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BC CEO Awards: Marcia Nozick

Innovative business model allows CEO’s non-profit social enterprise to thrive without government grants
Marcia Nozick, CEO, EMBERS | Submitted

In 2001, Marcia Nozick founded the Eastside Movement for Business and Economic Renewal Society (EMBERS), an innovative charity that uses business to create social change.

The first of its kind in the Downtown Eastside, EMBERS started out by empowering low-income entrepreneurs to turn their talents into small businesses. In 2008, she broke ground again, launching EMBERS Staffing Solutions (ESS), Canada’s only multi-award winning, non-profit temporary labour company that connects people facing employment barriers with transitional jobs, bridging them to full-time employment and helping them reintegrate into society.

Ahead of her time, Nozick expanded the organization, turning it into a profitable multimillion-dollar social enterprise, years before this business structure was widely known. In contrast to traditional charities, ESS operates as a social enterprise and is 100% independent of outside funds. As a social enterprise, ESS invests 100% of its profits back into the community, providing its workers with higher wages, medical benefits, social supports, free equipment rentals and training.

ESS has grown exponentially – both financially and in its social impact. In 2020, ESS employed 2,300 individuals, paid $11.7 million in wages and benefits, grossed $14.7 million and provided skills training to 300-plus people. She has proven that social enterprises are serious businesses and play a vital part in Canadian society.

Since 2018, revenue has increased by 68%, mainly as a result of the growth of ESS. With a robust business development strategy, ESS continues to raise its top-line revenue and surpass sales targets. To provide financial stability to the EMBERS organization, EMBERS self-generates about 95% of revenue through ESS. This prevents EMBERS from being reliant on government grants and external funding, making the organization self-sufficient. This sustainable financial model allows EMBERS to maintain lean operations and reinvest 100% of its profits back into the communities it serves.

EMBERS attracts top executive talent and diverse front-line staff who are passionate about contributing to the social good and want a job that is meaningful to them.

EMBERS combines the power of economic transactions and social value to maximize total impact – known as the “double bottom line.” EMBERS is able to invest 100% of profits from ESS into meaningful social outcomes, including higher wages, health care benefits, free training and equipment rentals. These initiatives empower workers to meet their economic and career-centred goals.

Nozick is a 2020 recipient of a Governor General’s Innovation Award and a 2021 recipient of a BC Achievement Foundation Community Award, among her many honours. •

For more information about this year's BC CEO Awards, click here.