On November 17, Thrive Impact Fund hosted a Social Enterprise Conversation in Nanaimo that offered an honest, candid look into the challenges and innovation of two non-profit leaders (Corrie Corfield and Kix Citton) in acquiring, operating, and expanding a social enterprise.
Island Crisis Care Society and the Nanaimo Bakery & Café
We gathered in the Nanaimo Bakery & Café—a social enterprise recently purchased by Island Crisis Care Society (ICCS) as part of an overall business acquisition.
“We needed to do more, and we needed more funding to do more,” said Corrie Corfield, Director of People, Culture & Engagement at ICCS, when asked about the non-profit’s journey to social enterprise. “It was about diversifying our revenue and realizing there’s so much more that we need to do to support the people that come to us for help.”
The ICCS team worked with Scale Collaborative in a coaching and consulting capacity when acquiring. The building provides space not just for the Nanaimo Bakery & Café, but also for offices, ongoing programming, rental space for several tenants, and many future potentials.
When looking at starting a social enterprise, there are different legal considerations to keep in mind depending on the type of organization (non-profit, for-profit, charity, etc.). After a conversation with the organization’s legal adviser, ICCS decided to make the social enterprise cafe a separate entity, which “allows us to have a model where the for-profit organization can donate funds back to the ICCS, and there is a tax advantage in that setup.”
Corrie Corfield shared that trust between staff and the board is key. “That dynamic of having an organization—the whole board and staff—who are willing to take risks, be innovative, and think outside of the box and think in new ways, is essential,” said Corrie.
Corrie also mentioned that it was unexpected how much needed to go into “understanding that we’re a business and we have to find a way to reach and understand a certain demographic,” to effectively market to them.
Nanaimo Brain Injury Society and Axis Brain Health
Kix Citton, Executive Director at the Nanaimo Brain Injury Society (NBIS), shared about their social enterprise Axis Brain Health. This social enterprise helps people with acquired brain injury improve cognitive function, quality of life, engagement, and participation in the world. “All these things can be improved through the magic and the science behind neuroplasticity,” she said. “We just finished our first cohort with incredible results from folks 5-10 years after their brain injury whose memory and processing have improved.” The enteprise incorporates cognitive exercises, physical activity, and mindfulness meditation to promote brain health, neurogenesis, and neuroplasticity.
In 2020, the board strategically made the decision that fund development and diversification needed to be a priority for the organization, because they had “known for a long time that this year-by-year cycle of funding is painful and not effective for what we actually want to do.”
Then, in 2021, the organization took part in the Thriving Non-Profits program, which helped the non-profit expand thinking about the possibilities for social enterprise and eased the board’s comfortability in taking risks. When they received a grant that allowed them use the funding for fund development, the non-profit staff and board saw this as their opportunity to explore the social enterprise concept.
“The Thriving Non-Profits program was phenomenal. It was such a gift having the opportunity through Thriving Non-Profits to shift mindset together so that there was a bridge between staff and the board.” Kix Citton emphasized how key it is for your board to understand risk tolerance and engage in open conversations about the uncomfortable.
NBIS envisions a future where the whole community understands the complexity of brain injuries. They aim to one day operate a holistic brain health center for Nanaimo that provides access to brain health resources for all and gives people the best chance at improving cognitive function. Kix also shared that it is important to have a supportive non-profit ecosystem where leaders work together to help remove barriers that prevent progress.
Social Enterprise Conversations: Nanaimo was hosted by Thrive Impact Fund in partnership with the Nanaimo Foundation, Community Futures Central Island and the Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce.
Click the arrows below to view event photos: