B.C. Social Enterpriser Anticipates SEWF

B.C. Social Enterpriser Anticipates SEWF

Heather O’Hara of B.C.’s Potluck Café and Catering keen to discuss social enterprise growth and scale

Heather O’Hara is looking forward to digging deep with fellow delegates into some of her most burning social enterprise questions at the Oct. 2-4 Social Enterprise World Forum.

The growth and scale of social enterprise is a pressing topic for her these days — figuring out the sweet spot in terms of self-sufficiency and at what point a social enterprise is too big or growing for growth’s sake.

  One of Potluck Café and Catering's  employees.

“It’s not that I’m looking for what’s right or wrong but more of a different perspective on growth and scale generally,” Heather says, sharing some of the beliefs she’s formulating around the growth and scale of social enterprise – for instance, that conventional business tends to measure growth as a sign of success but social enterprises need to approach growth in a much more nuanced way.

Heather brings more than eight years of experience with a B.C. social enterprise. Founded in 2001, Potluck Café and Catering is one of Canada’s first social enterprises to achieve fairly notable success both financially and in terms of fulfilling its social mission.

Today Potluck Café and Catering, based in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside generates about $1.5 million in corporate catering revenue while running five charitable programs in which it employs about 30 people, 18 of whom have barriers to employment. It also offers community nutrition programming and provides 15,000  to 30,000 free nutritious meals to the community each year.

Potluck also run runs a community kitchen and is about to launch a mentorship program for other businesses and social enterprises interested to employ people who have barriers.

Current revenues enable the organization to sustain about 80 to 90 per cent of its charitable mission activities, with the rest dependent on donations.

Potluck Café and Catering was one of the first winners of the Trico Charitable Foundation Social EnterPrize, which is to be presented at the forum again this year. http://www.tricofoundation.ca/social_enter_award.php

The $80,000 prize has helped the organization strengthen its business activities even more — delivery vehicles were purchased and experts hired to work on menu development, amongst other activities — all for the purpose of better outcomes socially, says Heather.

“Entrepreneurship and business itself has got the right energy and it’s very practical as a means to address some of our common challenges in society,” says Heather.

“I like the freedom of entrepreneurship to do what’s right by a community, to do what’s needed, to make decisions quickly. I like the agility, the flexibility of an enterprising model.”

The 2013 Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) will bring together 1,200 individuals from more than 30 countries and speakers from more than 20 countries. 

If you’re not planning to attend the conference but looking for ways to engage, SEWF launched a series of online engagement efforts this week, including Google Hangouts, Twitter polls and a Facebook chat. For more information, click here.

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