Now more than ever, in 2017, the initiative to go green is very important. Other initiatives such as social justice and social activism are also on the rise. These initiatives sparked various projects across the globe. A noted project that came from these initiatives is Studio.89, a non-profit community hub and fair trade café in Mississauga. Studio.89 encourages the arts, culture, activism and empowerment with a focus on youth leadership, employment and volunteerism.
Studio.89 is not only a business, but a community initiative created for the community, by the community. Jazzmine Lawton, Executive Director of Studio.89 says, “we are a community initiative and have had a lot of people contribute to our success.”
It began with Youth Troopers for Global Awareness (YTGA) – a youth led non-profit that empowers people through the arts towards social justice issues. YTGA began when a group of teenagers got together and started to talk about social justice issues that they were passionate about. They began to produce theatrical performances that brought awareness to social justice issues. Their theatre troupe toured around Mississauga and it was then that they realized that the city was missing:
- Community hangouts,
- Restaurants and cafes serving fair trade, ethical food and beverage,
- Places where they had access to free resources (computer, audio visual equipment, art supplies etc.).
It was with these three concepts in mind that they developed the idea behind Studio.89 and launched the business in 2014.
However, while the initiatives and goals for Studio.89 were made with good intentions, there was still some struggle when it came to financially supporting the project. The biggest challenge was trying to secure operational and start-up funding from grants and private donors. It was recognized that, as a social enterprise, there was not that many options given when the café opened in 2014. However, things began to look up. Lawton says, “over time, we’ve come to recognize multiple funding platforms as well as effective revenue generating strategies for our free programming and to cover our operational costs.”
Over the past three years, Studio.89 has and continues to serve as an inspiring space for the community by offering a safe space for youth, non-profits, young professionals and community members to connect. Lawton emphasizes how Studio.89 differs from other cafes in Mississauga by saying,
“With a dream of being able to offer our community alternative approaches to learning and teaching, having access to fair trade goods, and free events, workshops and resources, every day is rewarding and inspires us to continue growing Studio.89.”
Studio.89 credits the Mississauga Business Enterprise Centre (MBEC) for helping bring the idea of Studio.89 to fruition. Lawton says, “MBEC was such an incredible resource when we first started putting together the original concepts and plans for Studio.89. They were there with advice and tools to help us develop our social enterprise, and provided the support for us to move forward with the idea.”
Starting a not-for-profit business from scratch is not easy and there can be numerous obstacles in the way. Lawton places emphasis on community when building your business. She advises fellow entrepreneurs who are going down the path of social activism to “utilize your community and your network. It’s amazing how many people will stand up for you when your idea addresses a need locally and internationally.”
From being a group of teenagers to the launch of the café to where it is now, Studio.89 has remained consistent in their approach. They are a community initiative that is still and plans to remain a free, safe space for events, workshops and resources.
As Studio.89 grows, there is initiative to add more arts and cultural components to their community hub. Lawton says that they plan on moving Studio.89 to a more accessible location in 2018. We want it to be “closer to the city centre so the community can easily access the resources we have available.” The community of Studio.89 continues to dream bigger by expressing hopes that they will be able to duplicate the model in other Ontario cities and beyond.
Planning to start or grow your business? MBEC can help!
MBEC is your central source for business information, resources and guidance. For information and guidance from business professionals, visit MBEC on the fourth floor of the Mississauga Central Library or online at mississauga.ca/mbec. You can also reach a member of the MBEC team at 905-615-4460 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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