On Friday, September 17, local entrepreneurs and community members gathered at Brick House Blue in Dublin to celebrate the social enterprises making an impact in Central Ohio and beyond at Aspire 2021.
The annual event featured a keynote interview with Bill Tucker, executive director of Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub in Cincinnati, and Susan Post, editor of The Metropreneur.
Tucker discussed what it means to be a social enterprise and spoke to the power of collaboration, the importance of taking risks, and how to build interest in impact investing. He also detailed the many programs and services that have helped build the social enterprise community in Cincinnati over the last decade.
Aspire 2021 also featured the ninth annual Social Enterprise of the Year Awards presented in partnership with The Metropreneur and SocialVentures.
After fielding nominations from the public, a number of social enterprises in the two award categories were asked to fill out an application detailing their business models and social impact. Next, representatives from The Metropreneur and SocialVentures narrowed the field down to the top three in each category. A panel of judges spanning past award winners to members of the business community determined the winners, including:
- Bailey Hanley, Manager of Business Development Coordination at Wright-Patt Credit Union
- Courtnee Hawkins, Program Manager of the Social Enterprise Hub at ECDI
- Kim Tapia, serial entrepreneur and member of the SocialVentures board of directors
- Matthew Goldstein, CEO of Besa and winner of the 2020 Social Enterprise of the Year Award
- Susan Post, Editor of The Metropreneur & Associate Editor of Columbus Underground
- Walker Evans, Co-Founder of The Metropreneur & Columbus Underground
Honoring local for-profit businesses, independent nonprofits or businesses of an existing nonprofit with a socially-driven mission that are in the early stages of their business development or operational for less than 18 months, What the Waffle was crowned Emerging Social Enterprise of the Year.
What the Waffle opened its restaurant in the King-Lincoln District in August 2020, serving up a menu of sweet and savory waffle dishes while employing young women aging out of the foster care system. The restaurant has been able to hire five part-time employees and help them take the next steps in their lives and careers through access to higher education and additional training opportunities. What the Waffle looks to expand the number of young women it can impact by opening an additional location.
The judges were impressed with What the Waffle’s focus on emancipating females and providing them the opportunity, access and resources to build a stronger future.
Additional finalists for the award included 180 Demo and Renter Mentor.
Recognizing social enterprises of any structure with a social mission and demonstrable impact that have also helped to give social enterprise a name as a way to do business in Central Ohio, Franklinton Cycle Works was named Social Enterprise of the Year.
For 10 years, Franklinton Cycle Works has been supporting the needs of those facing transportation insecurity as both a full-service bike shop and community resource. Various programs and services help community members keep their bikes in good working order, while they also learn to ride safely through educational programming. The social enterprise cemented its place in the neighborhood by purchasing its building and the building next door to expand and renovate its shop.
The judges admired Franklinton Cycle Works’ direct impact on the local community, its educational resources and continued growth and investment in the Franklinton neighborhood.
Additional finalists for the award included Growlers Dog Bones and The Roosevelt Foundation.
All photos by Walker Evans