Back to dragons' den

How Gen Z And Millennials Are Fixing Society For The Rest Of Us

Learn how a group of high school students in Kelowna, BC and two Toronto-based social entrepreneurs in their twenties are tackling global warming and easing anxiety.

Keneisha Charles, her friends and classmates at Rutland Senior Secondary school in Kelowna, BC were all aware of the facts of climate change and the urgency to do something. They just didn't know what they could do as teenagers to address an issue so large. That changed when, as part of a Rotary sponsored service club at their school, they participated in the Sustainable Development Challenge. Their idea, Operation Take Two, a repurposed shipping container with the machinery necessary to shred and recycle plastic waste, won.

Operation Take Two is based on a concept created by Precious Plastic, an organization in the Netherlands that designs and provides open-source online tools to help communities recycle plastic. "When we came across this concept, it was exciting and empowering for us because it felt like we could take control and try to shape the future we want to see," says Charles. "As young people, it's our future we're talking about and the generations that will come after us. So that's our passion for this."

Thanks in part to a $30,000 investment from the Desjardins GoodSpark program for social entrepreneurs, Operation Take Two should be operational this fall. Operation Take Two has three objectives: to reduce the amount of plastic sent to landfills; to serve as an education hub for students and the larger community; and to collaborate and create a network of youth taking action to be change makers. "GoodSpark is accelerating our goals," says Charles.

Lior Ohayson, 26, cofounder of Hush Blankets in Toronto, was first introduced to weighted blankets in 2011 when he was working at a summer camp in New York for children with special needs. "They had a stimulation room and I remember seeing the blanket and going under it. It makes you feel secure; it was incredible," he says.

He soon learned the science behind weighted blankets and how they were designed specifically to help people suffering from sleep anxiety, ADHD, OCD, Sensory Processing Disorder, anxiety, stress and insomnia. Ohayson continued to sneak in opportunities to use the blanket and quickly realized he could improve on it and help more people.

"The idea of Hush was to bring a premium version of that blanket to everyone to help them sleep better and manage stress and anxiety, which is a growing problem around the world," says Ohayson. "Most of our customers are dealing with something."

Already having founded a business in the marketing and software space, Ohayson shared his idea with friend and fellow serial entrepreneur Aaron Spivak, 24. Together, they founded Hush in November 2017 and began selling in January 2018. In their personal lives, both Ohayson and Spivak are committed to donating 10% of their income to charity and they've extended that commitment to Hush. Through its GiveBack program, Hush ensures 1 for every 5 kids' weighted blankets sold is donated to organizations that help children with special needs, terminal illnesses, or poverty and 1 for every 10 adult weighted blankets sold is donated to organizations such as homeless shelters and adults with disabilities.

Desjardins contributed $100,000 through the GoodSpark program to increase the number of donated blankets and help reach more people and communities.

Learn more about social enterprise, Desjardins and the GoodSpark program here.