Posts Tagged ‘business’

SVN Launches “Best Advice I Never Got” Video Series

Posted on: July 1st, 2014 by social venture network No Comments

Posted by Social Venture Network, @SVNetwork

We hear a lot of advice from business leaders focused on profit. But what about the growing community of mission-driven business leaders who are leveraging their company to do good? What does it take to align profit and purpose?

Social Venture Network members have launched some of the most innovative organizations in the mission-driven business community. They’ve experienced success, failure, setbacks and breakthroughs…and are very candid about the lessons they learned the hard way.

From learning how to deal with unaligned investors to transforming a company culture gone sour, these leaders have a lot of wisdom to share about dealing with the challenges and opportunities entrepreneurs face every day.

Check out the advice SVN members wish they had heard when they were just starting out, now in our new video series, “The Best Advice I Never Got.

Joel Solomon: The Missing Ingredient From Your Portfolio

Posted on: July 23rd, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

Guest blogpost written by David Laskarzewski for Impact Driven

Joel SolomonJoel Solomon is up to something.

Sitting on a stool in front of a room of 100+ like-minded people at the LOHAS Collaboratory, his thick grey-black hair soaking in the morning Boulder sunshine that’s filtering through the windows, Mr. Solomon smiles patiently — make that sublimely — at the minds and hearts settling in to feed on his words.

“I came from money,” begins Mr. Solomon, president of Canada’s largest social venture capital firm, Renewal Partners. “My father was a successful developer who became a pioneer at purchasing land and building strip malls.

“I didn’t think twice about how my dad put food on the table until Joni Mitchell’s song, ‘Big Yellow Taxi,’ hit the airwaves. Suddenly, the idea that my family business was paving over paradise didn’t sit very well with me.

“And so,” continues Mr. Solomon, “I began to question where money comes from, where it goes, and the effects it has on people and the planet. All while growing out both the hair on my face and on my head … I came of age in the 60s after all.

“About this same time, I was diagnosed with something called polycystic kidney disease. It’s in my family history and, when I learned I had it at 22, there was no cure. Only a dialysis machine. Bottom line: the doctors didn’t really know how long I had to live. Believe me, there’s nothing like coming face-to-face with your own mortality to really clarify what’s important to you.

“Fast-forward to today,” quips Mr. Solomon, “and through the miracle of organ donation and organ transplant, I’m happy to report that I’m healthy, well and very grateful and blessed. The thing is, facing the possibility of death was actually very important, very beneficial. Because in short order it became clear what mattered most to me.

“The questions that we ask regularly at our office in Vancouver are: ‘What can we do in the next 50 years that will impact the next 500?’ ‘How can we leverage capital to create competent, collaborative and resilient communities?’ ‘How can we activate the holistic philosophy that has taken over the organic food industry — people care about where their food comes from and how healthy it is — and apply these ideals to investing?’ And ‘How do we ensure that ethical, sustainable and responsible investment goes mainstream?’”

Mr. Solomon paused to take a drink of water, allowing his audience a moment to reflect.

Water bottle down, Mr. Solomon’s next words were akin to a poker player showing a winning hand on a card table: “To continue to build the ‘movement’ and prove that a respectable return can be made alongside social good,” says Mr. Solomon, “we are launching Renewal3. With a target rate of returns of 15% over the next 10 years.

“Renewal Funds,” continues Mr. Solomon,” is managed by Paul Richardson, Carol Newell, our cofounder, myself, and Nicole Bradbury and Kate Storey. Roughly two-thirds of our investments are made here in the States with the remaining third in Canada.”

Joel Solomon reaches for his water bottle once more, enjoys the cool refreshment, and recaps both the empty container and his message to his Boulder audience.

“We all can choose where we shop. We can choose what we buy, who we buy it from, who made it, where they made it, and what the impact was of how it was made. That’s the power of your hard-earned dollar. No matter how much or how little money each of us has, what we do with it is an expression of what we care about and our beliefs about the world.

“So,” Mr. Solomon asks rhetorically, “why not have money be more life-giving?

“Let’s use our money to create conditions for more hope, inspiration and love. Because, beneath it all, love is the true nutrient.”

Joel Solomon is Chairman of Renewal Funds, Canada’s largest social venture capital firm.  Launching in 2013, Renewal3 and the Instinct Fund now build upon the legacy of aligning money with values established by Renewal2and Renewal Partners.

Joel serves as a Senior Advisor with RSF Social Finance and speaks frequently throughout North America, including a recent TEDxVancouver talk.  He is a founding member of Social Venture Network (SVN), Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), the Tides Canada Foundation, and is board chair of Hollyhock.

Unleashing Activism through Business

Posted on: April 28th, 2013 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Evan Coller, Social Venture Network

Michael KieschnickA businessman with a personal quota for getting arrested once a decade isn’t an ideal role model, but it does define a man as a force for social change.

Everyone that attended SVN’s 2013 Spring Conference got hear from one of these heroes first hand, leaving with a clear vision of what it means to run a disruptive business with positive impact.

As a white, male, straight athlete growing up under the Friday Night Lights of Dallas, TX, Michael Kieschnick quickly decided that his life of privilege was worth more if he used it to make a difference.

As the president and co-founder of Working Assets/CREDO Mobile, Michael has created a network of over 3 million activists fighting for causes that would bury most businesses in hate mail.

“We lose customers on every single thing we do. If we oppose invading Iraq…we lose customers. If we speak out against the PATRIOT Act…we lose customers. If we talk about Iran…we lose customers.”

But what’s most interesting about Michael’s leadership, isn’t his acts of civil disobedience, powerful as they are. It’s his success in growing a profitable business while keeping social and environmental activism at its core.

“We’re not a mobile phone company, we’re a social change organization.”

Watch the video below of Michael Kieschnick at SVN’s 2013 Spring Conference for valuable insight into how unleashing your inner activist can help you run a successful social change organization.

Three Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Trying to Raise Capital

Posted on: June 18th, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Sara Yap, Social Venture Network

Unbeknownst to many entrepreneurs, studies show that investors often rely on instinct and expertise rather than the business plan to evaluate a company. With so many factors at play, how can social entrepreneurs optimize their chances of raising capital? Peter Strugatz (Strugatz Ventures), Michael Whelchel (Watershed Capital) and Taylor Jordan (Imprint Capital) shared these insights for entrepreneurs seeking capital at the Social Venture Network and Hanson Bridgett Sustainable Business Speaker Series.

What are the mistakes that entrepreneurs often make when raising capital?

Mistake #1: Entrepreneurs don’t optimize their pitch time effectively.
Entrepreneurs have typically 12 minutes to execute the pitch. Strugatz shared that entrepreneurs often underestimate the importance of demonstrating the business plan. During the funding pitch, the entrepreneur often talks too long about the problem without showing how the business provides a solution

Mistake #2: The entrepreneur does not find the right investor and company match for the pitch.
Entrepreneurs neglect to conduct due diligence on the investment company prior to approaching funders. It is to the entrepreneur’s advantage to research who the investors have backed and understand which entrepreneurs have raised funds in similar sectors.

Mistake #3: The entrepreneur lacks strong management skills.
Peter Strugatz states, “You need business skill-sets to build the company. Entrepreneurs underestimate the power of having a strong management team. Be aware of how to build the team as well as a product or service, all while keeping your burn rate low.”

Examples of pitches and presentations that have gone well:
Manage the pitch time to your advantage. Taylor Jordan offered one approach that has worked for his investees:

1. (Two minutes) The entrepreneur provides a story of the business, how it started, how the service or products will change the current landscape and why the business is important

2. (Ten minutes) The Chief Operating Officer provides background on the actual business execution

3. (Five minutes) Q&A

Have a board member, investor or someone on the team provide a concise story that shows their commitment to the company and its mission.

  • The entrepreneur shares the qualifications of the team and the qualities of the advisors.
  • One investor recommended this approach: “One of the stakeholders of a company stood up during the pitch and said, ‘I’m an investor, I’ve done this before and this is why I’m involved.’ Validation from an expert shows that what the entrepreneur presents could very well be true.” In this case, the validation around the pitch also built more momentum for the company.

How do you use a network like Social Venture Network for the funding process?
Peter Strugatz and Michael Whelchel leveraged SVN by connecting with other investors and entrepreneurs. Strugatz shared, “SVN has allowed me to use personal and business relationships with a base of people who understand what I do and the ability to build trusted alliances. For me, I found sales and strategic partnerships through the organization. I also see SVN as a cross pollinating tribe for building relationships and resources. In many ways SVN incubates ideas, accelerates a business idea and brings together a networked community.” Michael Whelchel shared, “SVN is a place to build support as an investor and where members have a genuine desire to see people succeed.”

Join SVN for the final Hanson Bridgett Sustainable Business Speaker Series for 2012 on “Best Practices in Impact Investing” with Joy Anderson (Criterion Ventures) and Will Rosenzweig (Physic Ventures).
Date and time: Thursday, September 20th, 2012 from 5:30pm – 8:00pm
Location: Hanson Bridgett LLP, 425 Market St., San Francisco

What have you learned about raising capital as either an entrepreneur or an investor? Share your feedback with us! Send us a comment below!

SVN Europe A Splash Hit for Networking Entrepreneurs

Posted on: May 30th, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Evan Coller, Social Venture Network

In the Social Venture Network integrity isn’t an ideal, but the standard. Pioneers who have led the way in values-based business and the emerging entrepreneurs who are driving the movement forward engage, connect, and inspire each other to show that the best way to have fun making profit, is by exemplifying the common-good enterprise.

On the heels of SVN’s Annual Spring Gathering that spark of energy transcended across the Atlantic to Egmond Aan Zee, a coastal town 45 minutes from Amsterdam, Netherlands where conversations in SVN’s ecosystem of entrepreneurs continued at SVN Europe.

SVN Member, Lori Darley, unleashing creativity and expression at the individual and corporate level, was in attendance:

“I had been invited by Engbert Breuker after meeting him on the dance floor first at SVN in Philadelphia. I was asked to make a proposal, which I did. I made three offerings: Ecstatic Dance, Women’s Circle and an embodied leadership workshop called ‘Moving through Chaos: Grounded, Centered and Connected.’ They took me up on all three.”

It’s no surprise that they met on the dance floor, as, in addition to his work as Chairman of SVN Europe, Engebert has built a reputation of excitement in the SVN Community as a marvelous DJ who’s enthusiasm and passion puts emphasis on the fun in doing good.

As a co-host for the conference Lori got a great feel for the group and the growing community of like-minded entrepreneurs that are finding a unique value in SVN events. In only its second year, the SVN Europe conference had about 80 thought leaders registered and featured amazing speakers such as Leen Zevenbergen, Gary HirschbergTom SzakyNicholas YouDaniel ErasmusGunter PauliMirran RaphaelyPeter ter Weeme and Lesley Williams, with various workshops in between.

Memorable for Lori was how “you could feel the growth and evolution of this community already underway” with moments like:

  • Gary Hirshberg’s speech on the actual data that shows the profitability of social enterprise.
  • Gary’s wife Meg giving an amazingly transparent talk on the spousal perspective of the entrepreneurial journey.
  • Men’s and Womens circles that were so transformative people shared things they had never shared.
  • Shyla Nelson’s opening with her song.
  • The walk on the beach following the flying squid to the Friday night dinner.
  • An energized Ecstatic dance with a surprising turn-out given people didn’t know what it was or what to expect. “What do you mean by Ecstatic exactly?” The participants rocked the room!
  • And yes, even a late night hospitality suite!

The word is out that Social Venture Network is a centerpiece in the sustainable business movement. For upcoming events visit our website.

Guest Blogger Tolulope Ilesanmi on Bringing Ecosystems Together and the Magic of SVN’s Bridge Project

Posted on: May 15th, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

One of the profound thoughts from the SVN conference for me was spoken by Nina Simmons,

“In nature, the places of greatest fertility are places where two ecosystems meet.”

It resonated with me because I love crossing boundaries and bringing seemingly disparate ecosystems together. I think our differences are a source of strength not of stress and they ought to be celebrated because when we come together they make us stronger and richer in the truest sense.

There is a natural human tendency to restrict ourselves to our own habitats where people think, act or look like us but we may be doing ourselves a disservice if we do not allow ourselves to mix with those who are seemingly different. I think SVN is taking significantsteps to bring various ecosystems

together and I don’t think it needs to be done merely to be more progressive but to benefit from the richness that emerges when seemingly disparate social, economic, political and cultural segments intersect.

It is much more comfortable to stay around people who think and act like we do but as Joan Halifax illustrated, our comfort zone is a tiny dot, outside of which all the magic happens. An ecotone, the place where ecosystems meet has the characteristics of both ecosystems as well as its own, making the whole richer than the sum of the parts. We are individually enriched as is our world, when ecosystems meet.

SVN’s Bridge Project is an excellent example of bringing ecosystems together, crossing social, political, cultural and economic boundaries. I think it will contribute to driving the next phase in SVN’s growth, because of the resultant richness and improved “biodiversity”. We impoverish ourselves and close the door of possibility when we keep away from those who are unlike us.  I was impressed to hear from Danny Kennedy that Sungevity received positive responses from Tea party members and I think that is only a tip of the iceberg of what is possible. ‘Weeds” are sometimes undiscovered vegetables and “enemies” are unknown friends, if not often mental constructs.

For full post visit the Zenith Cleaners Blog.

Leading the way: an Intergenerational Conversation About SVN’s Past, Present and Future

Posted on: April 20th, 2012 by social venture network No Comments

Written by Maude Wilson, SVN Events and Project Fellow

In celebration of SVN’s 25 years of leading the way, impact investors and SVN co-founders Wayne Silby and Josh Mailman joined Green for All’s CEO Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins and Shilpa Jain, ED of YES! in an intergenerational conversation about the past, present and future of business, leadership, and social change at SVN’s Annual Member Gathering on Friday.

The group of social and economic change agents shared, with an audience of 250 like-minded individuals, their inspiration, vision for what the world might look like tomorrow when success is achieved, as well as the challenges they currently face in their lives and businesses.

Here’s a snapshot of a few thought-provoking questions posed by moderator Laura Flanders from The Laura Flanders Show and answers for the panelists:



  • In the spirit of boldness, success starts with the belief that change is possible in our lifetime.


  • We need to feel like we are part of a global movement, and we can then pass that feeling on to more and more people.



  • We’ve been taught that we can do everything all by ourselves. My biggest challenge is to unlearn my independence and to relearn my interdependence.



  • It’s really hard being bold, sometimes if you think about the consequences of what you boldness means, you feel more afraid.


  • It’s fun when you know that you can go for it and regardless of whether you fail or not you are still valuable. I want to know that I’m creating that space for those around me —allowing them to know that it’s ok to go for it, and that I will be there for them no matter what the outcome.

In Phaedra’s work at Green For All, she focuses on creating economic justice by shifting to a green economy.

“There has been a huge shift in the economy. There is no doubt that the green economy is happening. Most people want to work and not have to have their children go to the store with food stamps. It’s really important for people to feel like they can take care of themselves. The challenge is how do we make sure the jobs that are created allow people to really support their families? How do we give everyone work, so that their outcome is like ours?”

The message of spreading love and supporting each other was repeated by the panelists, as they discussed how change will happen in this world of complex challenges.

“Being in the movement we all need to support each other. And to do that we all have to recognize that we don’t all start from the same starting point,” Phaedra said.