First Change Accelerator class graduates

THE FIRST GRADUATING CLASS of Social Venture Partners Rhode Island Change Accelerator incubator program gathered Wednesday at the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Providence to celebrate the completion of their eight-week program. Speaking is Joe Vaughn, executive director of Groundworks Providence, a tree nursery that helps low-income communities plant trees.
Posted 7/1/10

PROVIDENCE – The first class of eight social entrepreneurs graduated Wednesday from the new Change Accelerator incubator program created by Social Venture Partners Rhode Island, a nonprofit that provides guidance to other organizations.

The eight-week mentor program for small organizations offered workshops about mentoring, business-plan refinement and early-stage seed capital at the Rhode Island Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Providence.

“We are thrilled to play this important role in helping to launch businesses in Rhode Island,” said Chuck Holland, chairman of Social Venture Partners’ board. “This program … meets the needs of these unique, mission-based businesses at a time when the social enterprise sector is gaining speed and power nationally.”

The program’s first class of eight social entrepreneurs, as chosen from 20 applicants and described by its organizers, are:

  • BLISS (Business & Life Skills School), an innovative school curriculum for Pakistan.

  • The Capital Good Fund, a new loan program to cover the cost of programmable thermostats in Rhode Island households.

  • Groundwork Providence, a tree nursery that offers hands-on training and aims to plant trees in low-income communities.

  • Little Giant Design Studio, a new model of open-source graphic design services for social entrepreneurs.

  • Maternova, a Web-based global marketplace for products that can improve maternal health worldwide.

  • Smart Phone Solutions, a student-run Met School business that resells wireless data and voice systems to companies.

  • Solar Sister, a solar technology micro-business model for women and girls in Africa.

  • Together Textiles, a marketer of apparel designed locally and made in poor villages from hand-woven and recycled materials.

The Change Accelerator was inspired by Betaspring, a 12-week incubator program for startup companies launched in the city last year, after being conceived at SVPRI’s Social Enterprise Summer, held at Bryant University last November. The graduation was scheduled to be attended by a number of state officials and business leaders.

“Rhode Island has a real opportunity to position itself as a national leader in the rapidly growing field of social enterprise,” said Kelly Ramirez, executive director of Social Venture Partners and founder of the Change Accelerator. “The state has a high concentration of innovative social ventures – more than 100 – a pipeline of new ventures coming out of our universities, and an enabling environment that few other places rival.”

A report on the statewide impact of social enterprises is scheduled to be released Nov. 5 at the Social Enterprise Rhode Island Summit at Bryant University.

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