Social entrepreneurship gets boost in Moncton

With more people, especially millennials, seeking work that is both meaningful and useful to society, Dale Ritchie is launching a Moncton-based accelerator and fund that will boost opportunities for social entrepreneurs.

Ritchie, president of the city’s McKenzie College, is behind the Community Accelerator and Hub Fund due to launch in September. The accelerator will be based at the college, which focuses on art, design, IT, and English for business and academic purposes.

“The accelerator for social entrepreneurs will be a post-graduate program so instead of doing a master’s degree some students may choose to study entrepreneurship and education,” said Ritchie.

“Students may go on to develop their own ideas or they may meet someone on the program and combine talents and ideas, or they may become an intrapreneur and work with a large company on a project.”

The Moncton initiative is the latest boost to social entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada. It joins the B4Change program at the Pond-Deshpande Centre in Fredericton, the Impact Incubator at Common Good Solutions in Halifax, and various Enactus university-based programs.

Ritchie said organizers are in talks with local corporations about their potential involvement in contributing to the Hub Fund and the mentorship of entrepreneurs.

“We want to be a catalyst,” Ritchie said. “It’s a community project.”

He said the idea was inspired by his own daughter, Jill, whose partner of 10 years, Lucas, died after a battle with mental health and addiction issues.

Jill and Lucas had started Lead With Your Heart, a project providing creative therapies for people suffering from mental illness and addiction. Jill has continued the cause in memory of Lucas, who died at just 29.

It’s hoped the Hub Fund will eventually raise $1 million. Local investors will be able to obtain a 50-per-cent tax credit under the New Brunswick Equity Tax Credit program. The fund will be professionally managed by an independent third party.

Ritchie said there are many potential participants in the accelerator, including students of the school’s English program.

“One of our students has a PhD in philosophy from Russia; his wife is a computer programmer. They want to map the local ICT community. That project would help the economy develop and help immigrants when they get here.”

People who want to form charities can apply to attend the accelerator but are not eligible for funding as the fund can only invest in for-profit corporations.

Ritchie said material for course programming is being sourced from places such as England’s School for Social Entrepreneurs and U.S. schools like Boston’s Hult International Business School.

“The U.S. is further ahead than us on the education side of social entrepreneurship, but I think we Canadians are a bit further ahead on the thinking side,” he said.

Ritchie’s own career has been inspired by his father, Oral, who owned Ritchie’s Clothing in Moncton. Ritchie and his twin brother Neil helped their dad with chores like sweeping floors.

When his health declined, Oral sold the store and opened Rocklyn Trailer Park outside Moncton. Oral got the twins to work out things like the profit margin on a box of chocolate bars and how that would diminish if they ate the bars.

“It was very practical experience. One day Dad told me, ‘I’m going to show you how money grows on trees,’” Ritchie recalled. He didn’t know what his dad meant until they sold Christmas trees felled from their land and Ritchie obtained $500 toward his university tuition.

Ritchie went on to obtain a business degree from Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, where he also studied computer science and finance.

“Millennials don’t have a lot of practical skills,” he said, “but they have a real desire to start a business and it’s easier today in many ways, with the Internet and the support.”

The organizers are still recruiting mentors, advisors and investors. Contact info@mckenzie.edu.

 

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