Following a Triple Bottom Line in Squamish

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With help from a program launched by StartUp Squamish, Colleen Myers is working on starting a food co-op in town.

By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: June 3, 2014

A shower curtain made Colleen Myers an entrepreneur.

She couldn’t find a decent one in Squamish and decided the town needed a cool store for household items. The result was the Hive in downtown Squamish, which Myers sold recently.

Then she spotted another gap in the market. For a town as health conscious as Squamish, she realised there was no place to eat healthy, homemade, local and organic food that also catered to dietary restriction.   

The result was Zephyr, a trendy coffee shop in downtown Squamish that was a breath of fresh air for health conscious foodies.

It was a highly successful business whose cool, easy going vibe also reflected Myer’s political beliefs: A desire for local and scepticism of big corporate chain stores.

With her third business, Myers is again planning to conflate her political beliefs with her business skills. This time, however, profit is only one part of the equation.

With help from a program launched by StartUp Squamish, Myers is working on starting a food co-op in town.

Her vision is of an alternate but regular grocery store, a place that is big enough for local farmers to supply food which is then sold to the community at affordable prices.

Mindful that the charge is elitism is never far from local organic food, Myers wants the food co-op to be affordable and accessible for locals.

People will be able to cherry pick quality local and organic food from the food co-op, but the food will be more affordable than anywhere else in town.

The social goal of her business enterprise is to create food security and enable local farmers to sell their produce.

“The food coop will enable the community to be in control of what they are eating,” she says.

The food co-op reveals the essence of social entrepreneurship: It’s a business, but profit isn’t the only motive. The bottom line is triangular: People, profit, and planet.

With the right investors from the community, Squamish may soon be home to eight new businesses that will reflect that triple bottom line.

These eight local entrepreneurs have trained in a ten week accelerator program sponsored by Vancity and Community Futures Howe Sound and hosted at the StartUp Squamish space in downtown Squamish.

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Easy Park wants to start an electric vehicle car share program in Squamish. The company also plans to build an electric vehicle co-op program in downtown Squamish. Photo: Gagandeep Ghuman

On June 18, StartUp Squamish will provide these businesses a team of experts which will support them with marketing, sales, accounting and other operations.

At a barn raising event, these social enterprises will pitch for investors and community involvement.

“A social enterprise has its social purpose baked right into the heart of the business, not tacked onto the side like an afterthought,” said Nicole Chaland, director of the SFU’s Community Economic Development program.

The first social enterprise in Canada may be a courier company called A-Way Express, which started in Toronto for the specific purpose of employing people who experience mental illness.

“Social enterprise can be a viable solution for problems like mental illness and poverty,” she said.

The food co-op will be profit driven, but the profits will be returned to the members in the form of lower food costs, equity and year end pay outs.

At least one of the eight local social enterprises will zoom into our community with a great panache.

Easy Park, a non-profit company operated by the City of Vancouver, will soon start an electric vehicle car share program with an electric vehicle, a stylish BMW i3.

Over 80 per cent of those driving out of Squamish are doing so in a single occupancy vehicle, said Jack Gushe, IT director at Easy Park, and a Squamish commuter.

In the long run, Easy Park wants to work with the district to start an electric car share co-op, enabling people from Vancouver to ride into downtown Squamish and vice-versa.

Reduced emissions, a cost effective commuting, and economic development downtown is what Gushe says they want to achieve with their social enterprise.  

“We want to be part of the solution,” he said.

 

Comments

  1. Observer says:

    Colleen: Great idea.
    Now dot your I’s and hope they will not drown you in red tape.
    There will be the usual “naysayers” who will crawl out from their rocks, just because it is a new concept for our town. And there will be, ” ‘elf an’ safety”, and those who just don’t seem to know any better anyway.
    A food Co-op is one of the best business Niches I have seen suggested, of its type , for a long time. I believe we are really ready for it
    The trouble with this town is that there is a problem getting DOS staff to communicate and work efficiently with members of Council so everything seems to take ages to get off the ground.
    Talk to Staff and all Council members in whatever ways you can. Who knows they may even read this!
    All the very best.

  2. Out with the old, in with the new says:

    YES!!! I fully support this idea. The fast food restaurants and junk food aisles belong to history as part of the “old” Squamish. With the changing demographic trending towards young families and healthier more active people, a local food co-op is a missing element in the city.

    Affordable nutritious food almost seems like an oxymoron these days, so access to local organic food should be welcomed by everyone.

  3. heather gee says:

    I have been looking forward to hearing more about Easy Park. What a pity it is not similar to the Car Share companies in Vancouver. There, you don’t have to own a car, simply join a car share and use one of these cars when it’s necessary to travel further. When you happen to live near to stores or live downtown – we tend to walk or cycle. What about the times when we want to travel further within Squamish?
    Nevertheless, if regular commuters use these electric vehicles, it will make a difference to our air quality. Many locals disregard the country-wide ruling about not sitting in a stationery car with the engine running. Further education of people is necessary….