Making Calgary a Social Enterprise City

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Spring is thrilled to be partnering with INTONOVUS Canada to bring social enterprise and the Leaders Roundtable Programs to Calgary. Learn more about INTONOVUS and what they plan to launch as a part of this exciting new partnership with Spring.


INTONOVUS Canada is a federally registered not for profit operating as a social enterprise. INTONOVUS supports cross-sector social and economic development by partnering with businesses, entrepreneurs, not for profits, charities, social enterprises, and other cooperatives and collectives across Canada to develop and grow the reach and impact of social action innovations by sharing and mobilizing time, money, resources, energy, talents, and best practices to help each other. 

Impact Hub Network

As part of our mandate and mission, one of our major initiatives is the launch of an incubator/accelerator+ (a future Impact Hub candidate) that engages the social impact community, fosters a culture of entrepreneurship, and promotes, supports and develops socially conscious businesses.

Our Offerings

Our goal is to provide direct opportunities for entrepreneurs to get hands-on experience with other socially minded entrepreneurs (and early stage businesses) via co-works space, business and social innovation courses, events, and programming to foster and promote businesses that do not maximize only profits as their mission: businesses that scale economic and social profits e.g. benefit corporations.

What are your goals for the Spring and INTONOVUS partnership?

With our highly collaborative, and connective, nature in mind, all of our goals with Spring, have yet to reveal themselves ☺

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Our intention is to formulate mutual goals, generate a strong positive and reciprocal relationship over the long term, and enhance, promote, and build capacity for social enterprise, impact investing, and other social business models for the New Economy.

Shared Mission

The quickly growing market of impact-driven entrepreneurs can be found in cities, towns, and villages throughout Canada. By collaborating, we can achieve scale together in ways we could not achieve singly. Both of our missions support entrepreneurs to grow and scale and using our combined networks we can introduce entrepreneurs to educational, funding, and strategic and foreign partners that they would likely have trouble finding on their own, such as Silicon Valley or China.

Growth and Scaling of Startups

As we both support entrepreneurs in startup businesses to develop from pico, to micro, to small, then medium size enterprises and beyond, we contribute to well-paying, sustainable jobs of the 21st-century – good businesses make good money, solving some of society’s pressing problems along the way.

Find Your Tribe

Our immediate goal is to help social entrepreneurs to find their tribe within the start-up and business communities locally and globally. Spring is a part of that tribe. Our partnership with the Spring community, the program, its content, and its modules will allow us to immediately meet the needs of all social entrepreneurs in Calgary, and partner location in Alberta, including our Rural Innovation Network and other hubs, incubators and accelerators for businesses and not for profits. Our experience, connections, and local content will feed back into the Spring and Impact Hub network and hopefully benefit other entrepreneurs globally.

The success of our combined efforts should move forward our anti-stereotyping strategies. Social enterprises in the not for profit sector, constrained by the structural limitations of charity, trying to run businesses as alternative revenue sources, has muddied some of the terminology and expectations around social business. Every success we achieve no matter how small will aid in promoting social entrepreneurs as business-minded and able to increase revenue and profitability, and scale, in addition to helping it make an impact.

How is INTONOVUS creating an impact?

A few years into the economic downturn, questions, and solutions related economic development have changed. There are those working towards diversifying our economy through pivoting energy sector resources to the tech sector. We think that there are also other opportunities to recognize and embrace excellence and grow our skills, knowledge and competitiveness in our startup and existing social businesses, and even tying some of them to the tech sector in ways that have not been considered in the past.

Creating Opportunities

We need to embrace, celebrate, understand, optimize and grow the economic and social resources we are already blessed with. Rather than just trying to engineer economic diversification, how can we take a lead towards creating clarity and certainty in business policies that can attract entrepreneurs and help existing businesses prosper? We believe we are creating opportunities to enable individual entrepreneurs and small businesses to do what they do best – create value, innovate and help build the local, national, and global commercial and social economies.

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Along with the items outlined in the first section above, INTONOVUS is taking the initiative to:

  1. identify and fill gaps in the ecosystem through partnerships
  2. curate the right resources in the right order at the right time
  3. facilitate longer term supports for entrepreneurs graduating other accelerators and incubators, and
  4. access to funding through current sources, and via the creation of our own social enterprise venture fund

Tell us about some exciting things that are happening with Calgary’s impact entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Calgary has one of the youngest, most educated, and most skilled workforces in the world, yet we have yet to reclaim our place as a primary economic engine of Canada since the downturn. How do we support moving to renewed prosperity through entrepreneurial growth? We do it by breaking silos, shrinking egos, sector mashing, and growing the CULTURE of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Social Entrepreneurship in Canada

Canada is poised for transformation around social innovation and social finance. Western Canada needs to take more leadership here. With over 200 certified B Corp businesses, Canada is the second largest B corp community in the world. British Columbia and Alberta are home to 35% of the certified businesses in Canada. Calgary has 11 of the 15 B Corps in Alberta, plus an additional four operating here (Business Development Bank of Canada, Spud.ca, Bull Frog Power, and soon Spring!) Trico Homes, Benevity, and Fiasco Gelato are particularly engaged and influential in the community.

We are sure this number would be much higher, if entrepreneurs were aware of B Labs and had support to grow their businesses and certify. In fact, REAP, a not-for-profit association for locally owned businesses that care about the community and the environment, has over 150 member businesses. And, Conscious Brands (the 5th B corp in Canada) offers resources locally and nationally to help build sustainability into businesses.

Community and Networks in Calgary

We have a number of inter-looping activator networking groups that relate to entrepreneurship or social impact, but without a specific focus on social enterprise. Along with two growing conferences (EconoUS, and Soul of the Next Economy), Startup Calgary has over 2,400 members, Social Impact YYC has over 1,400 change-makers, and Calgary Sustainability for Breakfast has over 2,250 members, plus many many more.

Prior to 2015, there were very few, if any accelerators, incubators, or co-work spaces, and those were purely tech or energy focused. By this year, we have no fewer than seven incubators, nine accelerators, and 30 co-work spaces including opportunities for students at the Social Innovation Hub (Mount Royal University), and the Hunter Hub for Entrepreneurial Thinking (University of Calgary). A few of incubators, accelerators and co-work spaces have included a few social enterprises over the last couple of years.

With all these spaces, the number and size of cohorts is still relatively small compared to the numbers of entrepreneurs and businesses seeking opportunities for support and collaboration, leaving numerous companies, especially the social enterprises to fend for themselves.

A few other notable advancements include:

  • the ATB Entrepreneurship Centre’s  ATB X Accelerator, ATB Social Enterprise, and ATB BoostR”
  • Momentum year 2
  • the RBC Social Enterprise Accelerator (SEA) at Innovate Calgary second (and last) cohort has started
  • Valhalla Private Capital announced that one of its five-pillars will include impact investments
  • Calgary Foundation created a 20M fund for social enterprise (though it has not been accessed yet)

About 7,200 businesses closed in 2016, while almost 7,400 new shops and stores opened, according to business license data kept by the City of Calgary. The difference is that more of the new businesses are likely home-based. We think INTONOVUS, Impact Hub, and Spring will be taking on a major role in supporting success for many of these entrepreneurs.

We are growing beyond Alberta’s maverick mentality. The social enterprise ethos is now more than ever driven by responsible consumption, and mainstream ideals about the impact of environmentally and socially conscious businesses. Innovation happens in downturns. For many years, the energy sector was a magnet for the best and brightest people. We now have a pocket of people with personal time and resources looking for their next thing, and entrepreneurship is one of them. People are also starting to reflect on where their investments are held and how they could be more conscious of the impact their investments are having, or could have.

Rainforest Alberta

Impact entrepreneurship is benefiting, in part, from Rainforest Alberta (https://www.rainforestab.ca) a grassroots collective of over 750 individuals across Alberta, sprung out of the Calgary tech sector’s interest in improving Alberta’s innovation ecosystem and using a methodology, and innovation framework, developed in Silicon Valley.

In Calgary, weekly meetings now consist of 80-100 individuals representing a multitude of private and public sectors and industries including post secondary, all levels of government, workforce, arts, social, startups, energy, etc. These meetings are opportunities for everyone to share ideas, offer resources, and ask for advice or support from anyone based on a Social Contract that contains 10 principles that everyone agrees to embrace and promote (Diversity, Free Help, Trust, Pay it Forward, Fairness, Listening, Honesty, Team Sport, Sharing, Role Models). We are very early supporters of Rainforest established in September 2016, as the rainforest principles 100% align with the personal principles of the founders of INTONOVUS and many of its partners.

What are your plans for developing the entrepreneur community in Calgary?

As noted above; plus

  • Mapping the social enterprise ecosystem
  • Vast partnerships
  • Founding members of INTONOVUS are also founding members of a global Rotary e-Club of Social Innovation, an extremely new idea for rotary focused on business vs charity
  • Founders of INTONOVUS have been, and will continue to be hosts to the local chapter of OpenIDEO connecting creative problem solvers in cities across the globe to design local solutions for our world’s biggest challenges
  • Founders of INTONOVUS have access to Founders Institute’s idea-stage accelerator and startup launch program
  • We run the SPARX Energy Innovation Theatre at the Global Petroleum show for late start up early to market entrepreneurs with technology and services that can lean and clean the energy sector.
  • We have developed the Innovation Opportunity Matrix and are partnering with the Alberta Tech Series from Silicon Valley

Anything we might be surprised to learn about the community in Calgary?

Calgary actually has a long history with technology, including being the birthplace for javascript, iStockPhoto, the USB stick, and Uber. With such cool technologies that have come out of Calgary, it does not seem hard to believe that our city could have a real future in tech, and the ability to attract business. But, we are seriously lacking VISION and SPEED. Did you know that Uber was blocked in Calgary when it launched in 2015? Since it relaunched December 2016 it has over 70,000 riders using and close to 1,500 drivers 🙂 Calgary is filled with entrepreneurs and innovators, with the character and community they need to put their mark on not only our city, but also the world. The City and the Province need some support to clear a path for into the future.

How to Join The Movement

If you are an entrepreneur based in Calgary, come out to our events in February to get to know both INTONOVUS and Spring and get a head start on all of the exciting opportunities that are going to be offered in the region. Save your spot at the upcoming events!

Learn More about the Spring Leaders Roundtables

The Leaders Roundtable started as small group of founders, meeting once a month to talk business.

During roundtable sessions, every topic was fair game. These entrepreneurs discussed and solved everything from financial challenges, to marketing their businesses.

Roundtables caught on in the Spring community, with more and more business owners showing interest.

Roundtables now follow a straightforward format, designed to give entrepreneurs the most value.

  • Monthly, 3-hour meetings
  • 6 – 8 founders per group
  • Share problems and receive actionable feedback from your peers and facilitator

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