The Community Youth Network is an organization that provides community-based facilities for youth aged 12 to 18 and offers programs and services to people from age five to 29.
Buckland, executive director of the Corner Brook and Bay of Islands site, said the group had already experienced significant cuts to its core funding from the Communications and Public Engagement branch of the provincial government, and cuts to other funding sources that supported the Community Youth Network’s programs were starting to affect those programs.
She knew the group needed to be more self-sufficient and so turned to the idea of starting a social enterprise as the solution.
The Community Youth Network is connected to Pathfinders, an alternative education program offered by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District. Around the time Community Youth Network was considering starting a social enterprise, Pathfinders was taking in donations of children’s clothing for young parents enrolled in its program.
Buckland said it was then that things sort of clicked for her — why not start a social enterprise providing affordable clothing for families with young children? New and gently used clothing could be sourced through donations and the revenue used to sustain the Community Youth Network’s programs. The store could be staffed by volunteers from both groups along with paid staff hired through youth employment programs.
But she had a problem. Her background is in social work, not business.
All she could think was, how am I going to open up a social enterprise when I have no skills or no knowledge of what to do?
Buckland’s search for help took her to Jacqui Walsh, a business professor at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland. She presented her idea to one of Walsh’s entrepreneurship classes and some members of Enactus Grenfell were among the students. Enactus teams aim to use entrepreneurial action to improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need through partnerships in the community.
There was some brainstorming on ideas and how the Community Youth Network and the students could work together. When the Community Youth Network had a more defined idea of its plan, Enactus took them on as project.
Samantha Delaney, president of Enactus Grenfell, said the two just seemed to fit.
“They are Community Youth Network, we are business students.”
Enactus provided support in the areas of research, marketing, logistics and inventory control.
“Just to take things off their hands where they could focus their energy more on the social part of the enterprise,” Delaney explained.
The end result is the Onesie Twosie Baby Boutique, which opened in the Millbrook Mall in December 2016.
Buckland said in the first few months of business, things are going well and the Community Youth Network and Pathfinders volunteers are enjoying the experience of giving back to the community and interacting with clients.
Buckland says they’re also seeing an impact financially through sales revenue. The money is starting to accumulate, she said, and will be used to offset the cost of running programs.
Delaney believes this is just the beginning as Enactus will continue to work with the Community Youth Network on strategic planning and the development of staff training programs as the business continues to grow.
“We want it to be sustainable for (Community Youth Network) and we also want to use the project to inspire other people in the community to see that entrepreneurship is an option.”