Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship

About Us

Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship (SEE) seeks to address Northern Ontario’s social and economic challenges through the development of a social enterprise ecosystem. As an emergent initiative, it has engaged multi-sector partnerships and diverse stakeholders in strengthening the region’s resilience by leveraging local assets to diversify economies. NORDIK Institute serves as a backbone organization to the collective. 

SEE aims to strengthen, support, grow and scale Social Enterprises (SEs) across northern Ontario through:

The provision of culturally appropriate services such as peer mentoring, training and networking;
The development of resources to support social enterprises and entrepreneurs, and service providers; and,
assisting social enterprises in overcoming challenges such as access to markets, capital and seed funding.

Current Initiatives

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The 2019-2023 phase of SEE will concentrate on women-led social enterprises. The Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) is funded in part by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) and the  Northern Ontario Heritage Foundation Corporation (NOHFC). For more information click here.

History of SEE 

SEE launched in 2013 as Social Enterprise Evolution focusing on youth social enterprises and changemakers and was funded, in part, by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation and the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres. 

Originating from SEE in 2015, the Urban Indigenous Youth for Change (UIYFC) project works with youth to create community and capacity in the social economy through social enterprise development.

SEE changed its name in 2017 to Social Enterprise and Entrepreneurship when it expanded to serve all ages of social innovators, creating a network between and among entrepreneurs, service providers (Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs) and the broader community. The 2017-19 Northern Regional Partnership included the Northwest Regional Innovation Centre in Thunder Bay, the Business Enterprise Centre in Timmins, YouLaunch, a project of the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, and the PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise in Thunder Bay. The Ontario Ministry of Economic Growth and Development (MEDG) and the Northern Ontario Heritage Foundation Corporation (NOHFC) were key funders. 

Urban Indigenous Youth for Change (UIYFC)

Originating from SEE in 2015, the Urban Indigenous Youth for Change (UIYFC) project works with youth to create community and capacity in the social economy through social enterprise development.

UIYFC views youth as changemakers, those who are capable of making change in their communities based on their passions, which is the piece that is emphasized and explored through culturally relevant programming.

UIYFC provides an in-depth opportunity to teach and learn from urban Indigenous youth how to incorporate cultural and land based learning that may lead to increased and diverse participation in the social economy.  Youth are provided the opportunity to co-design curriculum, co-deliver, lead or facilitate workshops to other Indigenous youth in the Sault Ste. Marie area.

UIYFC poises youth to develop their leadership, business and self-expression skills through their active participation in various community activities and events.

Urban Indigenous youth are able to leave a mark of their own creative expression on the urban landscape through arts-based workshops such as the creation of art murals, digital story-telling and other related cultural programming. Youth have the opportunity to participate in the design and creation process while developing skills that can be applied to careers in the arts and/or social entrepreneurship.

What is a Social Enterprise?

Social Enterprises have a mission to address social, environmental or cultural challenges by reinvesting profits above operational expenses back into their missions, and using a triple bottom line to measure their success.


Social Enterprises take many forms, including non-profits, co-operatives and sole proprietorships to name a few.

Examples of Social Enterprises in Northern Ontario :

The Great Spirit Circle Trail

The Great Spirit Circle Trail offers nature-based and cultural tourism from an Indigenous perspective on beautiful, majestic Manitoulin Island and the Sagamok region of Northern Ontario, Canada. Tours are organized by indigenous peoples who have carefully planned routes that offer a true reflection of the history and culture of the region and its original inhabitants – the Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomi peoples.

La Maison Verte (Co-op)

Founded 30 years ago by Association Among-Elles, La Maison Verte in Hearst is a group of women whose goal since the 1980s has been to create businesses that provide employment for women. Over the years, La Maison Verte has made a significant contribution to the regional economy with the production of seedlings for reforestation as well as the production of fresh produce for local markets.

Moonbeam Community (Co-op) Grocery Store

An excellent example of a cooperative conversion, a community economic development success story. When a local grocery store came up for private sale, 550 community members raised $330,000 to purchase the business and retain it in the community as a co-operative.

Trailblazing Beads

This sole proprietorship creates social and economic impact through beading products and services. She travels to pow-wows and conferences, hotsts cultural events and beading classes, and partners with local agencies to provide various outreach. Her storefront location is providing easy access to supplies and support.

The Nickel Refillery

This zero-waste community hub and retail store in Sudbury offers package-free foods, ingredients, and DIY products. It hosts regular workshops, offers dish rentals and has an Energy Exchange program that is fueled by passionate and committed zero-wasters. It places value on all zero waste efforts, including innovation, teamwork, humility, and community level impact.

How Can Social Enterprises Help Northern Ontario?

New innovative approaches to community needs
Profits are retained and reinvested locally
Often employ people who face barriers to employment
Provide non-profit organizations an alternative way to generate funds
Provide an opportunity for many people to invest locally – including consumers (e.g. coops)
Promote long-term sustainability and stewardship of resources: measure the social return on investment

Who is a Social Entrepreneur?

A social entrepreneur is an agent of change – someone who is inclined to develop innovative solutions to urgent social, economic or environmental problems by merging their entrepreneurial skills with their commitment to change and social impact.

A social entrepreneur aims change through alternative ways by putting energy into a community project, or working with others to establish a non-profit organization, or a cooperative. 

Whatever their choice, the social entrepreneur draws on innovation and collaboration, as well as their diverse capabilities and experiences, to contribute to the desired change.

A social entrepreneur is a CHANGEMAKER

Partners and Funders




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