Freed Food Society wins social entrepreneurship challenge 

Social Ventures Challenge asks contestants to develop initiatives with social or environmental benefits

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - POL POSITION Pol Lapeira of the Freed Food Society presents his business concept at the Social Ventures Challenge on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre.
  • Photo submitted
  • POL POSITION Pol Lapeira of the Freed Food Society presents his business concept at the Social Ventures Challenge on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre.

The Freed Food Society, a local non-profit that upcycles food waste from grocery stores, has been named the inaugural winner of the Whistler Centre for Sustainability's Social Ventures Challenge.

The contest wrapped on Sept. 30 at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, where eight socially minded entrepreneurs pitched their business concept to a panel of judges in a Dragons' Den-style format.

Pol Lapeira, a local cook and graphic designer who launched the Freed Food Society in March with chef Patrick Henry, took home the $3,000 prize for his sustainable venture, which saves edible goods from supermarkets that are initially slated for the trash and turns them into canned products, like preserves and soups.

"The experience was amazing," Lapeira said. "This came at the best time possible because now the farmers' markets are finishing and we are in a position where we really need a commercial kitchen, so that's where the money's going to go to... and help us bring this project to the next level."

The panel of judges, also comprised of Gibbons Life founder Joey Gibbons and Sea to Sky Gondola GM Kirby Brown, were so inspired they decided to jointly contribute $1,000 to each of the other seven participants. Pitches were evaluated on three criteria: a sound business model, "wow factor," and whether the concept offered a solution to an existing social or environmental problem.

"It was so inspiring," said Whistler Centre for Sustainability executive director Cheeying Ho.

"The eight (social ventures) were so different and had such fantastic ideas. They just all seem very viable from a business sense."

Applicants to the Social Ventures Challenge were selected from across the corridor and beyond to participate in a three-month coaching and mentorship course meant to bring their business concept to the pitch stage. Each entrepreneur participated in workshops and was paired with a local mentor in their specific business area to guide them through the developmental stages.

"It was really helpful to develop and grow my business knowledge," said Lapeira, who was paired with mentor and Purebread owner Mark Lamming.

"(Lamming) was always so positive and helpful with everything and pointed me in the right direction to evolve the project."

With the program's first year in the books, there are a few changes the centre for sustainability hopes to make to next year's challenge. One is extending the course so that the bulk of the workshops don't take place in the busy summer months. Ho is also looking for ways to continue supporting each venture once the program is wrapped up, and has invited each participant to an upcoming workshop that will "deepen their business planning," she said.

For more information, visit

A fundraiser for the Freed Food Society will be held at the GLC on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 8:30 p.m. featuring live music from The Hairfarmers. Tickets are $15, available at The Oracle, Olives and at the door.

Meet the Social Ventures Challenge participants

Ski Heaven

Founder Randi Kruse and her husband transform unusable snow sport gear into functional art, reducing waste and boosting the local economy all while beautifying their community.

Ski Heaven launches this fall in local retail stores and at events, including this weekend's Turkey Sale at the Blackcomb Day Lodge.

Change of Pace Men's Centre

Zac McHugh is a frontline support worker at Squamish Helping Hands who recognized the need for a resource and activity centre that offers Squamish men a place to grow emotionally, physically and mentally with the help of a supportive community.

Lillooet Grown Food Hub

The Lillooet Grown Food Hub was created by Katrina Ferrari as a way to connect local food producers with consumers. The online platform allows buyers to purchase locally made food directly from the farms and gardens where they're produced, reducing barriers to entry for both farmers and consumers. Check it out at

Food First

Food First is envisioned as a collective that would educate children about healthy eating habits and body image during that most crucial time in their lives. The brainchild of registered holistic nutritionist Tracy Higgs, the program will educate youngsters on proper nutrition choices and eating disorder prevention through fun and interactive activities.

Eat to Beat by the Green Moustache

If Green Moustache founder Nicolette Richer has her way, there will one day be a health-conscious, cancer-fighting eatery next door to every McDonald's on the planet. It's that ambition that led the nutritionist and disease consultant to create her Eat to Beat initiative, which is focused on providing organic produce, meals and juice at cost to people living with cancer who want dietary help to beat their disease.

ecoActive Whistler by AWARE

AWARE director Claire Ruddy wants to get conference groups in Whistler out of the boardroom and into nature through a new initiative that will offer visiting groups the chance to take part in hands-on environmental restoration and improvement projects. It's a way for visitors to give back in a meaningful way while staying active and learning about Whistler's breathtaking natural surroundings.

Positive Paddle

Positive Paddle is an initiative by Lambrecht Surfboards aimed at teaching First Nations youth and teens how to build and sell their own stand-up paddleboards, offering a deep sense of self-empowerment and a way to connect to their cultural heritage.

Visit for more information.


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