Tag Archives: Buy Local

Social Enterprise: A Conversation With Elizabeth McKitrick, Second Nature Home

1 May

SecondNatureHomeLocal writer, Maryam Khezrzadeh, recently prepared a feature on the platform, Medium.  Her article was on a local business, Second Nature Home, which is also a social enterprise.  With Maryam’s permission, we have set out her article below. Social enterprises are noble undertakings, but they need to be profitable as well to survive and finding that balance is important and we want to see these businesses succeed.  Without further ado, Maryam’s feature:

People don’t buy from a business just because it is doing something good for the society. So how do social enterprises succeed? How do they compete with the increasingly socially aware big corporations?

Elizabeth McKitrick is the founder of Second Nature Home Boutique, a social enterprise in the Trout Lake/Cedar Cottage neighbourhood in East Vancouver.

One afternoon, a few years ago, I entered the shop for the first time, expecting boutique prices for the boutique quality. But I was surprised! The well-made, beautiful pottery, linens, jewelry, woodwork, self-care and edibles were all priced comparably lower than same or similar items in other stores. What was going on? What a gem, I thought!

I became a regular and the shop became a place not only to refill soap and shampoo bottles, but also to learn about the city, the people who made the products sold at the store and the goings-on around the neighbourhood.

For the second episode of “Ten Minute Conversations”, I invited Elizabeth McKitrick to tell us about the boutique, its social mission and how it survives and thrives in an expensive city such as Vancouver. To listen to an interview with Elizabeth McKitrick, visit Soundcloud.

What is a Social Enterprise?

Most people are confused about what a social enterprise really is. A 2013 survey in UK revealed that only one in five people can correctly identify a social enterprise. Half of the public either thinks that a social enterprise relies on grants and donations to provide support to people (charity), or that the main purpose of a social enterprise is to return profits to individual owners and shareholders (traditional business). None of these definitions capture the essential nature of a social enterprise.

At its core, a social enterprise, has a mission to address specific issues within a society. The enterprise assumes responsibility to change an unjust situation for the better and sometimes even transform whole societies, and it does so by participating in the economy. It is this direct economic activity and the central steering role of a core mission, that marks a social enterprise.

This is how Elizabeth defines it:

A social enterprise is one whose social mission is just as important as their financial mission. So it’s on equal footing; you have to make a profit in order to be in business, but the profits are re-invested back into the business for the benefit of “all involved”.

There are a number of things that fall into the social mission for Second Nature. Elizabeth and her team are aware of the consequences of social isolation, and so they’re committed to make a place that encourages and enhances connectedness; a place where people can come and be known to one another, meet their neighbours and have a conversation.

The enterprise is also committed to promote conversations around the environment and how our ways of living and climate change might be related. Furthermore, the shop has equipped the neighbourhood with a soap refilling system to target plastic waste.

 SNHSoapStation

It is direct economic activity and the central steering role of a social mission, that marks a social enterprise.

The financials do terribly matter though. As we mentioned, people don’t buy from a business just because it is a do-gooder. A small percentage of people give a very high priority to ethical considerations (early adopters), but a significantly larger population, considers the ethics of a business only after everything else (price, quality, availability) is more or less the same. So a social enterprise, like any other business, has to find a way to provide good value.

Good Value: Price, Quality & Intrigue

The shop, purposely tries to keep its pricing low, because it is located in a mixed income neighbourhood. The majority of families and individuals in the neighbourhood, Elizabeth tells us, live on strict budgets. The way Second Nature manages to offer beautiful, local, handmade products at affordable prices, is by partnering with makers who are also in the same situation.

This co-dependent and co-development of makers and buyers, facilitated by a (not-greedy) social enterprise might just offer a fair equilibrium. The makers get all their costs covered and also receive 60% of the profits. The shop receives 40% of the profits. But the margins are moderate, not high. And sometimes even, the shop and the makers strategically decide to cut back on their margins to be able to offer certain valuable products that have longevity to them:

For example we have some linen towels that we bring in that are all ethically sourced, and they are pricy! but we do try to keep the margins down …we are not making 50% or 60% markup on them which we know some other stores are doing! (laughs) … you could use [these towels] for twenty years and wouldn’t have to buy another towel.

Elizabeth McKitrick (center) and Elya Bergen (right) inside Second Nature boutique.

It is not easy work to curate quality goods and maintain good prices. Second Nature invests a lot of time and effort researching and testing the products. It is the shop’s direct alliance with an army of local makers that makes it possible to not only test and filter goods more effectively, but also to offer a very diverse array of products. “And that’s part of the intrigue”, Elizabeth believes, “people come in and go, oh! I’ve never seen anything like this before!”

For Second Nature, though, makers are not just strategic partners:

We also encourage people to go outside … It doesn’t have to go through us. We encourage the expansion of the makers’ influence. We are about promoting artisans and helping them to be solidly supported, so they can continue making beautiful things.

But why is it so important to support local makers?

The Importance of Circular Economy

When you support a local artisan, you’re giving the money into their pocket, so that they can buy other local products. And it’s strengthening the local community in a way that would not ever happen. It’s very organic.

Locally owned businesses in Canada re-circulate 2.6 times more revenue back into the local economy than multi-national chains. It’s not only that local business are more likely to buy local services and products, it’s also that they employ people in the community and support local events, sports teams and charities. So money gets recirculated many times and in many ways within the community invigorating the local economy and making it grow.

Why Local? Infographic from BC Buy Local.

Elizabeth believes that the community’s understanding of this ripple effect has definitely increased in the past few years. “There is a desire to buy local”, she tells us. People are more aware of true costs of producing, consuming and disposal of a product and so are adapting new attitudes towards their purchasing. More people see paying a little more for local products as “investing in the life of another person or another family” and investing in a product that they love and are going to wear, keep and use for a long time. A departure from rapid consumerism.

Reprinted With Permission: Maryam Khezrzadeh

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Shop Local: Check Out These East Van Businesses With A Great Online Store

27 Nov

WinterChristmasBlueChristmas is officially less than one month away.  We here at IliveInEastVan.com are big fans of supporting local. With that in mind, we would like to highlight some of the many East Van businesses and artisans that have an online shop which of course allows you to shop from your laptop, home computer or your smart phone.  Some will even offer a pick up service so you can save money on shipping costs.   We’ve tried to include a variety of businesses, but if you think there’s one that should be listed that isn’t, we invite you to drop us a line. Note, we have included a link to each business, just click on their name.

ANTIPOD Workshop

ANTIPOD Workshop is a creative design studio with a focus on bold textiles in particular, handmade pillows. They are made by transplanted local Stephanie Symns who hails from New Zealand. Thus, the name of her business. Antipod which is an affectionate term for a Kiwi or Aussie.  Did we mention, Stephanie also holds workshops on how to make the pillows yourself should you be so inclined. Or you can check out her bold collection online anytime.

Bird On A Wire Creations

This is a great shop located in Mount Pleasant at 2535 Main Street. Bird on a Wire Creations supports artists, artisans and the buy local movement. They curate Vancouver’s best art and artisanal objects and all one-of-a-kind and handmade.   They have a large selection instore and online and free shipping in Canada for all orders over $100.

BB Gun Leather

Locally made here in Strathcona by Spencer Baker and Dustin Bentall. BB Gun Leather makes a range of leather products including bags, wallets, belts, guitar straps, purses and small luggage. Did we mention the beautiful designs?  Their working studio is located 1133 Keefer Street and their online store available 24/7.

Beta 5 Chocolates 

Award winning chocolates, need we say more?  Purchases can be made online or you can visit them in person at 413 Industrial Avenue (off Main Street).

Dilly Dally Kids

Dilly Dally is an independent toy store that likes to inspire play and creativity.   They carry toys made from around the world including a great selection of wooden toys which also make great heirlooms to be passed on to future generations.  They are located on The Drive at 1161 Commercial Street and have a great online store.  Note, they are also offering free shipping for orders over $100.

Fable Naturals

Fable Naturals is based in Mount Pleasant and makes a line of fair trade certified bath and body products. They are inspired by locally sourced ingredients as well as ethically sourced ingredients from afar. All of their products are made by hand in small batches in their Mount Pleasant studio. Their line includes organic lip balms, skin exfoliators, moisturizers, soaps, lotions, body wash, sugar scrubs and more. You will find Gwen and Chris at craft and artisan fairs this holiday season including TOQUE on December 5 & 6.  They also have a great online store. Right now, if you sign up for their newsletter, receive $5 off your first order.

June Hunter

Truth be told, we love June Hunter, have for many years.  Many of her pieces whether art or jewellery are inspired by the nature that surrounds us and well that speaks to us.  You will also find June Hunter in many of the craft and artisan fairs this holiday season as well as her Festive Studio Sale on December 11th and 12th at her East Van studio.  Her online shop is currently offering 20% off until Monday, November 30th.

Good Sips Cocktail Emporium

Know someone that loves entertaining and enjoys making great cocktails, then you should check out Good Sips Cocktail Emporium.  They have everything to make the perfect cocktail minus the alcohol, think bitters, syrups, cocktail shakers, martini glasses, flasks, recipe books and so much more. If you can’t decide online, you can check out their store at 339 E. Broadway.  For those wishing to make an online purchase, note they are offering FREE shipping till the end of November for all orders over $20.

Gourmet Warehouse

If you have a foodie in your life, this is the place to go whether in store or online. They have everything for the cook, baker and entertainer. The store is an array of choices which include olive oils, balsamic vinegars, salts, sauces, cookbooks, jams and of course all the utensils needed to cook and bake everything.  You can find their physical location at 1340 East Hastings (at Clark Drive).

Grubwear

Mike Jackson’s Grubwear Brand of clothing was born out of the back of a Honda Civic hatchback way back in the day. Today he is located in Mount Pleasant at 617 Kingsway in a very happening area just around the corner from Robson Park.  He has a great selection of t-shirts, bags, hoodies and hats many that will showcase your East Van pride.   His online store features the full line up clothing.

Marsh&Mallow

Decadent gourmet handmade marshmallows made by Carly Bloch in some truly amazing flavours such as Salted Caramel, Holiday Mint Chocolate and Classic Baileys and Cream. You can order her marshmallows 24/7 online and what a great stocking stuffer or house warming gift these would make.  You can also find her marshmallow at Much & Little at 2541 Main Street or visit Carly at the Baker’s Market on December 6th & 13th at the Moberly Arts & Cultural Centre.

Neighbourhood Threads

Love where you live?  Then you may wish to check out their East Van toque for $35 available online only from Neighbourhood Threads.

The Makerstore

The MakerLabs at 780 East Cordova Street has recently launched a retail space on the first floor of this working studio which is open from Noon to 9:00 pm daily.  If you are unfamiliar with the MakerLabs, it is a 26,000 square foot that provides people with the tools, space and skills to make just about anything.  There are many great artisans working out of this space and their products are also available online 24/7.

If  you wish to give a gift basket this holiday season, whether large or small, practical or not, we invite you to check to check out any one of the following:

By Broken Arrow – An East Van Gifter
Wantful Gift Boxes
SPUD Vancouver
Saul Good Gift Company

We are passionate about supporting local. We hope you are too. Happy shopping.Manu MohanChristmasTree

 

Voting For We ♥ Local Awards On Now Till August 5th

23 Jul

BuyLocalAwards

We ♥ Local Awards celebrates local food and agriculture across BC. This is a first-of-its-kind awards program which invites all British Columbians to recognize and elevate their favourite players in the food and/or agriculture industry.

The nomination process is now complete. They received 237 nominations across 15 categories and voting has now begun.  You can vote on Facebook up to August 5th.  When you visit the page, you need to Like the page in order to vote and I guarantee you will see some East Vancouver favourites that have been nominated.

Reminder, when you vote you are automatically included into a prize draw for a chance to win 1 of 20 $100 gift cards to your local Farmers Market. As  well, you will have an opportunity win a weekend wine getaway at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery in Oliver, BC.  To vote for your favourites, visit BuyLocalEatNatural.com now.  Vote today and support your local talent!

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