Part of an international not-for-profit organization, Enactus Okanagan College tasks entrepreneurial-minded students with building business projects that meet the needs of our region, like green initiatives and financial education.
One of the projects to come out of Enactus OC is Coldstream’s Unusually Good, a business that produces healthy snacks. From the start, Unusually Good was built with the mission of eliminating food waste, feeding children in need and supporting the efforts of local farmers. Fuelled by the support of business advisors and the community, Unusually Good has grown into a sustainable business that’s ready to make a difference.
We caught up with Unusually Good’s Project Manager, Karsten Ensz, to learn more about their experience building their business while in school and the difference having a business advisor can have.
What does Unusually Good make?
Unusually Good has two products: apple juice and apple bites. The apple bites are dehydrated apples that are given out as a donation to help reduce food insecurity in our community. The apple juice is made from 100% fresh-pressed Okanagan apples. It’s delicious and contains no additives or preservatives. All of the proceeds from the apple juice go towards our social efforts and school food programs.
What has it been like building a business while in school?
It’s rare to get this kind of real-life experience in school but Okanagan College is very passionate about facilitating these kinds of opportunities. They have business advisors guide our team which has helped us increase our social impact while teaching us how to operate a social enterprise successfully. The opportunity to lead this project has taught me many valuable lessons about running a small business.
Business Professor Andrew Klingel’s background in sales has been invaluable in helping us build relationships. With his support, we have developed some amazing partners that contribute a lot to this project and the community. Andrew’s skills in risk mitigation have ensured we’re operating correctly and reducing all of our categories of risk as we grow.
Dr. Kyleen Myrah is another advisor with Okanagan College who has provided an enormous amount of insight and guidance. She’s been involved with social enterprises and charities for a long time and knows the best way to run them. She often tells us about available grants we can apply for and make connections in the community.
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What are some of the pros and cons of being student entrepreneur?
Being a student-run initiative gives us a great advantage. We are more approachable to the community and our young team is full of passion and drive. It can be difficult balancing work, school, and Unusually Good but the College has always made sure we have the support we need to succeed. This project has been a great opportunity for us to make connections with members of the community that are passionate about social causes.
It’s been really inspiring to see small business owners support our project because they believe in our mission. My advice to other student teams is to create authentic values that will drive your operations. Organizational values that trickle down through everything you do is key to success. They will attract the right kind of team members and community partners, and ensure that you stay true to your mission.
Have you leveraged any other funding or support resources?
We received funding through Advisor Access has really allowed us to expand our operations and create a legitimate small business. With it, we’ve been able to create a website and marketing materials, and cover other small costs associated with becoming a verified social enterprise.
All of the support we continue to receive from the community shows me that Unusually Good has a bright future. Our team is made up of talented individuals but the support of our community partners we have are helping us grow and increase our impact in ways I didn’t think were possible only a few years ago. They are aligned with our values and want to help us make a positive difference.