Hannah Cree, co-founder of CMNGD, a social enterprise featured on the EconoUs2017 Social Entrepreneurship and Alternative Financing Tour tells us a little about how her passion for entrepreneurship and day job intersect. As a Social Entrepreneurship Specialist with ATB (our EconoUs2017 Doing Business Differently pillar sponsor) Hannah gives us a taste of how the company is driving social change in Alberta by supporting entrepreneurs and social purpose businesses in an “atmosphere of creativity, friendliness and hustle”.

Why would a bank hire an entrepreneur?

That sums up the reaction of all my friends, especially the entrepreneurial ones, when they learned that I was going to work for ATB as a social entrepreneurship specialist. And then there was my mom:

“Does ATB know you have that entrepreneurial bug?”

Yes, ATB knew. In fact, my future boss had watched my husband and me pitch CMNGD (pronounced “common good”) at an ATB BoostR crowdfunding event before I ever thought I might work at a bank.

Our vision for CMNGD was a social enterprise aimed at ending poverty in Calgary. We wanted to employ people living in homeless shelters to provide laundered linens to local restaurants. Our experience at BoostR brought us media attention and helped us surpass our crowdfunding goal. We were heading to launch!

Then came all the paperwork. We needed to open a business bank account and apply for a Mastercard. When we went to the ATB Entrepreneur Centre in Calgary, I was expecting the usual bank experience: bland and boring.

Arriving at the building felt a little surreal. There was a stylish black concrete floor, a big open workshop space and glass-walled meeting rooms. More important, there was at atmosphere of creativity, friendliness and hustle. Not long after we arrived, I blurted out, “Is this really a bank?”

“Why yes!” a smiling woman replied. She introduced herself as an ATB community manager. It was her job, she explained, to bring into the building mentors, thought leaders and experts in all areas of business to run free workshops open to anyone.

Hearing this made me even more intrigued. This place did not sound like a bank. I began to ask more questions and learned that ATB built the Entrepreneur Centres after listening to the feedback of entrepreneurs. The bank realized entrepreneurs needed more support, expertise and alternative lending solutions. After years of working in the startup community, I couldn’t have agreed more.

That’s why it was easy for me to say “yes” when I had the opportunity to work here. ATB was listening to feedback and actually doing something about it. In my first month of working at ATB, every employee I met would say:

“Welcome to the team! You’re going to love it here!” (And there weren’t even any managers around!)

These predictions were right. I have loved it!  I’ve been lucky enough to support ATB’s entrepreneurship strategy in many different ways, from the Entrepreneur Centre and the accelerator program ATB-X to alternative funding strategies like ATB BoostR and now ATB LendR, which is a crowdlending platform. I’ve seen entrepreneurs use these tools to grow their businesses in unique ways. I’ve also had the honour of talking with many awesome social entrepreneurs and support organizations about how to build social businesses in Alberta that make a real impact. It is hard to believe I’ve been at ATB for over a year.

In that time, my husband has been busy scaling CMNGD; we’ve already created over 3,000 hours of employment for people living in homelessness and three employees have moved out of the homeless shelter into their own homes!

I would love for you to join me on September 13 at EconoUs, where we’ll be showing you the unique operations of CMNGD, our partnerships in the community and additional alternative funding models available in Alberta.

Learn more about the tour here: https://2017.econous.ca/program/.