2017 Business Leaders of the Year | Social Entrepreneurialism
Social entrepreneurship is defined as the use of the techniques by start-up companies and other entrepreneurs to develop, fund and implement solutions to social, cultural or environmental issues. For Ben Hoyer, director of CREDO Coffee, the ability to run a business that changes lives for the better is a daily focus.
CREDO Coffee, a name-your-price coffee shop, opened in 2010 in the College Park area of Orlando. Working with growers from Guatemala, CREDO utilized the proceeds to fund projects. The company expanded to working with growers from Nicaragua in 2012, helping the farmers sustain their collective.CREDO has expanded to four locations in Orlando — College Park, Health Village, Exchange and North Quarter. The company also opened CREDO Conduit, a co-working space in collaboration with Sungate Studios in Orlando.
In 2013, Hoyer and a group of social entrepreneurs launched Rally Makers. Assisting 12 companies over three years, the organization looked to combat the issues social enterprises face by pooling money to accelerate selected companies’ growth, as well as providing mentorship to those businesses.
Hoyer increased his involvement in assisting project implementation through his work with the Central Florida Social Enterprise Accelerator. Through his work with Rally Makers, Hoyer recognized he could scale efforts by collaborating with other colleagues he met along his professional journey. Working with the likes of Rob Panepinto of the Central Florida Foundation and Shawn Seipler of Clean the World, Hoyer is part of a team that assists entrepreneurs with networking opportunities, funding and other critical resources.
The program was designed by Rollins College in concert with local entrepreneurs. It can run up to six months and strives to assist a new generation of businesspeople and encourage entrepreneurship by helping those with aspiring business plans reach self-sustainable levels.
Among the features of the accelerator, students have access to Rollins College’s collaborative workspace, two yearly boot camps to prepare entrepreneurs for the accelerator, and a pitch event at the end of the program with the winner guaranteed a minimum $25,000 investment. There is also additional funding potential for both nonprofit and for-profit social enterprises through Entrepreneurs in Action Social Enterprise Venture Fund and the Social Enterprise Endowment Fund at Central Florida Foundation.
Like many accelerators, the Central Florida Social Enterprise Accelerator utilizes money and mentoring to assist social enterprises. However, the program gives students real-life experience previously unseen in an educational setting.
“What I’m finding is that you need an academic basis, but then there’s a lot of practical and pragmatic stuff you don’t get in school programs and can only learn through experience,” Hoyer said. “The way we’re structuring our mentors is they’re the donors who have run successful businesses, so it’s a way to quickly build your network or your bleacher of people cheering you on and supporting you, pushing you towards success.”
The Central Florida Social Enterprise Accelerator also provides the opportunity for early-stage capital for social enterprises, something difficult for companies in the field to achieve.
“Just in my first three years with Rally Makers, I’ve seen the potential in encouraging people and helping them avoid entrepreneurial pitfalls,” said Hoyer. “We can keep them from giving up or running aground because of obstacles they simply wouldn’t have seen because of lack of experience.”
For Hoyer, the ability to participate in businesses that help affect positive change in the community, as well as mentorship, is a characteristic that has made him successful and drives him on a daily basis.