especially with encouraging recaps from conference attendees who are excited by their work and highlight the accessible, personalized, and user-friendly nature of the platform.
The AGE-WELL National Impact Challenge demonstrates a growing movement of support for technology and aging, and funding available for innovative businesses championing this trend. Thompson reflects on this sharing, “It was fun to compete with so many interesting and diverse companies. They were all so deserving and it’s encouraging to see how much innovation is happening in the aging space.”
Marlena Books will use the funding it has received from the competition to accelerate the growth of the app’s version for organizations and introduce version two faster as well, which includes audio reading and graduated reading levels.
We are proud to support Marlena Books in the Epp Peace Incubator, and look forward to seeing how the business continues to advance peace in the space of dignity and aging through social entrepreneurship.