The “Sharks” had a tough choice among the four social ventures. Would they choose Master Honey that empowers low-income women to start their own micro-beekeeping businesses? Or perhaps prefer Miami is Kind’s concept to create jobs for young people on the autism spectrum baking cookies for schools? Would they pick Mind&Melody, which crafts music engagement experiences for Alzheimer’s patients? Or do they like Buzzbox’s pop-up barbershops that dispense life advice with the haircut? All were competing for a $10,000 prize.
The Shark Tank, part of the Philanthropy Miami conference on Thursday, was much like the TV version — but with a do-good twist. Gil Bonwitt of Gazelles Social Initiatives, Teresa Valdes-Fauli Weintraub of Merrill Lynch, Seth Werner of Harbour Real Estate Investments and Mary Wong of Office Depot Foundation fired questions at the presenters about how each would use the funding, their marketing strategies and whether their revenue models were solid.
And the winner was ... Buzzbox, presented by the Overtown Youth Center. The Buzzbox team builds and runs barbershops made out of shipping containers. These pop-up shops empower youth in low-income neighborhoods with the increased self-esteem that comes with a great cut, served up with mentoring talks. The team has already tested the concept at community events.
The Shark Tank-style event concluded Philanthropy Miami, a daylong conference showcasing philanthropic and nonprofit trends. “Passion Meets Purpose” was the theme when more than 275 people gathered at Jungle Island to explore fundraising tools and strategies for increasing donations, expanding boards and growing volunteer bases.
The Shark Tank event has been held at the conference since 2014, but this year the $10,000 award was accompanied with a venture partner. A new group of venture philanthropy funders will take the winner under its wing, offering mentoring, strategy advice and connections, as well as the funding.
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The organization, Social Venture Partners Miami (www.svpmiami.org), which launched on Thursday, is part of a global network of 3,500 venture philanthropists in 43 cities in nine countries who have collectively invested more than $63 million in about 840 social ventures since 1997. SVP partners are professionals, executives, entrepreneurs and community leaders; together they select social ventures in the community to back, and they contribute their time, talent, capital and connections to help the ventures grow, using a venture capitalist model to reap social returns.
The idea is that SVP will be an on-ramp, helping promising concepts that already have traction to grow and become “venture ready” for social impact funders, said Lauren Harper, founder of SVP Miami. Over time, SVP Miami will mentor and fund a number of ventures and for each venture it will be a multi-year commitment, she said.
Harper also co-founded the Center for Social Change, a Miami co-working and education center for nonprofit and for-profit social ventures.
“The center does an incredible job bringing people together ... but more is needed,” said Harper, who already has 11 founding partners. “The SVP model provides the right combination of resources and capital to support social ventures that can scale. And this is the right time to do this in Miami.”
Paul Shoemaker, the founder of the global Social Venture Partners and author of “Can’t Not Do,” told the conference crowd that becoming a successful changemaker requires three qualities: active listening, humility and connecting.
Attendees were also reminded of the nonprofit sector’s economic importance, thanks to a report released this week by the Florida Nonprofit Alliance. In the Sunshine State, 83,000 nonprofits employ more than 530,000 people — 6 percent of the state workforce. The state’s nonprofit sector provides an annual payroll of $26 billion, receives nearly $90 billion in annual revenue and holds assets of $205.7 billion.
In the southeast region that includes Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, more than 175,000 people work in nonprofits, accounting for an annual payroll of more than $9.3 billion. That involves a total of 27,039 nonprofits that produce nearly $28.2 billion in revenues, the report found.
“The contributions that the nonprofit sector makes are vital to the state economy,” the Alliance’s Executive Director Sabeen Perwaiz said when releasing the report. “The public and private sectors of the economy receive considerable attention, but this report demonstrates why the nonprofit sector cannot be overlooked.”