Tag Archives: social enterprise

Women’s Day: Good Gift Ideas that Create Jobs

06 Mar

Last Women’s Day, we had the privilege of coordinating a corporate gift program that told a great story and created jobs for women in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. We wanted to revisit this story to emphasize how much we love this sort of gift program!


It all began at the end of January 2012, when we received a call from Vichy Laboratoires. They wanted 500 unique corporate gifts for an International Women’s Day gift program.


Like many of our corporate clients, Vichy was seeking a way to increase the meaning in their gifts and find new ways to stand out amongst the standard corporate gift baskets and boxes of chocolates.








We were thrilled to step up to this challenge to create customized pens out of reclaimed wood and employ women from a social enterprise in our neighbourhood. The timeline for production was tight and the workshop filled the order with time to spare.








This project shows how a thoughtful corporate gift program can create value in the community while creating a meaningful experience that tells the story of economic nourishment, sustainability and hard working Canadian women. A perfect gift idea for International Women’s Day.








Local Vancouver gifts as organic living art: Why we love The Olla Urban Flower Project

25 Jan



The Olla Flower Project was created by Megan Branson and Dionne Finch. According to Megan, these two women wove together a true obsession for plants and flowers with a vision: A small business committed to community engagement and sustainable flower production.






Flowers are a great gift that activates a multi-sensory experience of beauty. Although flowers are a gift that rarely fail…Do you ever wonder how can we take this traditional gift to the next level of creativity, thoughtfulness and meaning? Olla flower arrangements carry a great story and unique beauty.



5 Reasons why we love the Olla Urban Flower Project



1. Creativity: These arrangements are living art. When someone receives an Olla creation and places it in their home or office, they are given the gift of great conversations. Each person will have their own interpretation of what they see. Olla’s designs “focus the eye on the beauty of each botanical element whether it be a minimalist or opulent arrangement”. In addition to bouquets, Olla creates terrariums, living walls and many other objects of beauty.





2. Local and organic: Every stem used in each flower design is sourced from an urban farm/garden, a local farm/greenhouse, or it is from a Fair Trade/Veriflora certified farm. Arrangements feature flowers from British Columbia’s interior: Bathtub Gardens in beautiful Pemberton Valley and Okanagan Fair Flowers in Similkameen valley. Olla has also worked with the SOLEfood urban farm in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.





3. Socially Responsible: Olla is a social enterprise that is accountable to the community. It is a business that is designed to generate jobs and prosperity in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. In addition to generating socio-economic goodness, Olla spreads beauty throughout the community with re-purposed bouquets. When a corporate event is over, Olla helps prolong the life of the flowers by redirecting them towards organizations operating in the DTES.




4. Environmentally Responsible: All green waste is sent to local composting projects and Olla is working with suppliers to decrease packaging. Flowers and foliage are local whenever possible and certified organic.





5. Unique and long lasting: My bouquet can last up to a month if the water is refreshed and the stems are trimmed every few days. It can also become an awesome dried arrangement that lasts years. There is an abundance of uniqueness that expands beyond these bouquets. Check out the Olla Flower Project in person!

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Proud to be a Founding Canadian B Corp Company

16 Jan


When a company is a B Corp, it provides certainty. It allows us to know the difference between “good” companies and good marketingI was first introduced to B Corp back in 2007. At the time, I was a wide-eyed MBA student…only a month away from completing my MBA program in sustainable business at BGI.


One of my classmates, Mary Rick (@maryrick) was organizing a Balle Conference in San Francisco and she encouraged our class to attend. I decided to travel down with classmates and check it out. When I made this decision, I didn’t realize that we would be witnessing a pivotal point in history.


At the Balle Conference of 2007, the launch of Benefit Corporations was announced. The vision of this new movement is to “create a new sector of the economy which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. This sector will be comprised of a new type of corporation – the B Corporation – that meets rigorous and independent standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency”.


The Saul Good Gift Co. became a founding Canadian B-Corp member. As a member, we are grateful to stand among many great companies throughout North America and watch the B Corp vision become reality.


Since the latest B Corp developments in California, the founder of Patagonia spoke to the media about what this development means to him personally, “I hope that five years from now, ten years from now, we’ll look back and say this was the start of the revolution. The existing paradigm isn’t working anymore—this is the future.”

– Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia




When the Saul Good Gift Co. joined the B-Corp community, we made a declaration that the directors of our company will always consider the environment and community in addition to profit. We disclose information related to our environmental and community impact, in addition to how we work with employees, customers and our transparency. This helps us to set the bar for what it means to be a progressive business.


California is one of six US States shifting corporate law, in order to facilitate social and environmental progress through Benefit Corporations. On Friday, January 13th, 2012, The Stanford Daily explained, “In a ‘middle ground’ between [for-profit and non-profit] extremes, a new type of corporation is emerging, with California the latest but surely not the last state to legally enshrine so-called ‘B Corp’ status.”


I look forward to seeing more businesses join this movement! So much has happened since 2007. Hopefully, the progress of B Corp will expand exponentially and we will see some legislation shift in Canada.


How Paul Hawken Inspired the Creation of Saul Good Gift Co.

16 Nov

Last night, Paul Hawken spoke at Vancouver’s historic Orpheum Theatre. The room was packed with social entrepreneurs and inspired Vancouverites, who want to improve the world for our children, and our children’s children. I was happy to see some great local characters in the house! There were students and alumni from Bainbridge Graduate Institute (BGI), local business leaders, (Salt Spring Coffee, Climate Smart, SHIFT Urban Cargo Delivery, Save on Meats, Recycling Alternative), investors (Renewal Partners), non-profit leaders (LOCO BC, SOLE Food Urban Farm, Hollyhock, SFU Woodwards) and local manufacturers (Crown Skis).

Last night was a meaningful evening for me, because Paul Hawken inspired me to embark on the path that led me towards creating local, eco-friendly and socially responsible gift baskets in Vancouver BC. This path began during my undergraduate degree when I was a wide-eyed idealistic Environmental Studies student at the University of Victoria. As I learned more about the state of our planet, I became increasingly daunted by the challenges facing my generation. Although I was well-versed in the problems, I was unsure of where I could find solutions. In the Spring of 2001, I was lucky to read a transcript from a presentation by Paul Hawken.

Hawken’s work helped me to realize that business is an ideal opportunity to address social and environmental issues. He provided a framework for proactive solutions and inspired me to investigate opportunities for strategic change. On a finite planet with limited resources, how can an exponentially growing population survive in a system that continually depletes the Earth’s assets like we’re living off the interest? Innovative solutions are urgently essential.

After studying Hawken’s work, I shifted my path towards sustainable business and enrolled in the Bainbridge Graduate Institue (BGI). This unique graduate school allowed me to dig deeper and explore solutions to social and environmental problems. Through innovation in material, energy and resource use, business can create value beyond profit. In addition to environmental solutions, it is important to look at our planet as one interconnected system and examine how we treat each other.

As humans, we are not separate from the environment and we must find ways to treat each other like precious resources, that cannot be carelessly harmed and mistreated on behalf of financial “gain”. Social enterprises can create important solutions through green jobs, living wages and social justice.

Last night’s inspirational evening was hosted by Vancity Credit Union. In addition to hosting Paul Hawken, Vancity was celebrating 65 years of investing and doing business in Vancouver. This last spring I made a commitment to shift my business banking to a local credit union. I’m proud to announce that we’ve recently started doing business banking with Vancity. As the Saul Good Gift Co. continues to grow, we look forward to nourishing and strengthening relationships throughout our local economy and community.

For more photos from the Paul Hawken event, please click here.


Value propostion for working with social enterprises

10 Feb

Working with social enterprises can be extremely rewarding with benefits on multiple levels. For the last couple years I’ve been working with Tradeworks Custom Products, a social enterprise that trains women in carpentry living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Working with and representing them with my corporate clients, putting together corporate gifts and promotions, has led me to believe that value is generated in multiple ways. I recently sat down with Mary Sturgeon of Junxion Strategy, a leading consulting firm focused on the human dimension of sustainability,to talk about social enterprises. By working with social enterprises, beyond providing training and job experience for marginalized people, genuine value and bottom line benefits are built for the companies that support them.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

Many corporations have philanthropic giving programs giving out cash and in kind support to non-profits to help them achieve their missions. This type of philanthropy is important as many organizations rely on this type of funding to keep their programs running. However, a hand out is a hand out, well received and appreciated but not empowering. Social enterprise on the other hand empowers individuals directly working to improve their lives. The skills being learned by the employees in social enterprises makes life better for people, opens up new opportunities and builds confidence and self esteem in people working to improve their lives. In many cases purchasing from a social enterprise is more expensive when compared to conventional products or services but the synergistic value is often greater when compared to a purely philanthropic donation. As long as the values are aligned between the corporation and the social enterprise the relationship and value is worth more than a simple donation. It may cost more in your marketing budget but a company can save money and maximize value when looking at marketing and community relationships/philanthropy together as a whole.

Creators vs. victims

Working in a social enterprise builds confidence and self esteem. Empowering marginalized people to have a sense of control over their lives, feeling good about their work and learning transferable skills that open doors and opportunities. At Tradeworks women living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of North America’s most marginalized communities, learn carpentry and woodworking skills, opening doors for careers in the trades. Some former participants have gone on to start their own businesses, further education and training in the trades and gainful employment at other companies in the community. As I’ve said, donations are important and play a role, but donations do not empower people where social enterprise does.

Making people feel good – HR benefits

More and more research shows that people want to work for socially and environmentally responsible businesses. Attracting and retaining top talent is a profitable sustainable business strategy helping to reduce the costs associated with training and turnover. If employees feel good about the work they do and the companies they work for then profitability, efficiency, quality and customer service all improve instep. By working with social enterprises that have values inline with your company and staff you can empower your employees by feeling good about their work and how it contributes to improving their community and environment.

Top 3 tips for working with social enterprise

1) Find a social enterprise operating in your community that you or your employees share values with. Having the values in line is strategic in terms of the benefits and exposure your partnership will produce. Working together for mutual benefit is a strong value proposition.

2) Go on a tour to meet the people managing and working in the social enterprise. Check it out, shake peoples’ hands and look in peoples’ eyes. The value I’ve received seeing smiles of peoples’ faces has made my work with social enterprise worth it alone. This is also a great way to engage your employees and get them to see the value first hand that their partnership and work together creates.

3) Be patient and do whatever you can to help social enterprises build capacity. Developing working relationships with social enterprises takes time, resources and patience so take it slow, offer your time and expertise and help however you can. Remember and honour the social element of their operations, there’s more than a financial bottom line and we must look at social and financial considerations in equilibrium for social enterprise and long term working relationships to work.