For those of us living in smaller, rural communities, we know the importance of creating greater resilience and self-reliance. This means that creating local economies that support residents and the community, rely less on imports, create local jobs, and preserve and sustain our natural assets requires an entrepreneurial approach that’s often different from traditional economic development.

The Whistler Centre for Sustainability has been running a very successful social enterprise start-up program (called the Social Venture Challenge) in the Sea to Sky Corridor the last two years, and we are just preparing for our third. We are also running a spin-off program the Pemberton Valley this year: Called Root Ventures, it is focused on food and art related social enterprises!

The intent of this approach is to support community members to meet the needs of their communities – in a way that doesn’t solely rely on local government grants AND creates economic activity at the same time. Encouraging your local government, non-profit organizations and community organizations to take a more entrepreneurial approach to delivering community services can create win-win situations that encourage longevity and also support and strengthen local economies.

The enterprises that have emerged out of this approach in the Sea to Sky Corrdior include: some that directly benefit the environment (e.g. Ski Heaven, Freed Food Society, Dooshi); some that employ people with barriers to employment (e.g. the Pie Company); and others that provide other social benefits (e.g. Sea to Sky Relocations).

This entrepreneurial approach requires a solid understanding of the problem or ‘pain’ you’re trying to solve (and for whom), and what your unique value proposition is. If you have a brilliant idea (product or service), but your ideal customer doesn’t want or need it (i.e. it’s not a problem for them), then creating a viable enterprise will likely be challenging.

Creating a solid value proposition is part of the Business Model Canvas (BMC), a simple and very effective framework for thinking through your business idea (and also great for continuing to check in on your business model as it grows and develops). In fact, the BMC can be used not just for a specific enterprise, but for other entrepreneurial activities. For example, we used components of it to think through the concept of developing a tourism event (an event with the main purpose of attracting visitors).  The BMC really helps to clearly identify: the different customer segments (who your target markets are); what is unique about your event and destination and why people might be attracted to it (rather than somewhere else); and how you will reach your target markets.

Want to chat more about how to meet community needs AND generate economic activity? Contact Cheeying.