2016 NJ Social Entrepreneurship Kick-Off!

About the event: On Friday, February 26th over sixty social entrepreneurs gathered for an all-day kick-off event for the 2016 program.

The meeting opened with an overview of resources currently available to social entrepreneurs. Nancy Eberhardt of Pro Bono Partnership spoke of the legal resources available and commonly encountered questions including: tax issues; for-profit vs. nonprofit structures, guidelines for joint ventures and avoiding conflicts of interest and public support rules.

The Support Center|Partnership in Philanthropy alerted participants to upcoming events including the 2016 social enterprise training series as well as the May 4, 2016 planned “pitch” competition to be held at Rutgers Business School. An application for organizations to make their case for impact investments—either grants or loans—will be available shortly. Efforts to create a more cohesive and connected social enterprise community in NJ were also highlighted.

Eddie LaPorte, Director of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives, spoke about the state of NJ’s support for development of Social Entrepreneur Ventures (SEVs) to create innovative approaches to address social issues and their upcoming application deadlines. Professor Jeff Robinson of Rutgers Business School lead a session on new developments in social enterprise and also spoke about relevant programming with the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development.

A panel featuring the following social entrepreneurs also highlighted some of the key takeaways from social enterprise development to date: Catherine Wieczorek, Interfaith Neighbors and the Kula Café; Marla Meyeres & Barbara Abrams and the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey and Soups and Sweets; Perry Sandler, RISE and the Greater Goods Thrift Store; Patty Mojta, Prevent Child Abuse NJ and Parent Universe; and Jim Zullo, Elijah’s Promise and the Better World Market. Key points discussed include: the tension between an existing organization and a new venture and the allocation of resources, the need for marketing, the role of the board in understanding and supporting a venture and mission alignment, the (in)ability of nonprofits to invest sweat equity into a social venture and the key role of volunteers to subsidize operations, ethical considerations and when to make the hard choices about keeping a social venture up and running vs. discontinuing the effort.

The afternoon was spent with participants informing the development of our capacity building plans going forward. The following were highlighted as key areas to explore through trainings, workshops, panels and one-on-one assistance for three distinct types of organizations: a) organizations new to the social entrepreneurship space; b) organizations moving to become investment ready; and c) investment ready organizations now seeking capital (loans or grants). Below are the Major takeaways from each group:

Support for New Social Entrepreneurs:
– Grow the capacity of staff and board to embrace a dual strategy and board education about social enterprises;
– Access to a community of like-minded organizations;
– Trainings and workshops.
Support for those Becoming Investment Ready:
– Support to know when you are investment ready through consultations and coaching;
– Clinic- style workshops to have someone look over your plan and ask questions;
– How do we measure and tell our impact story and what’s the role of research?
Support for Investment Ready Organizations:
– Mock pitch opportunities;
– Meet with investors such as Community Development Financial Institutions;
– Support to know when the investment opportunity is right for our organization and our venture and when we should say no.


Written by Keith Timko.

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