As a participant in last year’s Social Enterprise Dragons, Gavin Davidson remembers listening to his competitors’ presentations and thinking it would be a difficult win for his organization, Pedal Energy Development Alternatives (PEDAL). Both of his competitors were working in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, applying “laudable efforts” to “challenging circumstances.”

Before stepping on stage, Gavin and co-worker Stephanie Gray, resolved to “give it our best shot.” The presentation flowed well, and the two conceded they’d done what they could.

Third prize was announced first, and it went to Street Youth Job Action. When PEDAL was called next, Gavin assumed, incorrectly, they were announcing second place. It was actually first.

“My jaw just about hit the floor because we fully expected that they would give the first prize to the third group,” recalls Gavin. “We were just elated. It was a real, strong boost to our organization.”

First prize for the 2011 Social Enterprise Dragons was $15,000 and 50 free hours of consulting.

The funds allowed PEDAL to launch its bicycling skills education camp for youth. The 1-week program teaches children basic bike repairs and how to ride their bikes safely and confidently while having fun exploring their neighbourhood. The summer camps target low-income communities and offers subsidies for children in need. The program aims to make a social impact through safer cycling, fitter kids, and school zone traffic reductions as a result of kids biking to school.

                   PEDAL staff

In its first year, Gavin says PEDAL offered three summer bike courses, which were about half full. The feedback was tremendous, with both the kids and the parents loving the course. PEDAL plans to expand the summer bike camps this year, building on their initial success.

“Our hope is that we are going to earn a profit that can then go back into our programming,” says Gavin.

The PEDAL board member speaks highly of participating in Social Enterprise Dragon’s, despite it taking a significant commitment and time to prepare. He suggests interested social enterprise make sure they have full support from their organization, and make plenty of time to practise their pitch.

For, Gavin the event gave him confidence in his ability to sell and make presentations, and for PEDAL, receiving funds without strings attached not usually the case for nonprofits enabled it the freedom to pursue its vision.

“This money allows you to dream about what it is you want to do and then to pursue that dream,” says Gavin.

This year’s Social Enterprise Dragons takes place March 8, and is presented by Enterprising Non-Profits. The mock event of the popular CBC Dragons' Den supports social enterprises by offering financial support or in-kind consulting services to a defined business challenge or opportunity. This year's partners include KPMG, JDQ Systems, Junxion Strategy and TELUS.

To learn more or register for this year’s event, click here.

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