MAKING CONNECTIONS: Social Venture partners Rhode Island CEO Kelly Ramirez networks with Capital Good Fund Executive Director Andy Posner at his new offices in the Knowledge District.
PBN PHOTO/BRIAN MCDONALD
By Victor Paul Alvarez PBN Staff Writer
As a leader in local innovation, Social Venture Partners Rhode Island is a company that uses Rhode Island’s size to its benefit.
“SVPRI leverages the uniquely close-knit and conducive Rhode Island environment to quickly research local needs, then develop, prototype, and perfect innovative programs that inspire, start, grow and sustain successful social enterprises,” said CEO Kelly Ramirez.
If you’re not familiar with social enterprise, it is a business that exists to improve a community by using the marketplace.
SVPRI is able to succeed with a staff of only five people because of its ability to access the talent of the business community. The rest of the company’s workforce includes more than 120 volunteers and five student interns. Those volunteers are entrepreneurs, thought leaders and social investors who provide social, intellectual and financial capital.
SVPRI has several programs and products that highlight its take on innovation.
Buy with Heart is the first search engine, marketing campaign and online marketplace for social enterprise. Today, it has signed 70 state ventures and five new national partners: Southern California, Northern Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts and Colorado.
The Change Accelerator is an eight-week social venture incubator, which links high-potential social entrepreneurs with mentors to produce a social enterprise plan and elevator pitch. To date, 31 ventures have been incubated and they’ve created 75 jobs.
The Online Business Incubator is an online mentor-based incubator that helps urban micro-entrepreneurs create and execute customized work plans. So far, 15 microbusinesses have been incubated and 20 are lined up for the next round.
“In the longer term, SVPRI will license and implement programs on a national scale. In addition to the programs, packaging will also include revenue-producing training, consulting and other auxiliary services to assist partners in implementation,” Ramirez said.
“At the same time, SVPRI is beginning discussions with national funding organizations about providing grants to support additional partnerships and a national replication program that maximizes the social impact,” she said.
SVPRI has developed a successful track record of developing and running effective social enterprise support programs. And other organizations across the nation have sat up and taken notice, interested in partnering and replicating programs.
For Ramirez, it’s all about building on momentum as they go. “We have developed new short- and long-term strategies to capitalize on this early success,” she said. •