IRP funding gives social enterprises the boost they need
Two organizations receiving funding through the province’s Investment Readiness Program (IRP) say the funds are helping them address inequality while creating economic opportunity and sustainability within their communities and beyond.
Among the recent beneficiaries is Richmond River Roots, a sustainable market garden focusing on the well-being of community members in Richmond County, N.S. Its goals are to increase access to affordable, fresh produce and to share gardening and food knowledge while providing opportunities to socialize with others.
Dr. Dorothy Barnard, a retired physician who is chair of the board at Richmond River Roots, says that thanks to IRP funding, they’ve been able to complete a business plan and a market garden consultation. Barnard said Richmond River Roots has a lot of potential with the land they have, and the funding will help the organization become more efficient, which, in turn, will help them expand.
“It was excellent because the funding made us clarify what we were trying to do and gave us some tools to put a better business plan in place,” Barnard says.
One project they are currently implementing, based on advice gleaned from the consultations, is installing irrigation. This will free up time that can be spent on other
endeavours, such as becoming a year-round operation.
“It also is allowing us to learn more how we can appropriately run a market garden, and hopefully we will have some advice about how we market. So, it was very helpful as a market garden and as a social enterprise, and helps to achieve both at the same time,” Barnard says.
In the spring of 2023, 13 groups received a total of $632,916 in funding through the IRP, which is part of a national initiative led by Community Foundations of Canada and
In Nova Scotia, the program is being administered by Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation, Rural Communities Foundation of Nova Scotia and the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia. The purpose of the program is to help social enterprises develop or expand, which in turn addresses issues such as poverty, well-being, economic opportunity, equality and climate change.
The IRP program is also helping advance the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development in communities across Canada. The report lists 17 goals, ranging from ending poverty, achieving gender equality and ensuring sustainable consumption to ensuring healthy lives and more.
Hope Blooms, which grows organic produce and makes salad dressings, is a social enterprise spurring youth in north-end Halifax to become agents of change; it was also
one of this year’s IRP recipients. The organization focuses on positive change as it makes an impact on food security, education, social inclusion as well as disrupting the cycle of poverty.
Veronica Gutierrez, manager of growth and sustainability at Hope Blooms, says it’s really hard to get investment since the organization doesn’t quite fit into the mold, either of a for-profit business or of a non-profit group — and this is why the IRP funding means so much.
“The first time we got money was on Dragon’s Den, and after that, it’s been so hard to get money, especially as a social enterprise because people don’t see that part of Hope
Blooms as needing it,” Gutierrez says.
With the IRP funds, Gutierrez says they’re planning to expand production and install more automated systems, helping them launch into other provinces.
“It was amazing because we’ve wanted to expand so many times, but we just couldn’t. The thought of taking the product into New Brunswick and P.E.I. as well is incredibly overwhelming, but knowing that we have this funding, we can finally say, ‘yes,’” Gutierrez says.
All profits that Hope Blooms earns go back into the community; they have several ventures run by youth who participate. With the proceeds from their salad dressing
in the last five years, they’ve given out $250,000 from their scholarship program, under which each alumnus of Hope Blooms receives $4,000 a year toward their post -secondary education.
Gutierrez says the IRP dollars will help them grow and continue to provide scholarships, which are important investments into the lives of these young people.
“Even if they also do a master’s degree, they also get scholarships, and when we get enough support, we also help with books and sometimes we can help with the first month’s rent. We do anything that we can do that will make it easier for them to take the leap,” Gutierrez says.
For more Information contact: Community Foundation of Nova Scotia www.cfns-fcne.ca Hope Blooms www.hopeblooms.ca Richmond River Roots www.richmondriverroots.ca