The Big Ideas Challenge for Social Good went big this year and awarded 10 fellowships to aspiring social entrepreneurs: Five in a ‘People and Wellbeing’ category, and five in a ‘People and Planet’ category.
The competition, which was organized by St. Paul’s GreenHouse, had a circus tent theme. Director Tania Del Matto said that’s because GreenHouse seeks to “expand the tent of youth-led social innovation and entrepreneurship as a pathway for young people to build the business and career skills they need to be problem solvers and leaders.”
The fellowships consist of a stay in GreenHouse from May to August 2016. Recipients will receive training, mentorship, and access to $15,000 in startup funding. Ventures that were not successful in being awarded a fellowship have been offered additional time with GreenHouse staff to map out the next steps to move their ideas forward.
The fellowships were open to all Waterloo Region social entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 29. Sixty-nine different emerging social ventures expressed interest in submitting, with 22 of these being invited to participate in a closed boardroom pitch competition on March 7.
The five fellowship recipients in the area of People and Wellbeing were:
Nikhil Jagga, whose product HeadHealth is a discreet wrist counter to help those with anxiety and/or depression;
Tina Chan, who is developing PASS Kit, an alternative to online stress relief support;
Zied Etleb, whose venture Curiato is developing an adjustable pressure mattress to prevent bedsores;
Sharita Henry, who is developing SUNSHINE, an integrated support system for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorders; and,
Nayani Rajamohan, of Saakshi Innovations, whose social enterprise supports the South East Asian classical performing arts.
In the areas of People and Planet, the fellowship recipients were:
Renata Burns. who is developing AdNature, a website to make it easier for people in the Waterloo Region to find outdoor recreational activities;
Richard Norton. who is using public art installations to teach people about local food systems and sustainability through his project, The Edible Art Project;
Richard Yim, whose project, Landmine Boys, is building an autonomous machine to defuse land mines safely and without detonation, thus saving the land to use for farming;
Joanna Hausen, whose social venture Bee Balm is concerned with healthy, natural and ethically sourced skin care products; and,
Timothy Lipp, who is creating microenterprises in Kenya around clean cook stoves through his venture, Stoke.
Joanna Hausen said, “The fellowship is a wonderful opportunity for young entrepreneurs like ourselves to feel supported and challenged as we pursue a sustainable social venture. We cannot thank everyone involved with the Greenhouse program enough.”
At a celebratory dinner on March 8, GreenHouse acknowledged the support of sponsor Libro Credit Union Prosperity Fund and its strong alignment with GreenHouse in terms of supporting the wellbeing of people, businesses and communities. GreenHouse also appreciates the Ontario Centres of Excellence’s Youth Entrepreneurship Sponsorship Program, which sponsored the Big Ideas Challenge and which is a leader in providing resources and supports to entrepreneurs at all stages of their startup journey.
Jordan Moat, who spoke on behalf of Libro, said,
This event brings innovative and outstanding youth leaders of our community together to engage, collaborate, and come up with solutions for Social Good. It’s aligned with one of the three pillars of Libro’s Community Engagement Program – youth leadership – so important to the success of building strong, vibrant communities. We are passionate about supporting initiatives that collectively grow prosperity for the region and inspire people, businesses and organizations to achieve their prosperity dreams.”