Becoming a successful entrepreneur used to entail a simple formula. Find a hole in the market. Fill it. Market the heck out of it. Be profitable.
That’s Business 101.
But in today’s progressive climate, there are many more factors that entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs are encorporating into their business plan from sustainability to social responsibility to diversity and Indigenization.
Enactus UFV is a student-led organization that works in collaboration with the UFV School of Business, faculty, business leaders, and the community to give students the blueprint to social entrepreneurship, and empower them to not only become profitable, but to drive real change in their communities.
“The vision for Enactus is to create a strong experiential learning platform for our students,” says Dr. Saeed Rahman, an assistant professor in the School of Business and faculty advisor for Enactus. “That means that students initiate real world sustainable projects with a real world purpose.”
In 2019, Enactus UFV was created, joining over 1,730 university programs (nearly 80 of which are in Canada) in 37 countries. Rahman, who joined UFV that same year, was quickly drawn to the idea of Enactus because of his own passion for social entrepreneurship and sustainability.
Shortly after Rahman came on board, becoming the faculty advisor, the idea for a candle business was collectively conjured. The team saw that manufacturing candles had great branding, local partnership, and eco-friendly potential.
“So the idea is that students are going to run those projects, build those projects, and launch those products,” Rahman says. “However, we needed to find a community-based organization to work with, one that can have a much broader impact not only in our community, but the Enactus students’ learning experience.”
Enactus UFV chose to partner up with the Pitt Meadows-based Fraser River Indigenous Society (FRIS), which serves Urban Indigenous Peoples, providing a space to connect and celebrate. Inspired by Indigenous values and principles, Oak & Earth Candles was officially formed in the fall of 2020.
Oak & Earth soy candles are locally produced, hand crafted, and made from 100 percent natural and sustainable ingredients including no additives, dyes or paraffins. The scents like O-ye-aug-we Tobacco and Wennekerakon Sweetgrass are Indigenous-inspired, both in materials and in name. From a community perspective, the candles retail between $10 to $16 from an online shop, with 50 percent of the profit going to supporting FRIS community initiatives.
“We’re really passionate about creating a product that has meaning behind it and working together with the people at FRIS,” says Hunter Pineau, Oak & Earth’s project manager and a UFV Bachelor of Business Administration program student. “They help us make the products and develop the ideas.”
As a finance major, Pineau was a natural fit to lead the project. But with a global pandemic limiting both Enactus’ opportunity to meet face-to-face and set up in-person sales, being savvy on social media and focusing on branding became a priority, as Oak & Earth opened for business in December 2020.
“I feel like our strongest suit for Oak & Earth has been our social media presence,” Pineau says. “We didn’t really have any followers and had to kind of build that from the ground up. But once we rebranded with the Fraser River Indigenous Society, that kind of changed everything and our brand started to resonate and we gained a bunch of followers.”
Despite the setbacks caused by the pandemic, Oak & Earth have sold around 150 candles as of July 2021, raising a respectable number of proceeds ($650) for FRIS. Enactus as a whole has also grown in the past year, going from just eight members in January 2020 to over 30 currently. Rahman says that students are drawn to the opportunity to volunteer for a good cause, gain course credit, and gain tangible experience running a business.
“That’s one of the reasons why we are getting so much interest from students to join is simply because they get a platform that is run by them, led by them, and an opportunity for them to build their network,” he says, adding the Enactus UFV also runs the Big Brain Literacy program (BBLP), a workshop-based program that bridges the gap of financial education for students (high school, International, and Indigenous).
Selling eco-friendly candles and offering financial literacy are not the sole focuses and motivation for Enactus UFV. Creating sustainable businesses and building the UFV chapter are also a top priority, Rahman says. His vision is for Enactus UFV to be award winning and one of the premier experiential learning programs in the world.
Pineau is doing her part to push that vision. She has spent the recent months drafting a long-term business plan that includes an updated website, a more efficient shipping strategy, and distribution into relevant stores and markets.
“I guess the vision for Oak & Earth is to be able to pass it on to the next generation of people that will be running it,” Pineau says.
In the fall 2021 semester, Enactus UFV plans to launch two new projects: one involving agriculture and the farming community of the Lower Mainland and the other involving Indigenous youth demographic of the Fraser Valley region.
“Hopefully, with the launch of these new projects we will be able to attract interests from more students across various UFV campuses,” Rahman says.
No matter how big Enactus UFV gets or how many awards they accumulate, the next generation never forgets the fundamental guiding principle: People and the planet over profits.
“Our students have already created two sustainable projects that benefit different demographics of people across our community,” says Rahman. “The team is continuing to grow and our members have devoted numerous hours to improving the lives of people in the Fraser Valley community.”