Entrepreneurial, community-minded energy was bubbling over at the Columbus Foundation late last month as it hosted a megaton pep rally for social enterprise development.

Margin for Mission

Entrepreneurial, community-minded energy was bubbling over at the Columbus Foundation late last month as it hosted a megaton pep rally for social enterprise development. The Foundation's Davis Hall was packed with mission-focused startups and investors as John Rush of CleanTurn emceed a program of passionate pitches and testimonials.

Rising Columbus social entrepreneurs Joe Deloss of Hot Chicken Takeover and Michele Reynolds of Coffee Crafters Barista Academy shared the microphone with Marjory Pizzuti of Goodwill Columbus, a longtime social enterprise operator. Their common bond-business aimed at benefitting others. DeLoss shared his definition of social enterprise as "a market solution to some pervasive community problem."

If social enterprise or mission-related investment is not on your radar yet, it soon will be. Those engaged in increasing the social enterprise pipeline in Columbus say millennials especially are drawn to work that makes a difference.

As one indicator of the rising interest level, Suzy Bureau, founding organizer of GiveBackHack, shared highlights of that April weekend event at the Columbus College of Art and Design MindMarket. It attracted 105 people, generated 67 entrepreneurial concepts and developed 12 for implementation. One was Carry Me Forward, a business plan to provide luggage for foster kids who might otherwise carry meager belongings in black plastic trash bags from one temporary home to another.

Longtime social investor Tony Wells left the crowd with this inspiration: an estimated $1 billion available to buy into mission-focused startups is sitting on the sidelines.

Family Businesses Believe in Columbus Economy

Family business owners are confident in the Columbus region's economy, according to the 2015 Central Ohio Family Business Economic Outlook Survey conducted by the Conway Center for Family Business.

Owners of 93 family-owned businesses took part in the annual survey. While 80 percent of respondents expressed confidence in the national economy, 95 percent expressed confidence in central Ohio's economy.

In keeping with that optimism, 68 percent of those family businesses plan on hiring in 2015. Eighty-one percent of those planning on hiring will add between one and 10 employees. Unfortunately, finding qualified workers was a predominant challenge faced by more than half of the surveyed business owners.

Tomorrow's Partners

Like any successful multi-generational operation, diversity and new-member recruitment are top priorities for the Columbus Partnership. If the Partnership's economic development mission is to continue past the tenure of its original and current members, new executives have to be invited to the Partnership table today.

"We have probably a turnover of about 20 percent of the CEOs, either their companies are moving or they're moving out of town into different jobs," says Partnership co-founder Les Wexner (see Executive Q&A, page 12). "How do we onboard the replacements, if you would, and (get) them to think about the community?"

"We have been doing a number of leadership activities," says Partnership President and CEO Alex Fischer.

For example, this summer, the Partnership and the Columbus Foundation are sending a group of younger executives to attend Harvard's Young American Leaders Program.

"Our delegation will join nine other cities who will work together on building their personal and community leadership," says Fischer. "We are working with our delegation beforehand and afterward to leverage the opportunity."

The Partnership has committed to send delegations over the next few years. Among the attendees of this summer's program are: Rebecca Asmo (executive director, Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus), Liz Brown (Downtown development manager, City of Columbus), Shannon Hardin (Columbus City Council member), Lisa Ingram (president, White Castle System), Brett Kaufman (founder, Kaufman Development), John Lowe (CEO, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams), Steve Lyons (executive vice president, Columbus Partnership), Chris Olsen (partner, Drive Capital), Hannah Powell (executive director, KIPP Columbus), Mark Wood (president, the Wood Companies).

The Partnership is also engaged in leadership development programs and actively reaches out to underrepresented members of the executive community. Current initiatives include:

In the Board Room: Eight to 10 members of the Young Presidents Organization are invited to the board room of one of the Partnership members for a discussion on their company, leadership, and the community. Central Ohio Leadership Academy: High school seniors spend a week at OSU in a program developed and managed collaboratively by Jordan Davis, the Partnership's manager of member activities and community affairs. Widen the Circle: A program focused on growing the number of women serving on corporate boards. In collaboration with the Columbus Foundation, the Partnership is working to develop Lean In Circles for women in the Columbus region.