SF Showcases: Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI) Part 3

SF Showcases: Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI) Part 3

Here at SocialFinance.ca, nothing excites us more than the opportunity to share stories about the great work happening in Canadian social finance! At the beginning of this year, we chatted with Jory Cohen, Managing Director of Youth Social Innovation Capital Fund (YSI) in a two-part series that explored what they are about and who their next investments were. Now, we’re circling back to check in and see how things are progressing with them. The aim, as always, is to shine a light on folks in the field by lobbing a few questions their way: What problems are they tackling? What have they found to be best practices? Can this model be brought to scale and/or replicated? As always, we want your input on this and future profiles. Who would you like to know more about? What kind of stories do we need to tell more often? Whose lessons learned would you like to hear? Tweet us, Facebook us, or email us!

Jory, it has been about five months since we last talked about YSI, what have you been up to in that time?

A lot! Since we last chatted we’ve celebrated a few exciting accomplishments.

We announced a partnership with Futurpreneur Canada, formerly Canadian Youth Business Foundation. This partnership increases our loan size from $10,000 to $25,000. More money for more social entrepreneurs!

We celebrated our first loan maturity. Our loan to Fresh City has been repaid in full. This is an important milestone for YSI and our pioneering investors.

We invested in Textbooks for Change, a social enterprise that transforms every used textbook into something positive by re-selling them to students at affordable prices, donating them to in-need libraries around the world, or recycling them. 

As you’ve continued pressing on in your mission to provide support to young social entrepreneurs, how important has partnership been in your ongoing growth and success? What types of persons/organizations have you developed closer relationships with and in what ways has this been helpful to your service offering?

YSI’s mission is to provide the necessary financial investment and support for social entrepreneurs to successfully grow their ventures. The best way to accomplish our mission is to collaborate with other like-minded organizations to offer entrepreneurs more investment capital and more powerful networks of support systems. That’s why we’re so excited about our partnership with Futurpreneur Canada.

Through this partnership, all YSI-supported entrepreneurs can secure up to $25,000, $10,000 from the YSI program and an additional $15,000 from Futurpreneur Canada. These entrepreneurs can also access support resources from both organizations.

There’s a significant opportunity for partnership within the impact investing industry. For the most part, the organizations and people involved in this sector share a common passion and similar values. This is an ideal climate for collaboration.

YSI and Futurpreneur Canada recognize the opportunity to work together to syndicate deals. Our partnership not only allows us to invest more money in more social entrepreneurs but it mitigates investor risk, eliminates duplicate due diligence, and decreases effort to secure financing so entrepreneurs can focus on what they should be focusing on: growing their social enterprise.

Congratulations on your first maturity! Please tell us a bit about
Fresh City  and your experience working with them. What does this mean to you as a lender to have reached this key milestone?

Fresh City is a Toronto-based farm and farming network (and a certified B Corp). They produce and deliver fresh, local, and organic groceries to members. The company’s mission is to reconnect food producers and consumers through local sourcing and organic practices. These farming techniques avoid harmful pesticides and maintain a minimal carbon footprint.

We’re proud to be part of Fresh City’s success. Ran Goel, CEO, ensures positive venture growth without compromising core environmental and social principles. Ran and his team align their personal values with those of the company, cementing local sourcing and organic practices into core daily operations.

Ran & Fresh City Bag

Fresh City is not simply an example of how ventures can create financial, social and environmental value. They’re more than that. Fresh City is proving how positive impact propels ventures to higher levels of profitability, not less.

For YSI, this first maturity is one of many to come. We look forward to putting more money in the hands of more social entrepreneurs like Ran.

Speaking of moving forward, please tell us a bit about your new investment in Textbooks for Change. What prompted you to choose to work with them?

Textbooks for Change collects and re-purposes textbooks that would otherwise sit idle or end up in landfills. Used textbooks are re-sold to students at affordable prices, donated to in-need libraries, or recycled properly since many recycling plants can’t process the glue that binds the covers of books.

We decided to invest in Textbooks for Change for three main reasons: the entrepreneurs, the business model, and the positive impact

Chris Janssen and Tom Hartford, the entrepreneurs behind Textbooks for Change, make an ambitious yet balanced team. At 23 and 22 years old, their big vision is coupled with a practical growth strategy; pretty impressive for such recent university graduates. We’re confident in their abilities to accomplish their organizational goals.

The Textbook for Change business model is simple and cost effective. They collect under-used textbooks at low or no cost and then distribute them for a profit. We like this high-margin formula.

Like Fresh City, Textbooks for Change embeds positive impact into their core activities. They create value out of books that would either sit idle or end up in landfills. Every single collected book is either re-sold online, donated, or recycled.

We’re looking forward to working closely with Chris and Tom. We’re excited to see where they lead their social enterprise because we think Textbooks for Change is going to big, like really big. Keep an eye on them.

Lastly, for today, what’s next for YSI? What are your goals/hopes for the next 6 months? Year?

Just like our entrepreneurs, YSI is thinking big. We want to invest in more social enterprises, and we want to invest more in each venture.

YSI is already a leader in early stage impact investing, but there’s a significant opportunity for us to increase our investment size and even have some fun with some different financial instruments.

The next little while will an extremely exciting period for YSI. I’m looking forward to sharing our learnings.

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