Santa Cruz is one of the most unique places on Earth, and practically everyone who lives here, or has even visited here, will tell you that same thing. However, that uniqueness can sometimes be a double edged sword. Sure we have amazing people from all over the world visiting our beautiful city, for work, fun, and school, but that also means the competition to stay here is tough. The people who can afford to live and work in Santa Cruz, especially entrepreneurs and artists, need to carve out a niche for themselves. In spite of this, we have a tremendous community of local artists with the 5th most per capita in the United States, a large and diverse selection of non profit organizations working on issues as broad as non-violent communication to specific things like technical training for youth. All of these people and these groups are only a part what make Santa Cruz special, but they are what make Santa Cruz perfect for social entrepreneurship.
So what is social entrepreneurship? Well there are a number of ways to define it depending on who you talk to, but broadly speaking social entrepreneurship is based on the idea that a business (or non-profit) be held accountable for not only the direct impacts of its products and services, but that it also takes into account its impact on the environment and community. This concept has also been referred to as a triple bottom line, that is people, planet and profits. Now, this can work retroactively, like when an established company decides to reduce its environmental impact, or it can happen proactively, meaning that people are creating new products and services with the three P’s in mind.
Come this Wednesday, six socially and/or environmentally inclined Santa Cruz companies will be pitching their ideas for a new product or service to a group of judges and prize money in an event called Cruz Cares. Originally born out of a partnership with the Inspiring Enterprise, a recently founded social accelerator program, and New Tech Meetup, Cruz Cares is a celebration of what makes Santa Cruz unique in the context of entrepreneurship. The driving impetus behind a majority of new companies is problem solving, and of course, money. For us, there is a deeper consciousness here, because the money is secondary, a means toward an end. We believe that we can accelerate the rate at which we solve meaningful problems by harnessing the power of the marketplace and competition. Our products and services will be designed to address a problem in a novel, socially driven way, but will still have to compete for your dollars. Products like the O’Neil wetsuit aren’t just great products, they have also endured and flourished among consumers looking for quality and values alike.
Santa Cruz has a unique opportunity to take advantage of our eclectic culture in a way few communities do. Given our proximity to Silicon Valley, and all of the innovate thinking that comes with it, we can create a special brand entrepreneurship here. It’s obvious that our community is looking to create more local, higher paying jobs, because we want to maintain the creative character of the people who live here. This is a natural next step, providing an opportunity for people to breathe air into new ideas in a way that creates value, while maintaining our values. That’s what Cruz Cares is all about, and that’s why Civinomics is delighted to be participating.
Come see us! Cruz Cares starts at 6pm downtown at the Del Mar Theatre this Wednesday, March 4th.