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Accelerator Program Helps Businesses Make Money And Make A Community Impact Too

Reflection session with the B4C Winter 2018 Cohort. Image: submitted.

There is an ever-growing wave of businesses around the world who have an impact in their communities and still generate a healthy profit.

The Pond-Deshpande Centre‘s BE.FOR.CHANGE Ventures (B4C) aims to help these kinds of companies grow in New Brunswick by giving them the support they need to succeed.

“We work in the business incubator and accelerator space – our niche is helping people launch ventures with impact, and in particular, building their business practices according to their values,” says Vanessa Paesani, director of B4C Ventures.

In the past, people often viewed organizations in two camps –  the not-for-profits focused on social missions and then businesses driven only by growth and revenue. The perception was that there was no in between.

But with a growing movement towards business ‘for good’, more people are realizing that you can create a balance between profit and impact. As an example, B Corp is a certification that businesses can earn, going through a rigorous third-party validation on their business practices.

Helping founders learn how to balance profit and impact within their ventures is what sets B4C apart from other business accelerators in Atlantic Canada.

“When you’re trying to find that balance, these entrepreneurs tend to have founders’ guilt and they ask themselves, ‘how can I charge for something that I wish was free for people who need it?’ ” says Rachel Mathis, B4C Ventures’ program manager.

“We address that loneliness and guilt for entrepreneurs. We also address specific barriers around making an impact venture financially sustainable,” says Mathis. “We help you find ways to measure and communicate your impacts.”

Since its inception in 2013, B4C has helped 57 ventures and 66 founders. Ninety-one per cent of the ventures launched through the program are still running and have created more than 100 full-time and 43 part-time jobs and have collectively raised more than $5.9 million in funding.

One of these alumni businesses is Quber, a Moncton-based fintech company offering a mobile app that helps people reach their saving goals.

Co-founder Jen Leger says she applied to the program when she left her previous job to work on Quber full-time. She says B4C is a helpful, collaborative, team-oriented environment where you are encouraged to share your ideas with other entrepreneurs. It especially helped Quber get acquainted with the startup ecosystem in New Brunswick.

The program was an accelerated learning into all things related to starting a business, from the business plan to the business pitch,” says Leger. “We took back information on challenges and networks in New Brunswick and learned more about the local ecosystem for entrepreneurs.”

Ultimately, B4C helped her create the foundation to help take Quber to where is today.

“The program gave me the jump-start to create my pitch and talk to organizations that could further help in our journey,” says Leger. “This learning foundation along with several other partners that have come to the table has helped us create five new tech-sector jobs in New Brunswick. The vision of the QUBER product has become a reality with cross country users and inbound inquiries from domestic and international banks.”

If you have a business idea you think has the potential to have a positive social impact locally and beyond, now is the time to find out where you can take it. Applications for the B4C Ventures’ upcoming spring cohort are now open until Thursday, February 28th.

“We want to help people find their sweet spot of having impact and creating wealth, including jobs. We don’t want to see impact and profit as polar opposites anymore,” says Paesani. “We’re here to help reframe challenges that might exist in New Brunswick – and beyond – as potential opportunities and create wealth at the same time.”

This story was sponsored by the Pond-Deshpande Centre.