‘Great Social Enterprise Pitch’ aims to nurture startups focused on the greater good

LNP details our first Great Social Enterprise Pitch, helping to introduce it to the community. To view the post, in its original format, on LNP, click here

Got an idea for a business that not only pays its way but makes the world a better place?

The Lancaster County Community Foundation and Assets Lancaster would like to hear from you.

The two organizations — one the custodian of more than $80 million in assets underwriting a wide range of nonprofit community projects, the other a counseling service for startups and small business owners — are launching “the Great Social Enterprise Pitch,” a joint initiative that they hope will inspire a wave of local entrepreneurial enthusiasm around the notion of doing good.

It starts next week and will build up over the summer to a grand finale in early August.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, and hopefully produce some really cool ideas,” said Melody Keim, the foundation’s vice president of programs and initiatives.

A social enterprise is a for-profit or non-profit that aims to deliver a “triple bottom line,” foundation spokeswoman Tracy Cutler explained: In addition to making a profit, it also aims to advance environmental and social goals.

One well-known local example: Ten Thousand Villages, the Akron-based retailer, which uses fair trade policy as a means to improve the lives of its Third World suppliers.

“Product sales help pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed,” the company explains on its website.

For-profit companies can’t address every community need, nor can charities, Assets Lancaster program director Jonathan Coleman said. Social enterprises bridge the gap between them, he said.

“This is an important piece of the overall puzzle,” he said.

How can communities encourage social enterprises? In October, the foundation made that question the subject of a forum titled “#LocalGood: Exploring Business Models for Social Impact.” It was one of the organization’s “Ah-Ha” series of events designed to encourage fresh thinking.

The meeting was well attended and filled with energy, Cutler said. Based on that reaction, the foundation wanted to move ahead with something tangible, she said.

Hence the Great Social Enterprise Pitch. It’s a four-step process designed to provide support “all along the way” from initial idea to business launch, Keim said.

It was developed in part by looking at similar programs elsewhere, Keim said. The foundation belongs to a national organization called the Social Enterprise Alliance, which helped with contacts around the country, in particular with a strong program in Nashville, she said.

In Lancaster, the pitch process will begin with two free “idea incubator” events on Wednesday, April 2, and Saturday, April 5.

Participants will learn about social enterprises and the rest of the pitch process and will have a chance to offer their business ideas for consideration.

The incubators are open to anyone, but registration is required and attendance is a prerequisite for further participation. To sign up, visit www.assetslancaster.org/pitch/

The foundation and Assets Lancaster will select 10 ideas for further development. Their originators will attend a series of workshops on feasibility and business planning.

Their fully fleshed-out proposals will then be posted online for a round of community voting this summer. This will essentially be crowdfunding — voters will be able to donate money to the ideas they like best, Cutler said.

The developers of the top three vote-getting ideas will get to pitch their plans in a final round, competing for a mix of cash and in-kind prizes.

The top prize will be $5,000, Keim said. Other details of the three prize packages are still being worked out, she said.

If organizations have services they would like to contribute, such as marketing or legal work, she encouraged them to contact the foundation.

As of Wednesday, about 25 people had signed up for the idea incubators, and the two sponsoring organizations are hoping for many more.

One advantage of social enterprises is that they’re scalable, Coleman said.

As the demand increases for an enterprise’s products or services, so does its ability to do good.

“There are infinite possibilities for growth and scale,” he said.

The Great Social Enterprise Pitch

Sponsored by Assets Lancaster and The Lancaster County Community Foundation


1) Idea Incubators

  • 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Wednesday, April 2
  • 9 a.m. – noon, Saturday, April 5

2) Workshops

  • Feasibility: 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. on Mondays, April 28 – May 19
  • Business Planning: 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Mondays, June 2 – June 23

3) Online voting: Throughout July

4) Great Social Enterprise Pitch: 7 p.m. Aug. 8

On the Radio!

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We hoped you tuned in on WITF Smart Talk Radio to listen to our Program Director Jonathan Coleman and  VP of Program and Initiatives at the Lancaster County Community Foundation Melody Keim share about what is a Social Enterprise, and about The Great Social Enterprise Pitch. If you missed it you can tune in tonight again at 7pm. For more information about The Great Social Enterprise Pitch Competition click Here

Smart Talk: Corbett from Rome after meeting Pope; Social enterprise project

Originally posted by WITF, letting listeners know what to look for an upcoming episode of Smart Talk. View the original post and listen to the program, featuring ASSETS, here

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett meets with Pope Francis to invite the Pontiff to attend the Roman Catholic World Meeting of Families that will be held in Philadelphia in September of 2015.  After his private audience with the Pope, Gov. Corbett is scheduled to appear on Smart Talk via telephone from Rome.

Meeting a Pope is not something many people get to do, so Pennsylvanians will be looking forward to hearing about Corbett’s conversation with Pope Francis.

Also, we’ll learn about the Great Social Enterprise Pitch on Wednesday’s program.

A social enterprise is a non-profit or for-profit business that is set up to tackle social or environmental needs.  A good example in Central Pennsylvania is Ten Thousand Villages retail stores that sell products made by overseas artisans with the money generated going back to the countries where the products were made.

The Great Social Enterprise Pitch begins next week and will seek to find the next social enterprise idea.

Appearing will be Melody Keim, Vice President of Programs for the Lancaster County Community Foundation and Jonathan Coleman, Program Director of Assets Lancaster. For more information visit www.assetslancaster.org

Social Enterprise from the eyes of our Executive Director Jessica King

IMG_5057There is a two-fold way of looking at social enterprise that really motivates me. One is the reality that the systems and structures that exist aren’t up to the tasks at hand around social inequality and environmental degradation. The other, more hopeful part is the vast opportunity to employ creative solutions and new approaches inside business and civil society toward meeting those needs in new ways. I’m thrilled that ASSETS and the Lancaster County Community Foundation are launching The Great Social Enterprise Pitch because Lancaster is a perfect place for this with its deep and successful business history and the needs around us. I’m excited to see what new ideas gain some traction through this process toward a better future!

Jessica King



ASSETS Lancaster Disburses Microloans to Introductory Lending Circle

Lancaster, PA.  ASSETS Lancaster is proud to announce the official launch and loan disbursement of its first Lending Circle, as part of the newly developed PRECAPS Microloan Program.

The PRECAPS program has been developed for Lancaster-based entrepreneurs in partnership with FINANTA, a certified CDFI and SBA Microloan Intermediary based in Philadelphia. FINANTA developed the PRECAPS program in 2011 and has since extended 281 microloans and invested $1.4 million in micro-businesses. The unique Lending Circle model provides access to capital, business consulting services, networking opportunities, and a focus on establishing or improving credit history for entrepreneurs. Members of the circle guarantee the loans of all other group members, providing a form of “personal collateral.” This method not only helps to mitigate the risk of the loans, but also creates a community of entrepreneurs who have a vested interest in the success of their colleagues, leading to increased collaboration, higher loan repayment rates, and stronger business growth. The first Lending Circle consists of 8 entrepreneurs from various backgrounds and industries who are receiving loans of either $1,200 or $3,600. After completion of the 12 month program and repayment plan, they will be eligible for larger loans, either through a new Lending Circle with ASSETS or potentially from traditional lenders.

ASSETS Lancaster, based in the Southern Market Center at 100 South Queen Street in Lancaster, seeks to change lives and promote economic development by providing business support services to aspiring entrepreneurs from underserved populations.

The loan closing will take place tommorrow, March 14, at 10:00am.

For more information contact ASSETS Lancaster at 717.393.6089 or email info@assetslancaster.org.

ASSETS Lancaster to make 1st microloans Friday

LNP announces ASSETS first set of microloan awards. To view the article, in its original post, click here

ASSETS Lancaster will award loans to its first group of eight entrepreneurs at 10 a.m. Friday in the nonprofit’s 100 S. Queen St. office.

ASSETS will make the loans through the PRECAPS program of FINANTA, a Philadelphia-based microlender.

Since its start in 2011, PRECAPS has extended 281 microloans totaling $1.4 million.

The local recipients will get loans of either $1,200 or $3,600, to be repaid in one year. The recipients then will be eligible for larger loans.

ASSETS, which assists entrepreneurs from underserved populations, said its first recipients are in the following fields:

Plumbing, hair salon, tax preparation and small business accounting, fashion design, electrician, landscaping, nonprofit consulting and antique window restoration.

Besides money, borrowers also receive business advice, networking opportunities and tips for improving their credit history.

In addition, the group members guarantee each others’ loans in what FINANTA calls a “lending circle.”

FINANTA this approach not only lessens the lender’s risk, but triggers more collaboration, higher repayment rates and stronger business growth.