When the Bottom Line is Doing Good
What if you’re an entrepreneur who isn’t driven by profit alone?
Connecticut is home to a rapidly growing number of social enterprise startups – innovative businesses concerned as much about improving their communities or solving social or environmental challenges as about dollars and cents. And our economic development ecosystem has evolved to meet the need to provide business fundamentals, support and skills to our more socially conscious entrepreneurs.
In Hartford and New Haven, two organizations in particular – reSET and Collab – offer programming, mentoring, space and more to companies looking to create market-based solutions to community needs.
Hartford’s reSET was founded in 2007 and is now considered one of the city’s most valuable non-profit organizations. Its programs include coworking space in the city’s urban core, a food incubator/accelerator for those with entrepreneurial ambitions in the food service or packaged foods industries, and a student business accelerator in partnership with Wesleyan University.
Its most recognized program is the reSET Impact Accelerator, a twice-yearly, 12-week program providing intensive mentoring and business skills development to a handful of unique and innovative companies who have competed for the chance to participate. For example, its most recent cohort included Seedership, a company that has developed a digital platform allowing companies to monitor and quantify the social benefit of their activities, helping them report the value of those activities to their customers and the community on a regular, comprehensible basis.
In New Haven, Collab founders Caroline Smith and Margaret Lee saw a specific need in the city to support locally based entrepreneurs who are people of color and/or women. Historically, both have been denied equivalent access to the knowledge, skills and capital entrepreneurs require to succeed.
Collab also offers a social enterprise accelerator program with two cohorts annually. One of their recent graduates is SPACE, a digital media studio providing equipment, space and facilities as well as content development and production workshops to startup entrepreneurs, local artists and creatives, nonprofit and youth organizations.
In addition to skills development and mentoring, both reSET and Collab also focus on establishing access to capital for local entrepreneurs, historically a higher hurdle for minority or women-led enterprises.
Other social impact accelerators are launching in smaller Connecticut cities – look here on CTNext’s Partners page for some additional programs. And for more detail on the state’s food incubator/accelerator programs, read here.