A five-year effort to drum up recognition for social enterprise in central Ohio is finally paying off.
Allen Proctor, president and CEO of the Center for Social Enterprise Development, knew his message was being heard when one of the country's premier social enterprise investors recently came calling. Reed Mayfield, manager of social enterprise lending for San Francisco-based RSF Social Finance, found the center in an online search for social enterprise in Columbus and followed up with a visit in mid-March.
For the visit, Proctor rounded up a sampling of local social enterprises that were available to meet with Mayfield and talk about their work. They included representatives of CleanTurn International, Freedom a la Cart, Patriot Pride Painting Co., Fairhaven Lawn Care, Furniture With a Heart and Goodwill. Proctor also arranged a lunch for Mayfield with some social impact investors and had him join a monthly meeting of SE Catalyst™, an eight-month social enterprise immersion program.
“We've been working on this since 2012. The momentum is great, but there's always more to do,” Proctor says.
In 2015, the center counted just over two dozen local businesses or initiatives as being social enterprises. Now its online list at cincohio.com/social-enterprises-in-central-ohio totals 100 in categories including clothing/jewelry, food/drink and office supplies/professional resources, among others.
There are now enough businesses selling goods to support social missions that the center was able to launch shopsocialcbus.com, a website for consumer purchases, in time for holiday shopping late last year.
“It's at the point now where we as an organization are going to shift more of our effort to helping those already in operation,” Proctor says. Reflecting the swing, his board has approved a name change, SocialVentures, to be launched at an annual Positioned to Prosper celebration in mid-August.
The interest of millennials in wanting “to know their company is doing something special,” has helped grow the social enterprise movement, Proctor says, adding, “This generation is a huge force behind refocusing their bosses, talking to their families about it. … In the future the investment world will look at risk, return and impact. It's a gradual evolution.”