The Enactus SFU team made history this March, sweeping all four categories at the annual regional competition for community outreach and venture projects. The students are part of a global organization that combines social entrepreneurship and innovation to address community problems.
The team has been recognized for the development of its social enterprise projects this year, which include employment opportunities for individuals struggling with addiction, financial literacy programs for at-risk youth, and sustainability initiatives for high school students.
“We didn’t expect to win all four [categories at the regional competition]. It is the first time that it has been done in history, but it was incredible for us to see how far the teams have come,” said the organization’s president and business student Cody de Leijer.
The team also competed at the national competition last month, with one of the regional teams placing second and the national team making it to the semi-finals.
“It’s heartwarming to see how people develop over time, but it is also a testament to the organization,” de Leijer said. “It was great to see the energy that everyone brought [. . .] everyone was extremely excited about our success, everyone kind of bought into that team culture.”
One of the projects highlighted this year is Coast Cards, which turns restaurant coasters into greeting cards and employs recovering addicts. The program has only been running for less than a year, but the success has been substantial, de Leijer noted.
The team’s financial literacy program Count on Me is conducted through a series of workshops that teaches disadvantaged youth budgeting and employment skills. “One of the biggest highlights this year was we added a healthy eating component to the program,” de Leijer said. “Seeing the progress that they had gone through [in] eight weeks or so, it has been absolutely incredible”
Banner Bags encourages high school students to reduce waste going into the landfill by remaking discarded banners into bags in sewing classes. The program is currently in 11 schools in Surrey this year, but the team is also focusing on going national and potentially setting up the program in a downtown Toronto school.
Of the four competition teams, three regional winners presented on Coast Cards and one presented on Count on Me. At nationals, Enactus SFU showcased their work on both projects in addition to Banner Bags.
“We want to try and generate two new social enterprises over the next year. We’re also going to try and transition some projects out so Banner Bags will be self-sustainable on its own,” de Leijer remarked. “Then hopefully we will replace that with two new projects that will be employing people, generating revenue, and overall making a bigger impact on our community.”
“In the next year, I think my vision is to come in and take a lot of risks,” he said. “That unknown is what is going to drive our ingenuity, it’s going to drive our passion, it’s going to drive our innovation over the next year.”