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HBA students share their talents with social entrepreneurs

  • Communications
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  • Dec 16, 2014
HBA students share their talents with social entrepreneurs

HBA student Jasmine Kassam presenting at the Social Enterprise Showcase event on December 4

Whether helping a Kenya-based coffee producer to expand or a youth drop-in centre sell youth-produced artwork, HBA students are making a difference.

Students in Professor Oana Branzei’s Social Enterprise course lent their business expertise to 12 social enterprises in London, Ontario and beyond to help the organizations accelerate their impact. Working in teams, the students discussed with the social entrepreneurs their needs and challenges and then made recommendations to address those issues. Their recommendations were presented at an event called Showcase on December 4 where many of the social entrepreneurs were on hand. 

“It’s a chance to showcase the work the teams have been doing; witness real-time, real-life transformations; and meet some of the social entrepreneurs from the London community,” said Branzei.

HBA student Arsh Sidhu’s team worked with Purple Moose Sock Company, a retailer of socks with funky designs, to develop a business plan for a future shop and online business to sell socks with inspirational sayings. He said the project gave him a firsthand look at the challenges of the social entrepreneur.

“One of the biggest things I learned is that social enterprises have different business models. Not only do social entrepreneurs have to think about how their businesses can scale quickly and get customers, but they also have to think about how they can do it in a sustainable way,” he said.

Giving back to the community

One HBA team worked with Merrymount Children’s Centre, a London, Ontario-based family support and crisis centre, on ways to develop its story to share with the community. As part of the project, the team organized a toy drive at the School that resulted in 25 toys being donated to Merrymount for children in need. The HBA students even had a gift bagging party where they decorated gift bags for the toys.

“It was fun and we got a lot of questions about Merrymount so we were able to spread the message of what they do,” said HBA student Zoe Woods. “It was a great start and we hope that Merrymount can continue to foster that relationship with Ivey in the future.”

HBA student John Lee was interested in the Social Enterprise course because he had previous experience working with Western Heads East, an initiative that establishes disease-fighting probiotic yogurt programs in areas of Sub-Saharan Africa. He also took Ivey’s elective course, Ubuntu Management Education Initiative, which provides students with the opportunity to teach African business students using Ivey cases as well as to develop new African business cases. Through those experiences, he saw the challenges of business development and strategy in Africa, particularly when operating a social enterprise. His team worked with London, Ontario’s The New School of Colour, a free art program targeting youth, to develop a business plan for selling youth-produced artwork, such as cards and calendars.

“Working with the company was great because we had a lot of flexibility,” he said. “It gave us an opportunity to be assertive and come up with realistic avenues.”

Inspiring stories of success

Another team helped Kenya-based Vava Coffee with a potential partnership with The Fire Roasted Coffee Co., whereby the London-Ontario-based coffee roaster might feature Vava’s coffee beans. HBA student Jasmine Kassam said the experience inspired her to possibly start her own social enterprise one day.

“Maybe there are risks in the beginning, but all the social entrepreneurs we had the opportunity to meet have been successful and they are so happy with what they’re doing, too. I think it’s very inspiring that you can start a social enterprise if you have the passion and will to do so and it can be very successful,” she said. “I’ve been very passionate about volunteering and the social aspect of businesses so this was the perfect course. It combines business knowledge with my passion to give back to the community.”