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Award-winning graduate launches charitable social enterprise

June 9, 2017
Susan Fox

A Bachelor of Commerce in Entrepreneurial Management graduate is using her business acumen to help families with children with special needs buy and sell equipment their kids need to learn, grow and develop.

Susan Fox, who graduates at Spring Convocation June 13, won the Eric C. Douglass Centre for Entrepreneurship Studies Scholarship this year for her business plan for Everplay, an online marketplace tailored families of children with special needs.

The scholarship is worth $10,000 and helps the student who wins a business pitch competition to launch their venture within six months. Fox is also a winner of two convocation awards: the President’s Scholar Award and the RRU Founders’ Award.

“In the not-for-profit world, fundraising is a big deal, and I was tired of the traditional fundraising. It’s not a good use of time,” says Fox, who works for several non-profit organizations helping kids with special needs in Port Alberni, B.C. “So we as a team at work started brainstorming about social enterprises.”

Fox noticed how often families asked for advice for buying and selling equipment their children needed, such as wheelchairs, power strollers and specialized toys.

“So we thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing this? We could host a connection between families who want to buy and sell things, and we could actually offer new stuff and it would all be therapist approved,’” Fox says.

The idea, eventually dubbed Everplay, became her pitch for the Douglass scholarship.

Geoff Archer, associate professor in the Faculty of Management and director of the Eric C. Douglass Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies, says he could see the merit of Susan’s idea right away.

Archer says some other students have proposed launching social networks or marketplaces that only “reinvent the wheel.”

“What Susan did was different,” Archer says. “She had a wealth of experience in a clearly defined niche market. She was able to convince me that existing, more established potential solutions, like Craigslist or Meetup, were inadequate. And… she was able to quickly prototype her community marketplace, and crucially generate feedback from real people who are potential customers.

Fox plans to launch Everplay this year. Her team is testing software and working on a marketing plan, with the help of colleagues from her cohort.

As for future plans, Fox is determined to grow the consulting company she recently launched and then eventually return to Royal Roads to pursue a Master of Business Administration.

“And then I want to teach there,” she says.  “So let them know I’m on my way!”