Social Enterprise Pushes to Set Higher Standards
Romy Gingras from Gingras Global discusses standards and recent accomplishments and developments in the social enterprise field.
Gingras Global is a for-profit social enterprise development, consulting and services firm. Among other things, Gingras conducts third-party assessments of social enterprises that are seeking outside funding, helping investors assess investment opportunities and connecting them to social enterprise opportunities.
We had the opportunity to interview Romy Gingras, managing partner of Gingras Global, to gain insight on social enterprise and on Gingras Global’s recent work. Gingras will attend Summit15 in Denver this September. This year will be her first attending the Summit, and she is excited to connect with like-minded people in such an amazing city.
What does social enterprise mean to you?
Gingras – Social enterprise is focused on products and services to both generate cash and to accomplish a social good. Neither can be an afterthought. Whether a social enterprise is sharing resources, sharing product or social staffing, in one way or another—initially or in the long term—it is potentially taking a hit on its financial profitability. In some cases, the social enterprise is working hard and bearing costs to distribute their product to markets that would not normally have access to them.
What are the main opportunities you see for social enterprise?
Gingras – The opportunities for social enterprise and employment creation are across the board, because social enterprise is creating more taxpayers. There could be hundreds upon thousands of organizations working to create this new tax base, and the timing is right for it.
In addition, I have seen this move toward a new support system that is developing for social entrepreneurs. There are organizations—from impact investors to real estate brokers—that are offering lower service fees or providing capital for fail money. Social enterprises are seeing a new type of support, which is very exciting.
How does Gingras Global advance social enterprise?
Gingras – We are setting high standards for what it looks like to operate a social enterprise. We provide standardized tools in order to help the social enterprise industry reach sustainability. Our assessment tool helps social enterprises focus on common failure points—to acknowledge areas of strength and potential failure ahead of time. Our assessment and point valuation are based on a comprehensive process of interviewing, fact gathering and scoring more than 700 elements against other businesses in similar stages of development.
We want to make sure social enterprises are going to have long-lasting effects, so in a way, we are the tough parent. We don’t want to see anyone using social mission as an excuse to run below average business performance. Because social enterprises have a social mission, they should also have Olympic standards.
What are a few of Gingras Global’s recent accomplishments?
Gingras – One of our biggest milestones was having the local organization, Rebel Nell L3C, win the first ever Gingras Global Social Enterprise Sustainability and Standards Achievement Award. We have not presented an award in the past, because we were waiting for a social enterprise that truly excelled and that is truly sustainable. Rebel Nell empowers women through art. The L3C employs disadvantaged women to collect and repurpose pieces of fallen graffiti, turning them into fabulous jewelry and transforming art on walls into art you can wear. Rebel Nell took our assessment and followed it step by step.
Before using our assessment, Rebel Nell struggled primarily with financial organization and strategy. The organization did not readily understand its social costs or how to make strategic decisions by using financial tools. The assessment pointed to a need for accounting, inventory, sales tracking and operational procedures, and we found simple ways to define, measure and report impact. Once Rebel Nell realized its units per production per staff member and its costs per unit, it marked up the price of jewelry a bit to make room for more profit. As a result, Rebel Nell has seen more sales, increased profit margin and more alignment throughout the team, among other improvements.
Recently, we also worked with an investor to help another social enterprise secure investment money. Then two additional investors chose to invest in the enterprise as well. The social enterprise, Artesian Farms, ended up receiving $335,000 in investment funds, in addition to quarterly reports and assessments. One of these investors is also looking at Rebel Nell now.
Also new this year—we launched our first podcast series, and already we are broadcasting in 40 different countries. When I was approached with this idea, I initially thought who would want to listen to this? But what is so interesting and amazing is the excitement and participation of our listeners. They love to hear the ideas we discuss, and people love to be inspired by other people. Listeners can be encouraged by a struggle or an epic fail. As we share more as a community, collectively we can have an impact that is huge.
Written by Anna Upchurch from the fabulous team at JVA Consulting.