Last week marked the official launch of The Inspiring Enterprise, a new nonprofit dedicated to promoting social entrepreneurship in Santa Cruz. What better way to start than by holding a pitch competition for best new social product or service? Well that’s exactly what happened as over 200 people descended upon the Del Mar Theatre last Wednesday to hear from the 6 finalists, all of whom were competing for over $30,000 in cash and prizes.
The 1st place winner was Rising International, a nonprofit that empowers impoverished women from all around the world to create and sell products by tapping into a network of hyper localized representatives in a similar fashion to the Avon products. Carmel Jud, the organization’s founder, gave an impassioned pitch that not only demonstrated the social impact of the organizations work, but also showcased their existing traction. The group plans to use their prizes to broaden their reach, and expand their sales network.
2nd place was awarded to Sibley Simon, representing the organization Housing First, otherwise known as 180/180/20/20, which represents the number of chronically homeless individuals and veterans the group hopes to house. Sibley’s idea would leverage deferred interest bonds to create a financial incentive to invest in new, smaller housing units for the homeless. If successful, the organization hopes to build close to 200 new units locally, with the hopes of expanding to other cities shortly thereafter.
3rd place was awarded to David Foster of the Santa Cruz chapter of Habitat
for Humanity, who envisions a novel way to house senior homeowners living on a fixed income, while simultaneously freeing up new rental housing. The principle idea would be to locate home owning seniors who are having difficulty meeting their monthly mortgage payments and work with them to develop an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on the property. The senior could then move into the ADU, and rent out the main house to help cover their monthly costs. The ADU would also have the added benefit of increasing the home’s overall value.
Other finalists included Civinomics, a voting application that leverages embeddable polling widgets in online news media; Ruly, a photo management service that employs impoverished women from the global south to help others manage their digital photo library; and BioFuel, a new process using a synthetic organism to generate renewable energy.
Each finalist was given 5 minutes to pitch their ideas in front of a panel of Venture Capitalist and Investor Judges, with up to 5 minutes of questions and answers afterward. The 6 finalists were chosen from an applicant pool of 42 local companies and nonprofits.
The Inspiring Enterprise is now exploring the development of a social accelerator and mentorship program that would provide direct assistance to similar organizations looking to create new social or environmentally focused products and services in Santa Cruz. The group hopes to pair would-be social entrepreneurs with experienced thought leaders, business experts, marketers, designers, and of course, access to capital, hopefully allowing these organizations the potential to launch a product to market over the course of 6-9 months. The program is modelled off of the Propeller Social Accelerator based in New Orleans, which builds off a regional network of people involved in community and economic development.