Social enterprise ideas sought

Jul 26, 2014

As Haywood County nonprofit organizations explore new ideas to generate operating revenue, social enterprise is being eyed as an ideal solution.

Social enterprise is simply a business established to serve the common good. It can be a business that provides employment for a disadvantaged group, one where the product idea serves a greater mission such as providing power or clean water in third-world countries, or one where proceeds go directly to a need in a community.

Several social enterprise ideas are in various stages of being formed under Haywood Helps, a new effort dedicated to eradicating poverty in the county.

But there is no limit to the number of businesses that can be formed under the Haywood Helps umbrella.

“We are looking for business ideas that will fill a unique need in our community,” said Vicki Hyatt, editor of The Mountaineer and chairman of the Haywood Helps Social Enterprise Committee. “We don’t want to compete with other entrepreneurs or businesses. We want to add to our community by identifying unfilled needs and then meeting them to generate revenue for a worthy cause.”

So far, Haywood Helps has investigated bottling water, building small truss housing, helping the artistic community better market their products and providing a line of value-added agriculture products.

“The first project we hope to launch is one to sell healthy snack foods in the school system since, as of July 1, the typical snack items sold during the school day are no longer allowed,” said Hyatt. “Our goal is to have tasty, locally made snacks available for sale in the school system this August when students return to classes.”

Business ideas that will offer skill-building opportunities are especially needed.

“Once the former Hazelwood prison has been turned into transitional housing for those just released from jail or for those who are without a permanent home, those staying in the complex will need to find a job, volunteer or be working on a plan to get a job,” she said. “You can hardly require people to work if there are no tasks for them to do.”

 

Ideas needed

Anyone in the community who has an idea that would fill these needs and would like to explore whether they could become a business to serve the greater good is invited to contact Beth Siren, who has agreed to chair a committee that will review project ideas, work with the individual or group proposing it and determine whether it is one to put on the agenda for the next social enterprise committee meeting.

“The way our committee operates is that someone brings up an idea that can potentially create jobs or income, and we see if others in the group are interested in working with them to research and develop it,” Hyatt said.

Others are being sought to serve on the idea review committee, as well. To volunteer for that, or to raise a social enterprise idea for consideration, contact Siren at elizabethsiren@gmail.com or call her at 400-6806.

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