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Tara Rogerson, Director of Social Enterprise at Evergreen Brick Works (INTERVIEW)

— May 21, 2012 — Social Good
Tara Rogerson is the Director of Social Enterprise at one of Toronto's greenest and most innovative spaces. Technically a national charity, Evergreen Brick Works has revenue-generating activities for which Rogerson is responsible.

Learn more about how Evergreen melds social and environmental concerns with business, as well as how this Associate Director stays inspired. (Hint: she has a relaxing working environment.)

Four Questions with Tara Rogerson

1. How did the idea for the business model come about?

The idea for the business model came from answering the question -- how can we best leverage the asset that is Evergreen Brick Works. Although the main purpose and function of the site is to carry out Evergreen's charitable mission, we also knew we could earn significant revenue to support the operations of the centre and further that same mission.

The earned revenue streams that surfaced were leasing to tenants (all socially driven), renting the beautiful heritage spaces for third party events (fundraisers and weddings), charging for parking (a critical revenue stream to make it all work) and our retail concept (which earns revenue and directly furthers our mission of connecting communities with nature).

2. How did you decide to join this sector?

I went back to school in 2007 to complete my MBA. After I graduated I took some time to travel and really understand what I wanted my career to be. I knew I wanted to work at something every day that made me feel good about myself. Before going back to school I worked for a large public company that was preparing for a third-party privatization transaction. Talk about pressure to produce a profit. It seemed that was the only thing that mattered and that didn't sit well with me. I decided after that experience to go back to school and then take some time to find the right career for me.

So on graduating, I knew two things. One, that I loved entrepreneurship, and two, that I wanted to make a difference -- not just financially. Through my research I discovered Social Enterprise. Exactly what I was looking for. Business with aim to generate a profit, but to also consider the impact on the environment and people.

When I think about it now, I can't believe there is a special term for this type of business. Shouldn't every business need to have three returns to worry about? How did we get to a place where its perfectly acceptable to worry about only profit, generally at the expense of the environment and the welfare of people?

3. How do you get your inspiration?

I'm lucky. I only need to look out my office window to feel inspired. Evergreen Brick Works is where my office is and where much of our programming is delivered.

One of those programs is a summer camp program. In the mornings we hear the children making their customary animal calls before starting their day of outdoor fun. Connecting with nature early, so they will respect it and preserve it later on.

It always makes me smile... and get to work! If the social enterprise makes more, then more kids get to go to camp. Not a bad return to work towards.

4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?

I do actually. I am pretty good at scheduling my time each week. I schedule in time to read, search the Internet and just, well, think. Sometimes its just an hour a week over lunch time. But I do it consistently.

In the craziness of start-up and operating its so easy to get lost in to-dos. Scheduling my time ensures two things -- first that I actually do it. And second, that I don't feel anxiety for doing that as opposed to ticking something off my to-do list. Because I know I have everything I need to get done that week scheduled already.