Local Social Enterprises Pitch for $75K in Funding

Eleven local social enterprises received over $85,000 worth of funding as the first Columbus cohort of the SEA Change catalyst program. A pitch event on Friday, August 19 was the culmination of the intensive, 12-week program that provided both online curriculum and hands-on assistance to help socially-focused businesses find the coaching, capital and connections they need to scale.

The top seven finalists of the program pitched to an audience of investors and community supporters in hopes of earning $75,000 for their social enterprise provided by funding partners The Columbus Foundation, The Business of Good Foundation and IGS Energy.

Pitches from Billion, Besa, Aunt Flow, Yocum Law, Global Fluency Institute, Flora Stationary and Sold highlighted each organization and the impact their enterprises have made on the community thus far. Business owners also shared how they would leverage $75,000 to multiply their social impact.

Each businesses that completed the accelerator program was awarded at least $1,000.

“Everyone is going to get to participate in the funding moving forward because every team that made it through the accelerator is working on something that matters and is working on something that should move forward and that’s what we want to do, we want to support it,” says Suzy Bureau of event sponsor GiveBackHack.

Accelerator participants receiving $1,000 included:

  • Abe’s Kitchen
  • Columbus Council on World Affairs (Global Fluency Institute)
  • Commons Studio
  • RoleModel
  • Flora Stationary
  • Sold

Four core winners – Billion, Besa, Yocum Law and Aunt Flow – were awarded an additional $75,000. Read more about each of their missions and plans for funding dollars.


Crowdfunding platform Billion asks what would happen if a socially-savvy millennial generation harnessed its power to take on global issues? Charitable giving is already a $240 billion a year industry, with Crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe attracting some $2 billion plus – 49 percent of that being donated by those ages 18-35.

“Billion is the world’s first tournament-style crowdfunding platform aimed at solving global issues,” says founder Eileen Guan.

Billion aims to take on issues like world hunger through its platform that will narrow ideas to a winner-takes-all funding that would “create a huge solutions that to a problem that impacts billions of people.”

Guan says that with $75,000, Billion could reach its next two milestone of raising $100,000 for a Columbus cause and $1 million for a national cause.


“So many of us want to give back but we don’t know how to give back, that’s what Besa solves,” says Executive Director Matthew Goldstein.

Since 2012, Besa has connected predominately millennials with thousands of hours of volunteer opportunities in the community. The platform makes it easy for individuals and companies alike to give back.

However, Besa found volunteer engagement wasn’t the only place companies needed help. Many were managing thousands of employees and millions of dollars worth of grant money with inefficient systems, so the non-profit created social enterprise Besa Promise in March of 2016.

“Besa Promise is a cloud-based software application for companies to manage their philanthropy,” Goldstein says.

Launched with large employer clients Big Lots and Safelite AutoGlass, “The $75,000 will be an investment to allow us to grow from a handful of companies to hundreds of companies,” Goldstein says.

With more clients and more opportunities, Besa hopes to realize some 260,000 volunteer hours equating to a $5 million impact on the community in three years.


Aunt Flow

For the 16 million women living in poverty, there sometimes comes a choice between food and feminine hygiene products. The supplies a woman needs to manage her period are not covered by government assistance programs.

Aunt Flow is a sustainable solution to this problem,” says Founder Claire Coder. “For every box a woman buys, a box goes to a woman in need.”

For $13 a month, a woman can select 18 pieces of pads or tampons to take care of her flow, and another box will be donated to an organization like the YWCA.

“If 500 women sign up for just one month, we will be able to supply Columbus YWCA with products for six months,” Coder says.

The social enterprise has been raising funds for its January launch, but Coder says $75,000 would help to reduce the wholesale cost of the tampons, and go to trade shows and customer acquisition efforts to create a larger impact.


Yocum Law

Whether they don’t know how to access pro bono legal services or fall in the gap between eligible for aid and the ability to afford an attorney, 68 percent of Ohioans are at a disadvantage in the court system.

That means more people in prisons and more cases of evictions and foreclosures that further perpetuate the problem.

Lawyer Mindy Yocum decided she wanted to do something to fight the injustices of the justice system.

“Yocum Law has evolved into a legal benefits firm that serves individuals, businesses and agencies, specifically with a focus on those who employ or assist people with barriers to employment,” she says.

By offering proactive education, legal advice clinics and counseling, Yocum hopes to make the law system less intimidating and more accessible.

Through balancing a full-fee portfolio and utilizing contract attorneys, Yocum Law wants to take their impact from 40 cases in the first year to 200 in the third. Funding of $75,000 would allow the firm to refine and build out processes and programs.


Yocum Law was awarded $5,000, while Billion and Aunt Flow each received $10,000 in funding. Volunteer connection platform Besa was the big winner of the evening, netting $50,000 to expand Besa Promise.

“It’s a tool to help philanthropy departments do a better job of understanding, measuring and growing their impact in the community,” Goldstein says. “And aside from helping solve community problems, strong philanthropic programs also enhance employee morale and improve corporate culture. So it’s a win-win.”

Bringing more clients on board for Besa Promise will allow the organization to further its impact by supporting the demand more volunteer opportunitites throughout the year.

Finally, the evening also provided an opportunity for Billion to show its platform in action. After the pitches were completed, audience members had a short window of time to contribute dollars to their personal favorite through Billion and watch in real time as businesses moved up and down the ranks, creating a competitive edge.

The winner-take all platform garnered $3,326 from the audience in just 30 minutes which was awarded to shopping app Sold.