By Nancy Dahlberg / email@example.com
Chances are you’ve popped a pod into a Keurig machine today, and you may have felt a wee bit guilty about the environmental impact of that convenient jolt of java.
Daniel Buelhoff is aiming to mitigate the damage. Buelhoff is the co-founder of Gourmesso, the online market leader for environmentally friendly Nespresso compatibles in the U.S. and Germany. The company, now located in Miami, also has launched a 100 percent-compostable Keurig alternative, called Glorybrew, with Fair Trade-certified coffee to end the negative environmental impact of the billions of coffee pods ending up in landfills.
Though research and development on the compostible product took about two years, it’s paid off. Sales quickly climbed into the millions and the business is profitable.
“I saw an opportunity and I went for it,” he said.
Buelhoff, who moved from Germany last year, thinks of himself as an entrepreneur first and foremost — he has also co-founded companies in gaming and other e-commerce and food ventures. But with Gourmesso, he is also a social entrepreneur, because his company has an environmental return as well as the financial bottom line.
His and other social enterprises present solutions to challenges such as global warming, healthcare and poverty. It’s also a growing trend in South Florida’s startup scene, with new programs designed to fund, nurture and grow companies that can improve life here.
But not all see themselves as social entrepreneurs, even when they are, says Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, whose organization, Radical Partners, has been running social entrepreneurship bootcamps in Miami for three years. The bootcamp itself is already showing a social return because 75 percent of the bootcamp organizations have significantly expanded services or scaled their social ventures to other cities.
“The whole genre has expanded in people’s consciousness,” Lipsey said. “I would love to make a magnet out of Miami, where great people who want to solve social impact issues want to be here doing that work, and people who want to fund work like that would look to Miami and wonder what social innovations we are cooking up.”
If it seems like social entrepreneurship is the flavor of the year, you’re right. Gustavo Grande has seen more and more social entrepreneurship ventures come through the Miami Dade College’s Idea Center, where he is programs manager.
“We already have a lot of students with ideas in social entrepreneurship, but we want to give them the structure to develop sustainable social ventures and collaborate with different partners in the community to accelerate that,” Grande said.
[RELATED STORY: Four ways Miami startups are trying to save the planet]
It’s a movement that gets a significant boost from the burgeoning millennial generation but encompasses all ages and ethnicities. In South Florida, a growing percentage of participants in high schools and university entrepreneurship programs are focusing on social enterprises — about half, according to Grande — and a community of serial entrepreneurs and investors is forming to help them.
Some notable social enterprises in South Florida include Rising Tide Car Wash, now in two Broward locations, which employs people on the Autism spectrum; Mela Artisans, a seller of luxury lifestyle products handmade by artisans in emerging markets; and FIGS, which sells antimicrobial, breathable and fashionable scrubs and has donated more than 75,000 sets of scrubs in emerging markets. EcoTech Visions focuses on incubating green manufacturing businesses, while the Urban.Us fund invests in tech companies with solutions that help cities.
But across the region, there are now also scores of startups in development that are focused on the environment (read related story), employment, alleviating poverty and improving access to education.
It’s a global movement. An estimated 11 percent of adults in the United States between 18 and 64 are attempting to start or are operating in a social enterprise, according to a Global Entrepreneurship Monitor study about social entrepreneurship by Babson College and other partners in 2016. That’s up from about 7 percent in its 2010 report. Social ventures are led by women 45 percent of the time, according to the study — far more than in commercial ventures.
Despite their noble goals, more than three-quarters of social enterprises fail before their fourth birthday, according to a Failure Institute study. Among key reasons, according to studies: the unequal access to financial, mentoring and educational resources and opportunities.
“The world will be a better place if we can determine the most appropriate ways to support social entrepreneurs and scale up their solutions,” said one of the GEM report’s authors, Siri Terjesen.
That’s where new resources come in. A few recent developments in South Florida: