We've collected the most common questions we receive from people and explain some important details about how Groundswell works and how you can get involved.

…but first…

0. What do you mean by social enterprise and social venture?

We define a social venture as any business model that intentionally prioritizes a social, cultural or environmental value over and above a shareholder value.  It can be for-profit, non-profit, a collective, a cooperative, or any other business model - this is the container, or the vehicle for your mission.

So then, what kind of mission should your business idea have? It can be simply creating fulfilling work for yourself that is in line with your values, or it can provide jobs to people with barriers to employment. It can have environmental, social, or cultural positive impact, such as waste reduction, education, or providing the world with more art.

What’s important is that the business is authentic to you, the entrepreneur, and that you build it at Groundswell with our shared values of collaboration, inclusion, innovation and justice.

Groundswell's Programs

1. Why should I consider Groundswell's programs?

Groundswell's programs are tailored for people who don't necessarily have any orientation to business, probably don't self-identify as entrepreneurs, and want to make positive change in the world.  So we've developed programs that are different that your typical business training or business schools. We take a holistic approach to building a business - aka your livelihood, your future! - and care about your personal success as much as your business's success.  We blend together a variety of approaches to create the Groundswell Method:

+ a focus on you & your values
+ strong ethics and organizational values of inclusion, justice, action, and creativity
+ lean startup techniques modified from the tech sector
+ enabling risk by creating a safe space to experiment and make mistakes in
+ mentors and instructors with real lived entrepreneurial experience
+ an authentic community network of alumni and professional partners

2. I'm not sure if the project I want to take on is "entrepreneurial" because it's likely a not-for-profit model, such as making my current volunteer work more financially sustainable. Can Groundswell programs help me?

The word "entrepreneur" can be a tricky, as its interpretation is a matter of semantics and cultural norms. At Groundswell, we use the root definition of that word: an undertaking.  It's not related to whether the thing that's being undertaken is for-profit, non-profit, a community project, an event series, advocacy work...our goal is that the undertaken project of any Groundswell program participant is sustainable (has funding sources, fits your lifestyle) and leaves the world a better place (has a socially or environmentally positive impact).  If you're looking to make your volunteer work, hobby, side hustle, craft, business idea, or community project financially and socially sustainable, we can definitly help with that.

3. What can I expect to get out of the Explore program?

Explore will give you a sense of direction and give you the confidence, self-knowledge and tools to help you take that next step, whether its entrepreneurship, or a career change or simply breaking out of old destructive habits and being the best version of yourself.   You’ll also get tapped into Groundswell’s strong ecosystem of professionals, peers and mentors who will help you as you navigate forward.

4. I’m interested in Build. Should I take Explore too?

Usually, yes! Explore prepares you for the journey of building your own social business by making sure you are ready to take on the challenge ahead.  It also grounds your expectations and business ideas so that you’re set on a better defined direction in which to take your skills and passion.  It’s also the smart financial choice: If you take both programs, 100% of your Explore fees are put towards Build tuition, so it’s like Explore is free of charge.

5. At what stage would my idea be a good fit for the Build program?

To be eligible for the Build program, you should have identified what sector you're working in (eg. local food, healthcare, sharing economy, upcycling) who your demographic is and the market you’d like to serve, what skills you're bringing to the project, and what your purpose is, so that you're solidly inspired to create a product or service that you feel can become a viable venture.  Hint: these are the outcomes of the Explore program!

6. I’m registered in Explore. How do I get into Build?

Build participants must undergo an interview process to make sure they’re ready for the Build program.  Explore acts as your interview as we get to know each other in the program and can determine together if you’re ready for Build.
We give first dibs for a seat in Build to Explore participants, but you must indicate that you are hopeing to continue onto Build by putting down a $300 refundable Intention Deposit (due September 10th for the fall 2018 program schedule) that will save your seat, contingent on the outcome of your interview, when together we decide if Build is the right next step for you.

Where are you at?

7. I have an idea and I’m hoping you can help me develop it into a business. Which program will help me do this?

First ask yourself: have you started refining your idea with people outside of your personal network and with the demographic you wish to help with your business?  If the answer is yes, you may have a solid enough idea and feel confident enough that you can jump into Build (but see question 5 above!). If the answer is no, take Explore first and let us help you through the early stages of idea validation - and validation of yourself so you feel confident that you’re the person who can take this idea forward.

8. I have a lot of ideas but I'm not sure how which to go with, or I have a big fuzzy area of interest I want to work in but no specific direction of where to take it. Am I a good fit for Groundswell?

It sounds like Explore was created just for you: we have people coming in with dozens of ideas or one big fuzzy concept. Explore guides you to understand yourself, and position yourself in the intersection of things you already know inside of you (your skills, passion, interests, etc.) but need some work to bring to light. 

If you're unsure if you even want to take a step towards figuring out what's next for you, come to an event, meet some of Groundswell's alumni, and see if you feel comfortable exploring in this community.

9. Which of your programs will help me understand the legal, accounting, and communications side of starting my own business?

Build is the program that covers all the nuts and bolts of building your business including legal, accounting, and communications - and it helps you put those nuts and bolts together to build something that works.


10. How does your funding work?

Groundswell’s tuition and start-up microloan program with Vancity is for students and alumni of Groundswell’s entrepreneurship programs, Explore, Build, and Test Market.  Unlike traditional bank lending or venture capital investments that only look at your credit history, business history or your personal collateral, we look at your character, vision for the future and the strength of your business plan.

Groundswell helps you complete the simple application form and makes sure its solid before we submit it to Vancity for final review.  In most cases, you’re offered a very accessible payback schedule at low interest. For example, you could pay off a $1200 tuition balance easily with a small $35/month payment over 3 years.

You can apply and ready the financing FAQ here.

11. Why is taking Explore and Build together the same price as Build by itself?  And how does that work anyway?

Explore and Build used to be offered together as one full program, but we decided to split them into two to give people the chance to Explore if social entrepreneurship is right for them before embarking on a serious venture-building journey, and to give people with a solid foundation under their business idea the chance to hit the ground running in Build.  Even though we allow select people into the Build program without them taking Explore, Explore is tailored to get you ready to start creating a business with the unique Groundswell Method, forges early close connections to your peers in the cohort and the Groundswell community, and builds your confidence and personal toolbox of skills to tackle the challenge of entrepreneurship.

Since we understand fully the benefits of Explore for Build participants, we credit the cost of Explore to the Build program, so that someone enrolled in Build can take Explore at no extra cost, and so that Explore participants can reap the same savings when they continue the journey into Build (getting the tuition they paid for Explore discounted off the Build tuition). 

12. What is Groundswell's business model? 

Groundswell is a non profit society registered in BC. As a non profit society, we are able to access grants which allows us to offer subsidized programs and accessible events, making high quality business education available to more people.  We are able to serve a diverse range of people who would not otherwise get access to business skills and knowledge by having a social mandate that includes inclusion, diversity, personal growth, and community service in our bottom line.  

How to Connect

13. What are the different ways I can get involved if I’m not ready to enrol in a program?

Groundswell has plenty of ways for you to get connected to our community.  Sign up to our newsletter so that you get all the invitations and opportunities that come up.  

We love to host new faces and old friends at our Clubhouse, where you can join in our casual community potlucks, featuring different themes and speakers each month.

You can volunteer at our events, for special projects, or at our summer Test Market.  Keep an eye on the newsletter for opportunities.

And of course, make sure you’re following us on Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to stay on top of what’s happening and join the conversation!

14. I'd love to share my experience, resources, or connections with the Groundswell community of early stage social businesses and entrepreneurs. How can I get involved?

We are always building relationships with new partners, individuals and organizations, that are aligned with Groundswell's values to strengthen and grow our ecosystem of support for socially and environmentally conscious small businesses and self-employed people. If you're interested in contributing as a mentor, funder, guest speaker, event collaborator, etc., please send an email to us at hello@groundswellcommunity.ca or use the form at the bottom of this page.

15. I'd love to bring Groundswell in to my class/organization/workplace to deliver a seminar or speak about the work you do.  Do you do that?

We love sharing the work and learnings that we've experienced over the years.  Groundswell delivers regular seminars with partners such as the UBC Mastercard Scholars Foundation and Vancouver Island University, and gives presentations or participates in panels at social entrepreneurship conferences, AGMs, or other events. Send us an email request at hello@groundswellcommunity.ca or use the form at the bottom of this page.

Get in touch or ask us another question:

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The Explore and Build programs as well as many of our events are projects of Groundswell Education Society which is a registered charity.  If you’re interested in donating to support our alternative business education and work towards creating a collaborative, sustainable local economy, please get in touch at hello@groundswellcommunity.ca