CHAMBER CHAT: Social enterprise finalists announced

NANAIMO – Catalyst offering $50,000 in cash and technical services to winner.

By Kim Smythe

A few months ago I wrote to bring readers up to speed on a growing business movement known as social enterprise.

I announced there would be an event this spring called Catalyst, offering $50,000 in cash and technical services to a social enterprise. Catalyst is on May 20 at the Port Theatre and the finalists in the Dragons’ Den-style event have been selected.

We are pleased to announce that Nanaimo Science and Sustainability Centre (NS3), Skookum Café and Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild will be the finalists presenting at the Catalyst Gala for a chance at $50,000 in combined cash and technical services.

The culinary guild’s goal is to assist restaurants, residents and grocery stores of the West Coast access healthy and affordable food from the region’s independent producers.

Skookum Café offers high-quality, locally focused food and beverages and provides youth in the West Shore communities the opportunity to gain employment and life skills in a safe and supportive environment.

The mission of Nanaimo’s NS3 is to inspire children and develop their interest in science and sustainability through hands-on learning.

Social enterprises are business organizations – mainly not-for-profits – whose mission, conduct and revenue stream address a cultural, social and/or environmental need.

Profits are targeted to a common good through the sales of products and services and many also focus on employing people with barriers.

Local examples include Code Brew, the coffee kiosk at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, Coco’s Café in Cedar and some of our local thrift shops. Catalyst is an event created to celebrate this movement.

The Catalyst Dragons’ Den stage show is preceded by an ‘Offer-tunity Fair’ in the lobby of the Port Theatre.

Many Catalyst applicants, as well as resource services and community supports, will have information tables open at 5:30 p.m., with the gala starting at 6:30 p.m. Keynote speaker will be Vickie Cammack, founder of Tyze Personal and a ground-breaking pioneer in the world of social enterprise and innovation.

Vickie recently received the Order of Canada for her work, and was recognized by The Globe and Mail as one of Canada’s Top 100 most powerful women.

The day after the Catalyst Gala, Vancouver Island University is hosting a day of learning focused on social enterprise. Keynote speakers, panels and presentations will address more in-depth subject areas relating to this business movement.

For more information, please go to

Or call me at the chamber at 250-756-1191.

Kim Smythe is CEO of Greater Nanaimo Chamber of Commerce.