Resilient Capital Program to Build Social Enterprise Sector

Resilient Capital Program to Build Social Enterprise Sector

Save-on-Meats, Corporate Knights and Atira Property Management first recipients

VANCOUVER - When restaurateur Mark Brand was offered an opportunity to take over Save-on-Meats, a butcher shop and diner that served as an anchor in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, he’d been an entrepreneur long enough to know what his biggest challenge would be: accessing capital.

Mark already opened successful Gastown restaurants, including Boneta and the Diamond, both funded on a shoestring: credit cards and small loans from family and friends. His later companies Catalog Creative and Sea Monster Sushi also received funding from people he knew that were willing to help out.

Restaurants were a risk, and especially after the recession the banks weren’t interested. Mark recalls applying for a $25,000 loan for the Diamond from one of Canada’s major banks after one year of good business and “impeccably good credit,” to be declined.

So when Mark was approached to reopen Save-on-Meats, which occupies a large-three storey building in an underserved neighbourhood, he understood the true costs of making it happen. Mark was intrigued about its possibility, a business that served the Downtown Eastside and downtown residents, but knew accessing capital was still the roadblock.

That’s when he was recommended to speak with Vancity and its community investment division.

According to Mark, Vancity loved the idea, and put him in touch with other Downtown Eastside businesses in order to gain support and build out the business model.

When Mark felt confident in his plans to reopen Save-on-Meats as a full on social enterprise — providing affordable and healthy food, hiring people from the area, and serving as a community kitchen — he reapproached Vancity asking for $500,000 to make the project a reality. He remembers being taken aback, even a little scared, when they agreed to invest in the project.

Save-on-Meats was the first recipient of Vancity and the Vancouver Foundation’s Resilient Capital program, a high-impact investment fund to help build resilient communities by making up to $15 million of patient capital available to organizations tackling social and environmental challenges.

Vancity community capital vice-president Garth Davis says the loans, which range from $100,000 to $1.5 million, can begin to fill the gap most social entrepreneurs face, the in-between period of receiving a grant to help get the concept off the ground, and running the business long enough to establish a track record where conventional debt, such as mortgages and lines of credit, are available.

By offering more flexible timelines and lower interest rates, social enterprise receives the leg-up it needs, says Garth.

“For us at Vancity it’s really about moving the whole sector forward," he says. 

“Having today, an excess of 10 million of funding available for social enterprises that are tackling some of our more challenging social and environmental problems in B.C., that to me is just such an exciting thing.”

Garth adds they are also hoping the Resilient Capital program will serve as a leader other financial institutions and cities can draw from with similar programs launching across North America. It's a direction Canada's largest credit union has been moving towards for several years in its mission to create thriving communities.

“It’s going to take some time to prove out this model but we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think it was going to prove out,” says Garth.

The Resilient Capital program was formerly launched Nov. 25 and has made three investments to date: Save-on-Meats, Atira Property Management and Corporate Knights. 

— More to come

Related Story:
Resilient Fund, Collabetition Launch at B.C. Innovation Summit

If you have feedback on this article, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, or e-mail camille(at)axiomnews.ca

Writer Bio

Camille Jensen's picture
Camille Jensen

Camille Jensen is an employee share ownership consultant with ESOP Builders, Canada’s largest provider of employee share ownership plans (ESOPs) for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Prior to joining ESOP Builders, Camille was a generative journalist and team member at Axiom News. She credits her time at Axiom as fundamental to her understanding that business is one of the best opportunities to make a difference in the world.

Camille is a B.C. Partner for Social Impact and volunteer with Okanagan Changemakers.

Reprint This Story

Axiom News content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Stories may be reprinted in their entirety with permission and when appropriately credited.

Please contact Axiom News at
1-800-294-0051 for more information.