Energy and enthusiasm filled the Home Room at Union Hall as entrepreneurs and business leaders from across the Greater Cincinnati area gathered for Flywheel’s workshop, “Building a Business Model for the Social Entrepreneur.” The workshop, supported by a generous gift from the Mayerson Foundation, engaged five startup social enterprises in activities to design, describe, challenge, and pivot their business models.
The social enterprises selected for the workshop represented a variety of industries. Flywheel welcomed Play Library, a game and toy loan library and museum that connect families, friends and communities through play. Workforce Connection, a project of Cincinnati Works, was chosen for its employer-based workforce solution; bringing best practices to the workplace to increase employee retention and professional growth of the workforce. A Brilliant Exchange, who takes in donated wedding rings, joined the group with their mission of giving proceeds to entities that are working on anti-trafficking and anti-slavery efforts. Flywheel extended its reach beyond Cincinnati, welcoming Dayton Sewing Collaborative, a contract sewing business specializing in the design and manufacture of custom canvas goods that works to make sewing a viable career in the Ohio Valley. Rounding out the group was Bridgeable, a mission-driven startup that connects local decision makers and community members to real conversations.
Throughout the day, founders and CEOs from these companies were led through a series of activities and thought exercises by the workshop presenter, Fred Hilkowitz. The conversation was supported by a number of facilitators, business leaders from the Cincinnati area. With a variety of expertise in law, entrepreneurship, finance, and non-profits, these facilitators offered advice, guidance, and wisdom for these young enterprises.
The day was focused on a building a better business model, but it was specifically tailored to focus on social enterprise. This included looking not only at customers and value propositions but also beneficiaries and social value propositions. Even the lunch had a social enterprise connection. House Café and Catering, a social enterprise offering catering for corporate and social events, provided the meal. House Café is designed to provide work-training experience for Talbert House graduates, while generating funds to help support the Talbert House mission.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the participating companies reflected on a “day of focused, fast-paced, and foundational business canvas planning.” They left with new insights and “tangible tools to help us maintain our momentum, affirm of our model, and further explore.”