Social Business Ventures

The idea: to make our region the best place in the country to launch and grow social purpose businesses

We are working to build a strong and supportive ecosystem for people to create and grow businesses that successfully combine financial return and social return. We are focused on encouraging scalable businesses intended to solve social problems, which we call "social purpose businesses."

We recognize that every organization has social impact. What distinguishes social purpose businesses is degree and intent. Making money and solving social problems are both core to their purpose, their strategy and how they measure success.

Why do we believe this is a great idea?

Our Foundation purpose statement calls out the importance of creative problem solving to make our region better for everyone, within and across sectors. Of the three sectors, business employs the most people and produces the largest share of GDP. What business does and doesn't do is really important to whether our region works well for everyone.

Given limited philanthropic and public dollars, we’d like to see as many problems as possible addressed in a sustainable, market-based way. With our region's tradition of business engagement, tradition of social sector innovation, and strong corporate and philanthropic communities, we believe we can be the best place in the country to launch and grow social purpose businesses.

Major Investments

Our most significant investments to encourage the creation and growth of social purpose businesses include:

Finnovation Lab was created to be a hub for social purpose business activity in the Twin Cities. It combines co-working space, community building, events, and programming to connect and support people who are creating and growing social purpose businesses.

Finnovation Fellows is a program to support very early-stage social business entrepreneurs in the Twin Cities to develop their plans and build the skills and connections for success. It is operated by the Finnovation Lab.  

Initiators Fellowship is a program to support social business entrepreneurs in Greater Minnesota. It provides mentorship, resources, and programming to help people take their businesses to the next level. It is operated by the Initiative Foundation.

Check out other current and past investments related to social purpose business.

Funding and Learning Opportunities

We encourage people working to support social purpose businesses to apply through our open grant programs. (Note that in 2020 we’ll be making some changes to our open grant programs to be more open and responsive to the communities we serve. Stay tuned!)

We are not seeking other investments related to social purpose business outside of these open programs at this time. We do occasionally have special funding and learning opportunities. To be in the loop, please sign up for our e-newsletters or follow us on FacebookInstagramLinkedIn or Twitter.