Sign up for our Newsletter!

Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund makes first round of funding!

By Jodie Shupac, CSI Reporter
Follow her on twitter

On the morning of Thursday, September 12th, fuelled by caffeine and pastries from the CSI Coffee Pub, six groups of social entrepreneurs met at CSI Annex and readied themselves for the challenge at hand: To distil their respective visions—and their business plans—for a revenue-generating social project into a crisp yet compelling 20 minute pitch, presented to both a review panel and interested members of the CSI community.

The six competing groups—all social enterprises and CSI members (either tenants or community members)—were vying to be one of several recipients of the first round of the inaugural Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund—a unique, cross-sector partnership designed to support promising, early stage Ontario social enterprises. 

Catapult Micoloan Fund FinalistsThe roster of contestants included both for-profit and nonprofit groups, and each addressed a diverse problem. They were: The Toronto Tool Library, Twenty One Toys, Grantbook, Hope in the Fight Productions Ltd., Citizen Rain, and the Hammer Active Alternative Transportation.

An incredible private-public partnership, the Microloan Fund is being administered by CSI, in partnership with the Province of Ontario, Alterna Savings, Microsoft Canada, TD Bank Group, KPMG, and Social Capital Partners. CSI received 90 loan applications, and after a rigorous 4-month review process identified six finalists. 

The Fund aims to enable its recipients to achieve their desired impact by providing between 15 and 25 investments to early stage social enterprises, giving low interest loans of $5,000 to $25,000, offering a range of additional supports, and working with loan recipients to measure their social and economic impact.

In characteristic CSI fashion, Thursday’s event was fun and lively, while simultaneously full of challenging questions, stimulating discussion, and a hearty sense of competition.

Here’s a summary of the day for those who missed it:

Picture, if you will, a sort of “Dragon’s Den” meets the social change sector: A panel of judges comprised of both CSI staff, its partners, and several independent experts, listened to each group’s pitch before firing back a series of hard-hitting questions.

Each group began by laying out the social problems that their particular venture seeks to address, then sketching out business plans, anticipated impact, and reasons for requiring additional funding or support.  

The Toronto Tool Library, headed by CSI tenants Ryan Dyment and Lawrence Alvarez, has been set up to reduce the waste that comes from “individuals buying tools that then wither in their basements,” and to empower low-income communities to engage in hands-on projects through affordable access to tool-sharing. The judges inquired about things like the potential for member attrition at the Library, as well as about sustainability, and whether existing and forecasted revenue streams would be sufficient.

CSI tenants Ilana Ben-Ari and Gonzalo Riva presented their plans for Twenty One Toys, speaking of needing added funding to aid with things like mass production of their toys and educator guides, marketing, and training for those distributing the toys. Questions were posed about the feasibility of school boards having the resources to buy materials from Twenty One Toys. 

GrantBook, founded by CSI tenants Anil Patel and Peter Deitz, is a platform designed to streamline the granting process and help grant-makers maximize the net value of their grants, using technology and the team’s knowledge of the philanthropic sector. Judges asked about the organization’s ability to compete and their unique value proposition.

Hope in the Fight Productions Ltd., led by Abid Virani and Nathan Blair, is the social enterprise attached to the charity Hope in the Fight. The enterprise’s goal is to be the go-to video and digital media production resource for charities and nonprofits, helping the latter to compete and increase impact without breaking the bank. Judge’s questions touched on whether the group’s costs, as laid out in their business plan, were realistic.

Citizen Rain, headed by Kevin Mercer, wants to address the problem of inefficient and outdated municipal storm water infrastructure, and use technology to innovate the residential rain cistern. Questions were fired about the group’s competitors and how their plan might fit into the municipal infrastructure system.

Abram Bergen, president and founder of The Hammer Active Alternative Transportation (THAAT), explained his organization’s mission to use human-powered and eco-friendly delivery services to reduce pollution and inefficiencies caused by large trucks making small deliveries within a city. Questions were asked about whether THAAT has sufficient demand and if their team could make bicycle deliveries throughout the winter.

Following the pitches, the judges took time to deliberate, weighing factors like originality of the idea, scalability, project feasibility, the team’s track record, financial sustainability, community support for the idea, and the project’s expected social, environmental, economic, or cultural impact.

Judges then broke for the day, only to reconvene that evening with members of the general CSI community for cocktails, schmoozing, and finalists presenting lightening round-style pitches a la grade school science fair. 

After much anticipation, the results for the winning Catapult recipients came in as follows: Grantbook, The Toronto Tool Library, Twenty One Toys, and THAAT. 

“The Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund is about moving beyond talk to impact,” said Tonya Surman, CSI’s CEO. “Helping social ventures build their revenues enables them to grow their enterprise and achieve their impact. We are so proud to see our CSI members making real change in the world. This is what social innovation looks like!”

“Ontario’s social enterprises help create a vibrant and diverse economy with more opportunities for people of all abilities and backgrounds,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. “Ontario is proud to work with the Centre for Social Innovation and other valued partners to support the next generation of social enterprises that will sustainably address the social, environmental and economic challenges facing our communities.”

The total amount disbursed among the four groups is $70,000.  The Fund also implemented certain funding conditions for two of the recipients: Twenty One Toys is expected to spend their money on production and manufacturing, and THAAT is to put theirs towards the purchase of transport bicycles and trailers.

We look forward to seeing these organizations turn their visions into impact! The next round of applications will open in October 2013. Apply for the next round!  If you are interested in supporting the Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund, please email our Program Manager at

Thanks to our awesome partners:

Parners Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund