SVI Attracts Talent to Change the World through Business

SVI Attracts Talent to Change the World through Business

Co-founder of Give Something Back Office Supplies inspired by event convening social purpose entrepreneurs

There was night kayaking to view marine life that glowed, nourishing vegetarian fare, and lively evening festivities, but Mike Hannigan says the Social Venture Institute’s (SVI) real attraction was the many talented people using business for social good.

The president of Give Something Back Office Supplies was a first-time participant to the 16th annual SVI retreat at Hollyhock on Cortes Island. The event brings together 140 business leaders and social entrepreneurs for an intensive, interactive inquiry into how to face the day-to-day challenges of running a socially-conscious enterprise.

  Mike Hannigan

Hannigan says the breadth of expertise present and willing to apply their skills to businesses that support social and environmental outcomes is invigorating.

“The social enterprise sector is able to attract such talent in way it wasn’t able to before,” Hannigan tells Axiom News.

“Now, you get these incredibly smart people with pedigrees and training in the conventional business world that are willing to use those assets in a social enterprise world — that is just transformative.”

Hannigan is no stranger to social enterprise co-founding Give Something Back, a company with a mission to redistribute income to its communities, 20 years ago. The largest privately-owned office supply company in the Western United States has gained recognition and success using a unique model. The business makes as much profit as it can in a responsible manner, and donates almost all of the profit to non-profit organizations selected by its customers and staff.

Last year, the company, which has a mission to be as large as Staples or Office Depot, worked with a partner organization to provide school supply packs to 176,000 low income K-12 students. The retail value of the supplies exceeded $10 million.

“The business is essentially a tool to tap the wealth of the marketplace and to distribute it to serve the needs of the community in some democratic fashion,” explains Hannigan.

Hannigan shared his experience during SVI’s True Confession series, where experienced entrepreneurs share their struggles to reach success combining social mission with business. He says the business model had a universal appeal, and the question-and-answer period and discussions that followed allowed participants to analyze the ideas, share their feedback and dig deeper into the issues.

“(SVI has) figured out a way there to really engage people not just as consumers of information but as exchangers of information. So, it really is a lively group that really seeks to engage one another and connect with one another.”

Hannigan adds SVI is an important event for social enterprise, creating a space for current leaders and the next generation to comfortably collaborate.

“I am convinced that I will have lots of contact with a lot of people that I would not otherwise have known,” says Hannigan, adding he’s encouraged to see people running with these ideas so young in their careers.

“I didn’t get started until I was in my 40s. Some of these people are going to have a 20-year lead and be able to push things like my organization, companies like my company, so much farther and faster than we’ve been able to. I am feeling pretty optimistic . . . It’s needed now more than ever.”

To learn more about SVI, click here.

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Writer Bio

Camille Jensen's picture
Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

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