Initiative will enable Social Purpose Organizations to convert existing businesses into social enterprises

COURTENAY, 12 January 2021 – A recently approved Business Legacies Incubator project will help hold local businesses and jobs in communities, thanks to funding through the Island Coastal Economic Trust’s (ICET) Economic Infrastructure and Innovation Program (EIIP).

Scale Institute Society is pioneering a project designed to create opportunities for small businesses that are for sale, or at risk of closure, to be acquired and converted into social enterprises, keeping employment, business and non-profits in smaller and rural communities. Through a business incubator model, the initiative will develop and provide materials, resources and training to enable Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) to better understand the opportunities in transitioning from business ownership to non-profit ownership.

“This project highlights the significance of small businesses and non-profits to our local economies and addresses the fundamental financial challenges they have been facing through the pandemic,” says ICET Chair Aaron Stone. “Supporting a business acquisition incubator is a timely and innovative way to convert the oncoming wave of small business succession into social enterprise models that will strengthen non-profit financial sustainability and continue to benefit our communities.”

The initiative builds on two years of Scale Institute Society’s research in partnership with Royal Roads University, a National Legacies Leadership Lab and four Community Futures organizations, including three in the ICET region. Community-based businesses that meet the criteria for community acquisition will be identified before piloting a business acquisition incubator.

“The incubator will target Island and Coastal social purpose organizations ready to explore business acquisition opportunities,” said Kristi Fairholm-Mader, Managing Director of Scale Institute Society.  “The materials and tools developed will also be available for integration into other organizations’ programs and resources, creating an opportunity to scale this new model to a broader audience.”

There are several other benefits to acquiring businesses as community acquisitions, aside from keeping local businesses and jobs in communities. The project will also support the growth of social enterprise, as it further holds the supply chain and offers indirect benefits to the community. The increased revenue streams and sustainability for SPOs will maintain strong community support networks and further raise awareness of the potential for other community acquisitions.

“Social enterprises are investments that build strong, resilient communities,” said Nicholas Simons, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. “Supporting Social Purpose Organizations in transitioning to non-profit business models will create more local opportunities for meaningful and sustainable employment which is a key priority of B.C.’s poverty reduction strategy.”

The project is funded from the Innovation Support stream of the Economic Infrastructure and Innovation Program (EIIP), designed to encourage programs and services which pioneer new approaches that support economic innovation and adaptation in the ICET region. ICET will contribute $47,500 to the project’s overall $147,500 cost. The project is expected to get underway shortly.


About the Island Coastal Economic Trust
Created and capitalized by the Province of BC in 2006, the Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET) mission is to create a more diverse and globally competitive Island and Coastal economy. In partnership with local and regional governments, non-profits and Indigenous communities, ICET serves over half a million residents. Funding and support for economic infrastructure and other economic diversification initiatives is delivered through a unique community centered decision-making process. Since inception, ICET has approved more than $55 million in funding for over 280 initiatives. These investments have leveraged over $270 million in new investment into the region creating more than 2600 construction phase jobs and 2750 long-term permanent jobs.

For further information:
Amanda Fortier, Communications Officer
Island Coastal Economic Trust
Tel. 250-871-7797 (Ext. 232)