The Many Layers of Social Enterprise Work: Welcome to Our VIP Customer Event
Running a social enterprise means a lot of trial and error and calculated risk taking. That isn’t new, you can read headlines mirroring just this on any number of business sites, such as this article on Forbes or this one at The Globe and Mail. For us, at In Her Shoes, it is all about balancing priorities, wearing multiple hats at a time and being endlessly creative. We do this all while keeping our ethics and social good goals at the forefront of everything we do.
When we make a business decision, such as hosting a sale or planning an event it needs to be rooted in creating a learning experience or unique opportunity for our program participants first and foremost. It should also be in celebration of or highlight the work of our In Her shoes training program and the YW Kitchener-Waterloo (our parent organization), help us connect to others in the community, and it needs to showcase an exemplary shopping experience (because we are all about that positive customer experience).
“Sometimes finding that great idea is hard, often our ideas build over time. We might have a goal to achieve in one area of our social enterprise and so we focus there, but the real magic comes when we are able to make our efforts fit multiple goals while also being able to create an awesome customer experience in our store.”
- Emily Dyck, Social Enterprise Coordinator
And so came along the idea to host a VIP shopping event, an idea that came to us from watching the simple defiant act of one of our In Her Shoes regulars as they casually shuffled towards and then into our stock room area to look at our overstock selection during a recent funding announcement open house event. The idea was simple, sell tickets to shop our back store room, with the profits from ticket sales going towards the United Way Waterloo Region Communities, a great organization that provides funding to our YW Kitchener-Waterloo Emergency Shelter, and profits from sales going towards supporting our employment & entrepreneurship training program.
But we didn’t stop there, in the spirit of creativity we looked at all our goals and created the ultimate learning and shopping experience that benefited our participants, our social enterprise and of course our wonderful customers and supporters. We introduced a personal shopper courtesy to assist our VIP customers with their search for items. This service was just as much about creating a fun shopping experience for our VIP customers as it was providing an enhanced opportunity for our participants to practice problem solving, build their customer service skills, make product recommendations based on customer needs and build new relationships with people who are choosing to support the well-being of people in their community through their purchasing power. This is the win-win situation we always strive for with our social enterprise and in marrying our employment and entrepreneurship training program with our social enterprise sales goals.
“It was a great experience to have a real chance to be shop assistants and help people to find something they want. The customers were really nice people and I really enjoyed taking their photos while shopping. The environment was really lovely so without any stress I could do things and learn about selling.”
- Women’s Program Participant