Social Enterprise Accelerator SEA Change Creates New Paths to Programming

Renter Mentor presents at SEA Change pitch night 2019 - photo via ReelHoot Productions

Social enterprise accelerator SEA Change just wrapped up its fourth signature cohort in Columbus, with the 14-week program culminating in a $100,000 pitch event.

Fourteen teams spent weeks developing their social enterprise models with the help of local subject matter experts, with six making it to the stage to pitch their ideas for funding and in-kind services. The six pitching enterprises each received dollars and expertise that will help take their businesses to the next level.

  • Launching a professional development, training and research institute for early childhood educators to share, test and implement new ideas, South Side Early Learning’s Project NUDL received $6,800, a $4,800 printing package from the BBB, and a $1,000 design package from Brave Little Beast.
  • Roots Up is utilizing wasted space to reconnect people with food, creating a variety of food-growing systems that address gaps and challenges in the food supply chain, and was awarded $13,000, an article spotlight in a local news publication, and a spot in the next SEA Change marketing class.
  • Curating a daily regimen of vitamins and supplements to meet the recommended nutrition for breastfeeding moms and delivered through a monthly subscription model, Milkmade will also help women in need through a buy four give one model, and received $10,000 and an up to $20,000 line of credit from the Tony Wells Foundation.
  • Providing consulting to media covering transgender projects and cultural responsiveness trainings to organizations and companies with transgender employees, Gender YOUphoria will give back by working with transgender individuals on mindfulness-based emotional resilience skills, and was awarded $10,000, a $5,000 web design package from the Tony Wells Foundation and $2,000 in legal consulting from Yocum Law.
  • Focused on connecting landlords and renters in the affordable housing market, Renter Mentor’s SaaS model will create a centralized platform that provides better accountability, clarity and efficiency to all involved, with the team given $15,000, a six month Entrepreneur Accountability Program from Collaborate & Elevate and spot in a social impact investing class.
  • Addressing the lack of imagery and discussion around African American women breastfeeding, Latch & Learn will provide accessible, culturally-competent and innovative breastfeeding education to the African American community, being awarded its total ask of $35,000.

The monetary funding for the social enterprises was made possible with support from the Business of Good Foundation, the Columbus of Good Foundation, IGS Energy and the United Way.

The Latch & Learn team is awarded their $35,000 at the SEA Change pitch night – photo via ReelHoot Productions

As the new collection of social enterprises graduates into the community, the Columbus cohort will no longer be the only delivery method for SEA Change’s curriculum. The organization will also start offering access to their programming online and through affiliate partners.

SEA Change Executive Director Lauren Edwards says the signature Columbus cohort will continue for as long as there is interest. But for those entrepreneurs that can’t commit to the 14-week, in-person cohort, SEA Change’s online programming offers an alternative.

“They can access curriculum on their own time, their own speed,” Edwards says. “They will have a year’s access.”

Accessible by entrepreneurs anywhere, the online programming includes the same curriculum as the signature cohort. Businesses can opt for the full curriculum, with or without expert review, or choose to focus on the financial modules. Edwards says as the online programming continues to develop, they will pull out more individual modules, providing more customization for an entrepreneur to access help in the specific areas they need, and add video.

Gender YOUphoria presents during SEA Change pitch night – photo via ReelHoot Productions

The third delivery method for the social enterprise building programming will be through affiliate partners. SEA Change will work with other organizations that have access to entrepreneurs that want a proven, professional curriculum and support.

Affiliate Partners can choose options for SEA Change’s level of involvement, from simply providing the modules, to helping with some of the implementation, to facilitating the entire cohort.

Edwards says the reason for expanding programming access really boils down to one simple principle: increasing impact. And, even the methods of expanding access were done in a way that kept impact in mind.

“A lot of programming, if you’re trying to expand, one of the biggest costs is hiring people and space…and in order for us to be able to reach more entrepreneurs with the program that we know works, we got creative and thought through what can we do that won’t require us to add a bunch of staff, [but] over time we would love to do that,” Edwards says.

The numbers from previous cohorts tell the story that the program is working. SEA Change has had 93 social enterprises, including the latest cohort, go through the program. Even before this year’s businesses, alumni of SEA Change have created over 130 jobs, impacted nearly 226,000 lives and generated more than $2.3 million in revenue in 2018 alone. An overwhelming majority – 87% – are also still in business.

Edwards says to imagine the impact if they could help facilitate five more cohorts. The more social enterprises they reach through any channel, the more impact they can have.

The 2019 SEA Change Columbus Signature Cohort – photo via ReelHoot Productions

The impact is already multiplying as SEA Change has inked a deal with its first affiliate partner. The organization will facilitate a cohort for the KBK Buckeye Social Entrepreneurship program at The Ohio State University. Students from both OSU and Columbus State will have the opportunity to apply for the cohort which will culminate with its own pitch event facilitated by OSU.

Edwards says they’ve had conversations about the affiliate program with organizations from Dayton, to Louisville, to Austin.

“Our hope is to have four in place by the end of the year,” Edwards says.

It’s an aggressive goal, but all boils down to the desire to create the most impact possible. The organization will also look to increase awareness of its online programming throughout the remainder of the year.

Secondary to impact, the expansion of programming is also putting SEA Change on the road to sustainability. Both of the new delivery methods are fee for service. Edwards says as they hit their impact goals, they can become financially solvent as well, eliminating the need to rely as heavily on philanthropy in the future.

For more information, visit