Trailblazing through Social Entrepreneurship
Justin Philmore Brown and Richard West are great examples of how Canadian students are creating social impact through community engagement, innovation, and a deep-seated ambition to make a difference. The pair co-founded an innovation guild called
Trailblazers of Canada and are pioneering an incubator ecosystem that pairs post-secondary students that need experience with entrepreneurs that need people with complementary skill sets. They each have an interest in teaching social elevation along with new models of innovative volunteering. Richard briefly describes the social purpose of their venture:
“We want to help youth become the agent of their own social elevation and economically develop Scarborough, Ontario.”
Justin explains that Scarborough is the eastern and largest part of Toronto and also holds the greatest amount of immigrants. While living and working in South Korea he would often talk to his friends about how multicultural Scarborough is. This realization inspired him to start an incubator and he eventually came back to Canada to pursue this venture. Justin’s educational background in Family and Community Social Services and Education sparked his interest in creating various curriculums for Trailblazers of Canada.
Both Justin and Richard were involved in the
HELIX program at Seneca College, which focuses on solving real world challenges with venture and design thinking. The pair entered a pitch competition separately and had different mentors. While working on their different start-ups, Justin and Richard decided to come together and create Trailblazers of Canada because of their strong interest in social entrepreneurship.
Planning documents that have been most useful for Trailblazers of Canada are the
MaRS Entrepreneur’s Toolkit. Richard explains:
“Our mentors at Seneca Helix have given us MaRS Entrepreneur workbooks, which have been of great assistance in moving forward.”
Justin describes the duo’s plans for the next three months of work:
“We are currently meeting various politicians, executive directors, and program directors. We plan to create a collective impact to help our incubator ecosystem be as successful as possible.”
The passionate pair are excited and serious about networking; a pillar of success that all Trailblazers recognize and practice. Trailblazers of Canada is looking forward to increasing their social media and website presence in order to engage the community further and find others who identify as social innovators. They are invested in cultivating a culture where young people strive to solve social problems through innovative economics.
When asked who they view as a social entrepreneur role model, Justin mentions famous rapper and record producer
Akon, who grew up in Kaolack, Senegal, a town without electricity. Akon and two co-founders created the solar initiative Akon Lighting Africa, which aims to develop an innovative solar-powered solution that will provide African villages access to a clean and affordable source of electricity.
One main takeaway for Justin and Richard is that coaching and mentoring is key and you have to allow yourself a trial and error process if you are trying to create a social venture.