There was an impressive array of projects on display at last week’s Health Enterprise Development Initiative (HEDI) final presentations. From art quality fermentation crocks to a program incentivizing food stamp use at farmer’s markets, a healthy mix of business, nonprofit and government interests were joined together to tackle our city and county’s most pressing food and health issues.
HEDI is a training program for entrepreneurs creating companies fostering healthy eating, active living, promoting health for consumers, suppliers, and communities. Attendees were treated to a diverse display of perspectives that many truly appreciated. Hadar Iron of In Ferment said that the event had “transformed the way I think about my business.” Kirsten Wysen of Public Health Seattle King County was so encouraged by the experience that she simply asked us “when’s the next one?”
For the past 11 weeks, eight organizations have been participating in this mini-accelerator co-created by Slow Money NW, Pinchot’s Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, Kick, Public Health Seattle-King County, and GPS Capital Partners. All are healthy food and community enterprises serving or representing disadvantaged communities. The participants were both for-profit and non-profit , which added to the learning. In conversations the non-profits appreciated the for-profit perspective as it was different yet aligned by underlying values and goals.
Besides the goal of providing accelerated training, a goal for this first HEDI round was to determine if there was another approach to addressing community health goals. Public Health Seattle King County provided an evaluator that followed the project through the eleven weeks. She did entry and exit interviews and observed video tapes of presentations the enterprises made at the first and last meetings, comparing progress towards the stated outcomes. The result? She measured some of the most impressive gains she has ever seen!
Participants are feeling more financial confidence in their mission-driven business models. Some have pivoted their business model, and some are searching for funding or financing. But the belief that they can have a significant impact on regional food, health and wellness issues remains as strong as ever.
Stay tuned as we’ll have several upcoming stories centered around the crossroads of health, community and food.