The farm-to-plate movement connecting consumers directly with local producers is a fast-growing trend for those who favour organic, sustainably-grown food, while supporting their local community.
Now, Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery, one of five new ventures to land a spot in the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub run by Sauder’s ISIS Research Centre is bringing the same concept to seafood.
With the help of the Innovation Hub, the Vancouver-based social enterprise aims to ramp up its business giving conscientious consumers the chance to pre-buy a share of it sustainably caught haul of seafood, straight from “boat-to-fork.”
Skipper Otto will spend the next year working side-by-side with peer early stage social ventures in the Sauder accelerator program launched in September 2012 by its ISIS Research Centre with a $1-million sponsorship from Coast Capital Savings Credit Union.
“There is tremendous momentum in Vancouver’s entrepreneurial community to use business to find solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges.”
- Associate Professor James Tansey, Executive Director of ISIS
The Innovation Hub, now in its second year, provides 12-month intensives offering social entrepreneurs the resources they need to find success, including a dynamic communal working environment for their operations, mentoring from Sauder faculty, alumni and industry experts, and full-time support from Sauder interns.
All of the organizations supported by the program aim to achieve a triple bottom line of social, environmental and financial goals.
“There is tremendous momentum in Vancouver’s entrepreneurial community to use business to find solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges,” says Associate Professor James Tansey, Executive Director of ISIS. “Our program harnesses this energy and is helping early stage social ventures grow to the next level with the vision of establishing the city as a world leader for social venture development.”
Skipper Otto and their team of 15 fishermen sell their hauls of fresh halibut, tuna, crab and spot prawns directly to members of their “community-supported fishery.” This gives them stability, allows them to fish sustainably and obtain the full value of their catches, ensuring a thriving local fishing industry continues on B.C.’s west coast.
“Our enterprise started with us pretty much selling to our friends,” says Sonya Strobel, who oversees the operation. “Then, as Skipper Otto became more and more successful, we took on more fishermen but we still couldn’t manage the numbers of members that wanted to join.”
Skipper Otto needs to expand its operation to meet demand and scale up. For the company, the chance to work in the Coast Capital Savings Innovation Hub offices is one they relish. “To be able to take our venture to a professional space with like-minded peers and support at all levels – it’s incredibly valuable,” says Strobel. “We feel so lucky.”
But, it’s not only the ventures that benefit. As interns working with the ventures, Sauder students are getting valuable hands-on experience in the fast growing social venture sector.
Newly graduated Sauder marketing student Winnie Sun interned with a number of the 2013 ventures, helping them articulate their services to potential customers and investors. She says the experience opened her eyes to a completely different way of conducting business.
“It’s like when people first discovered the potential of the internet and the dotcom economy. It was a whole new way of doing business,” says Sun. “Now, there is a major push to do socially conscious business. It’s actually the evolution of charity, going beyond asking for money, to become self-sustaining enterprises. You really do feel that you’re part of creating the next wave of business for the next century.”
Tracy Redies, president and CEO of Coast Capital Savings, says these learning experiences are one of the key reasons why Coast Capital continues to support the program.
“Coast Capital Savings is strongly committed to building a richer future for youth in our communities,” says Redies. “Both the potential that social entrepreneurship brings to our communities and the learnings that Sauder’s promising young business leaders are deriving from their work with the ventures are outstanding. For Coast Capital Savings, supporting Sauder’s ISIS Research Center through the Innovation Hub was an obvious choice. It truly galvanizes our commitment to community, youth and innovation."
Other ventures entering the CCS iHub include:
Fresh Roots Urban Farm Society
Fresh Roots transforms underused urban spaces into commercially productive farms, bringing diverse members of the community together to grow sustainable food. Their Schoolyard Market Gardens enhance classroom learning by giving students the opportunity to grow their own crops of healthy food.
Mealshare allows restaurant goers to provide a meal to someone in need when they dine out. When a customer chooses a “Mealshare item” from menu at a participating restaurant, the funds for a separate meal are donated to a partnering charity.
Natural Source Vending
Natural Source designs, builds and manages, free-to-staff food stations stocked with locally sourced and all-natural snacks. Strongly committed to environmental sustainability, Natural Source facilities are wind powered and all food service equipment is Energy Star certified.
Shifting Growth Garden Society
Shifting Growth instantaneously creates temporary community gardens in vacant commercial spaces or private property, helping to answer the demand for the growing list of long waitlists for Vancouver’s community garden program.