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Award-Winning Canadian Social Enterprise Surpasses $6M in Wages

Author: Ida Viani

[box] The Trico Social EnterPrize is a biennial award celebrating Canada’s social enterprise ‘stars’ –  organizations that have reached such heights of best practice, impact and innovation in social enterprise their example can help others navigate their own social impact journey. This blog series provides an update on the journey of some of our previous recipients. [/box]

Vancouver’s EMBERS Staffing Solutions (ESS) is a social enterprise and Canada’s first non-profit temporary staffing agency, which provides socially responsible temp services for companies. Their mission is to provide employment opportunities such as job placements, training and support to people facing employment barriers. This 2013 Social EnterPrize recipient is a brilliant example of how perseverance, planning, and maintaining quality can turn a grant based charity into a self-sustaining social enterprise. We had a chance to catch up with Founder and CEO, Marcia Nozick on the most recent updates on ESS.

Since the ESS Social EnterPrize case study, ESS paid 2.6 million in wages and benefits in 2014 and in 2017 they more than doubled their pay out to 6.4 million.

ESS 2017 Annual Report

ESS has expanded to another location in Surrey, British Columbia. Currently, they are looking to open up other branches in the lower mainland and potentially some other provinces. They have also expanded their training and developed an entire training division. Marcia explains:

“We are training people in a number of construction related skills to enhance their career. We are training people that look very promising and then we move them up the career ladder. In 2018, we also introduced a carpentry course.”

ESS is currently employing between 250-275 people on a weekly basis and are now providing medical and dental benefits to their long term workers. ESS conducted a Social Return on Investment (SRI) analysis based on some other studies that were done by Ernest & Young in the Vancouver neighbourhood. The analysis showed an SRI of 4.13 dollars on every dollar ESS paid out. Marcia explains:

“For the wages we paid out on this last year alone, we paid out 6.4 million dollars and saw the return of 26.4 million. It really is a significant social impact.”

Another great accomplishment to be noted is that Marcia spoke at the 2018 Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF) in Edinburgh as ESS is now being recognized internationally and is continuing to grow. Marcia cites growth as a constant and real challenge and her biggest advice to other social entrepreneurs would be to restructure as you grow as the business is ever-changing. Marcia also explains that maintaining quality as you grow is a big challenge and is something ESS and their board is consistently working at. One main takeaway for Marcia that she would like to share with social entrepreneurs alike is:

“Always keep in mind where you want to go as you are developing.”

Marcia hits the proverbial nail on the head of Trico Charitable Foundation’s A.S.E.S.S. learning of planning ahead, confirming the big picture end-game, and zoning in on the things you must test for an organization to be successful. Read more here:

ESS have been deservedly acknowledged by their awards and recognitions in the community: Most recently, Marcia is the recipient of the University of Manitoba’s Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement.


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