Updated March 26 at 6:25pm

Incubator growing social ventures

By Patrick Anderson
PBN Staff Writer

Social Enterprise Greenhouse is practicing what it teaches.

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Incubator growing social ventures


Social Enterprise Greenhouse is practicing what it teaches.

The nonprofit incubator of socially conscious businesses was at a crossroads after going independent in 2008 with diminishing attention from donors and a depressed, increasingly competitive fundraising environment.

So the organization began a transformation into a more competitive, revenue-generating enterprise centered around the flourishing startup accelerator concept and gaining market share in the world of social ventures.

SE Greenhouse abandoned grants for revolving loans, began hosting the SEED conference and a year ago dropped its original name Social Venture Partners.

From 2010 to the end of last year, SE Greenhouse has grown the number of enterprises under its tutelage from 10 to 150, its employee count from one part-time to nine full-time equivalents and its annual budget from $50,000 to $310,000.

Having outgrown its shipping-container headquarters in the Box Office on Providence’s Harris Avenue, SE Greenhouse is poised to move into a new 3,800 square-foot office on the first floor of 10 Davol Square in the city’s Knowledge District by October. (A tentative lease is scheduled for approval by the SE Greenhouse board on June 12.)

The larger offices would allow the organization, like a growing number of Providence business incubators, to offer co-working space similar to what’s available at the Founders League on nearby Chestnut Street.

And the location will strengthen SE Greenhouse’s partnership with Brown University, which owns the building, and has agreed to partner on an online, interactive, social-enterprise curriculum for accelerator participants, including those that may not be based in Providence.

“We have been able to aggregate the social-enterprise community – there was almost none to speak of five years ago,” Ramirez said in an interview from the Box Office. “We are among the top ecosystem builders in the nation and we think partnering with Brown will make us a New England-wide draw. There is real interest in social enterprise at the university level driven by students.”

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