2 May 2018

Case Study:

When we launched Urban Matters CCC in 2014 we knew we were going to be active in something we often described as an incubation/acceleration function. Why? In conceiving of our business model we recognized one of the greatest values that we can bring to the ecosystem is in the sharing of our experience and capacity with other social entrepreneurs and related organizations in developing socially purposed ventures. It’s a multiplier, scaling impact through our own work, and scaling through the good work of our peers and partners.

Over time we’ve come to realize that this language, the language of incubators and accelerators, doesn’t effectively capture what Urban Matters CCC is trying to achieve, as these terms often conjure up thoughts of ‘tech’ companies, and cohorts going through similar self-driven training simultaneously. So, ours language has evolved toward something that is more aptly described as a a boutique social venture developer. We very carefully pick our spots usually based upon gaps we identify through our Advisory Services work.

Incubators and accelerators, remain, however, highly successful models, and very effective approaches to leveraging resources for scaling outcomes. We believe this approach can be applied to the social enterprise ecosystem too, and that’s what we found out supporting the development of Purppl (PURposeful-PeoPLe).

The concept for Purppl started over a coffee on a patio in the Okanagan Valley in the summer of 2015, a street or two away from Accelerate Okanagan, a very successful tech accelerator based in Kelowna, BC. Andrew Greer, now Purppl’s CEO, and a Leader at Accelerate Okanagan, saw opportunities to apply some of the successful methods of a tech-accelerator to the social enterprise world. While socially oriented tech is growing quickly, the opportunity was there for more than just tech organizations to benefit from the rigor of the programs tech accelerators often ran, and the access they could provide to skilled and knowledgeable mentors.

In Andrew, Purppl had an entrepreneurial leader who clearly had the relevant experience and was eager to develop and run Purppl in the way he was encouraging others to – as a social enterprise itself. From 2015 (not too long after the coffee) to 2017, Urban Matters CCC supported Andrew in developing Purppl as it’s own social enterprise (and also as a Community Contribution Company, a CCC). Andrew will tell you that some of the most valuable support that we offered Purppl during its start up years were the simple and less formal things; the impromptu coaching and mentoring, the access to meeting space and basic office equipment, and the credibility that comes with partnering and association with a well established and successful Company. Though this experience with Purppl we have also refined additional start up tools and supports like insurance, legal, accounting and marketing and communications.

Today Purppl is self-sustaining and is experiencing increasing demand for its services. Purppl’s service offering now includes two core programs: the Social Enterprise Acceleration (SEA) Program, and the Social Enterprise Fundamentals (SoFun) workshop. The SEA Program is a six-month program that provides tools, accountability, and critically, strategic mentoring from experienced entrepreneurs. The SoFun workshop a one-day workshop for social entrepreneurs who are just formulating and shaping their social enterprise. The keys with these programs, and the learnings they bring from the tech acceleration space is the need for rigor, attention to fundamentals, and access to experienced advisors. Purppl helps social entrepreneurs accelerate viable social enterprises – and it practices what it preaches. While many tech accelerators receive substantial funding directly from government and other grantor bodies, Purppl was a social enterprise first, and maintains those roots. In part this is for financial independence, but it’s also to demonstrate the belief in the power of social enterprise. If Andrew and Purppl didn’t believe they could operate as a social enterprise, why should others trust Purppl to show them how to run their enterprises that way?

So with this experience supporting the launch of Purppl we’ve been better equipped to see ourselves more clearly. The differences between Urban Matters CCC and Purppl are substantial, and each organization has different target enterprise types. Purppl is interested in supporting a wide range of social serving enterprises, while Urban Matters CCC is looking for enterprises to incubate for which we can most efficiently mobilize our networks and resources – additionally, while Purppl starts with a social entrepreneur and a social enterprise idea, Urban Matters CCC is often starting with the problem, then developing the idea and social entrepreneur. Each organization fills a space in the ecosystem, and our relationship puts both in a good position to refer prospective entrepreneurs in the appropriate direction.

Purppl is doing well these days. Recently Purppl had the opportunity to team up with the City of Kamloops to increase the impact of the community Social Planning Grants – with interested applicants being able to apply for grant funding to be put towards Purppl’s Social Enterprise Acceleration Program. This is an exciting step, and demonstrates the traction Purppl has managed to gain in the space – we’re very proud.

For more information:
Ken Gauthier, Social Entrepreneur and President. kgauthier@urbanmatters.ca
Andrew Greer, Purppl Co-Founder. andrew@purppl.com