Connecting with Consumers: Reflections from the Social Change Marketplace

Friday, February 2, 2018

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The Social Change Marketplace began in my office four years ago when I sold 200 bags of Beautiful Day Granola during the holidays to faculty and staff at Bryant University. Someone suggested that I should have a year-round operation as a campus distributor of granola. This would afford people on campus easy access to buying granola and supporting the work of this nonprofit that employs recent refugees in job training and other skills. I gave up on becoming an outpost for sales of granola—too much cash with buyers coming and going—and instead came up the idea of a pop-up marketplace for social enterprises. In 2015, I organized our first Giving for Good Marketplace, a pop-up market that invited five social enterprises to sell their wares and tell their stories on campus. The next year we expanded the number of vendors and with student help hosted the 2nd annual Giving for Good Marketplace, this time with a webpage and social media campaigns. Last December, we hosted our third pop-up marketplace called the Social Change Marketplace in two locations—at Bryant University and at Fidelity’s Smithfield campus—with total sales nearing $14,000. This effort was largely student-led and featured twenty-two vendors at Bryant including Ivory Ella, Beautiful Day, Conscious Step, Hope for Haiti, Harvest Kitchen, The Art of Fate, Riverzedge, and many others. Organizing these events–managing inventory and sales, marketing the event, finding appropriate vendors, staffing tables—all required months of advance planning. Early in 2018, we will be taking this model to the national Conference of Campus Compact, a meeting of higher education leaders where we manage a pop-up marketplace of showcasing local and national social enterprises.

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The idea behind this Marketplace was simple–to match social enterprises with consumers interested in the organizations’ missions and work. The fact is that social enterprises have few outlets within which to sell their goods and to get their name out.  Research shows that many consumers are interested and motivated in supporting businesses and their social missions. Making this match is key. A pop-up marketplace provided an experiment to test this proof of concept. The marketplace, like a farmer’s market, affords opportunities for community building and story-telling.  It is also provides vendors, especially those starting up, a way to connect with potential consumers.  IMG_3048

The vendors who participated in our December 2017 events were universally enthusiastic, not only about the opportunity to make sales but also to be in a marketplace with other social enterprises.  “We have sold tons of granola, made many new friends, but mostly loved being part of an effort that brings attention to the good work of social ventures”said Monika Montrymowicz, Director of Strategic Community Partnerships at Beautiful Day. Jackelyn Dacanay, Founder of the Art of Fate, a socially-conscious fashion house, participated in the marketplace for last two years and mentioned how the events were both “fun and rewarding.” The result? More meaningful relationships with other social entrepreneurs to share experiences and learn from one another.

Moving ahead

We are convinced that the pop-up marketplace affords consumers the opportunity to support organizations that reflect their concerns about hunger, the environment, refugee resettlement, youth-at-risk and many more.  Creating channels for this interest and energy is, I think, essential to supporting the social enterprise field. We would like to create a business model for this operation. We may want to move this event this from a campus-based project into the community and will be exploring partnerships with a variety of organizations.  We will be evaluating the best way to organize and promote the pop-up marketplace. Some questions we will be taking up include: Should we charge vendors a fee? Can we represent social enterprises at our marketplaces? What other services can we provide to the social enterprise community in terms of distribution and promotion? Can we help other organizations, like schools, religious communities, businesses and others— to host their own pop-up marketplaces?  

We will rely on the wisdom and experience of our social enterprise community as move ahead. Please feel free to contact me at senos@bryant.edu with questions and ideas.


 

Sandra Enos
Faculty Fellow

Sandra Enos earned her doctorate from the University of Connecticut following a career in corrections, child welfare, public administration, nonprofit leadership and higher education reform. She serves as Associate Professor of Sociology at Bryant University, where she coordinates service-learning programming and is the founder and coordinator of the university’s social entrepreneurship concentration. She is author of books and articles on mothering in prison, the impact of mass incarceration on women and their families and on the need for higher education to not only prepare students for careers but to educate them for active citizenship. She has authored Service-Learning and Social Entrepreneurship in Higher Education: A Pedagogy of Social Change (2016) and several articles and podcasts examining how colleges and universities can best educate students for lives of civic engagement and social innovation.

A first generation college student, Enos earned her BA from Rhode Island College and a Master’s Degree from Brown University. Enos has received the Revolutionary Award from Blackstone Academy Charter School, a Woman of Distinction award from the University of Rhode Island, the Michelle Norris Award from Children’s Friend and Service, the Women’s Leadership Award from the Ronald McDonald House, and Distinguished Faculty and Service Awards from Bryant University.

Contact: senos@segreenhouse.org

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