These days, when the entrepreneurial bug bites, many hopeful small-business owners launch social enterprises—businesses that tackle social, cultural or environmental issues by “being part of the solution” while simultaneously turning a profit. Large and small, there are thousands of these businesses across Canada, and their numbers continue to grow.
But navigating the startup process can be daunting. Whether you’re launching a social enterprise or conventional small business, AMA offers an array of services and tools to help develop and grow your venture—from business registration to insurance (commercial auto and property, or employee benefits) to travel assistance.
AMA has also partnered with Business Link, a non-profit organization that provides small-business owners in Alberta with one-on-one support and guidance, including market research, networking opportunities, training and more.
Looking for inspiration? Learn how one Alberta-based social enterprise benefitted from Business Link’s resources and advice.
Green Event Services
Colin Smith has always had entrepreneurial blood in his veins. An electrician by trade and a music fan at heart, he had a “eureka” moment when he began noticing the problem of garbage at the music festivals he attended at home and abroad.
“At some of these festivals, I saw responsible waste-management efforts being taken—separating waste, compost, recycling, that sort of thing,” Smith says. “And at others, I didn’t.” That’s when Calgary-based Green Event Services (GES) was born.
Despite already having a couple of small businesses under his belt, Smith nonetheless consulted with various Business Link experts for guidance and support, and made use of the organization’s resources and tools, which he says were “really helpful when I was starting out.” He says he’s always liked the fact that anyone can book an appointment or just walk right in to the Business Link offices to get questions answered, and he still drops them an occasional email when he needs advice or information.
Launched in 2013, Green Event Services provides end-to-end waste-management—from planning and execution to final wrap-up—for events, and aims to divert 100 percent of waste to recycling or compost instead of landfill. The company’s first customer was Calgary’s Sled Island Music & Arts Festival. Since then, its client roster has grown exponentially and now includes Calgary Pride, X-Fest, Taste of Calgary and YYCFoodTrucks, for which GES achieved a whopping 99.7-percent waste-diversion rate.
Those numbers are how Smith measures success: The more waste diverted, the prouder he is. He says he also enjoys “seeing how stoked our staff is” when they finish an event, and in the pride they take in the work they’re doing. GES currently employs 60 staff, but the ranks balloon to 80 or more when the summer when festival season is in full swing.
Smith sees further growth in GES’s future: “We hope to continue to improve our diversion numbers and our customer base. And we’re looking at slowly expanding to other regions.”
GES dipped its toe into the Vancouver market this summer. There are plans for expansion across Alberta and, eventually, to other Canadian cities. Smith also expects to diversify his company’s offerings, so that GES can provide everyday waste-management services for businesses.
Though he didn’t explicitly set out to launch a social enterprise, Smith says social responsibility has always been a part of who he is, so it was only natural that GES follow suit. The company works with the Calgary Drop-in & Rehab Centre to source staff, and Smith’s diverse team includes individuals transitioning out of difficult situations. “It was part of my desire to be a responsible business owner, and caring for the people who work for the business and the larger community,” he explains. “It’s an opportunity to make a difference.”
This article was originally published on AMAInsider.com, and features two other Alberta-based social enterprises.