Last week I was proud to be in-person to see our first Cohort of learners complete our Social Enterprise Labs course.
This was our first accelerator for social entrepreneurship and we all learned so much together. This 14-week course with Zoom facilitated sessions included guest speakers of experienced social entrepreneurs and innovators from around the United States.
This was our first Cohort from the Communities of Healing program in West Virginia. We had a good mix of startups and existing small businesses, all of who are committed to launching or growing their businesses with the intention of being a recovery-friendly workplace.
Some of the enterprises included:
- Art gallery and local foods cafe
- Bakery and food catering
- Dairy and agricultural farms with value-added products
- E-Sports gaming tournaments and youth programs
- Handcrafted customer woodworking products
- Retail and paint your own pottery shop
- Upscale consignment store
What I found most inspiring about these main-street entrepreneurs is their passion for using their business as a tool for change. While they were all part of a grant-funded program to build a recovery-to-work ecosystem, they each were thinking of ways they could contribute to addressing the drug addiction epidemic in their community, one person at a time.
I was reminded by this Cohort of learners that hope starts at home and can grow from there. We can all start with seeing a local problem and use business and social entrepreneurship to address the issue, whether it is employment opportunities, a product or service, or a give-back of a portion of the profits to local causes. All of us have something to contribute.
Here’s some input I received from these learners in the first Cohort:
“This program really helps you identify how you want to positively impact the community.” Samantha Phillips, Sage & Lila Company
“I believe the purpose of any economy is to sustain those around it…” Amy Patterson, Sandstone General Store, and Eatery
“The Labs were an inspiration for me to prioritize my goals and work on a business plan to help youth in my community.” Yvonne Ortiz, Heavenly Sweet Pastries
Participants progress together through three working laboratories on the WVS Courses platform:
- Innovation Lab – Explore how to create a new social enterprise
- Design Lab – Step-by-step process to design a social enterprise model
- Launch Lab – Advanced business planning to help you launch or grow.
To learn more about how WVS Courses partners with local economic and community development organizations to spur social impact and entrepreneurship, check out this page.