UBC Okanagan seeds sustainability into entrepreneurship
November 21, 2022
Volunteer, Mentor 2 Market
Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences (pre-2020)
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
Master of Arts, UBC Okanagan
Bachelor of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa
"It’s very humbling to be invited to be part of their journey. It’s full circle for me because I know what it’s like to be in that position, with all these ideas and not exactly sure what’s happening.”
ALLISHA HEIDT WANTS TO REASSURE UBC OKANAGAN’S ENTREPRENEURS that it’s okay to feel lost sometimes. The owner of Kelowna’s Chickpeace Zero Waste Refillery also wants hopeful business owners to know that following your heart and your instincts can produce incredible results.
Heidt graduated from UBC Okanagan with a Master of Arts degree focusing on sustainable communities, and recently joined entrepreneurship@UBCO’s Mentor 2 Market program. She will mentor students on how to incorporate sustainability into their business practices, as well as share with them stories from her successful career as an entrepreneur.
“It’s such a dream to be able to give back in that capacity and to hopefully influence and create even more of a ripple of change through these young graduates. They’re so fiery and excited to have a sustainability-based business,” Heidt says. “Even if they’re not doing something green off the bat, they’re figuring out a way to make it more sustainable.”
Mentor 2 Market is an innovative, collaborative and interdisciplinary mentorship program within UBCO. Its mission is to help students, staff, faculty and alumni in their journey to start a business by connecting them to tools, customers, funding and community. The program is also designed to allow for long-term residency that is individualized and milestone-based to provide continued support to entrepreneurs. This is offered through tandem mentoring, two mentors for each business, from business leaders like Heidt. Mentor 2 Market builds off and compliments the five-part eDiscovery workshop series in partnership with Accelerate Okanagan.
Heidt said she agreed to get involved when UBCO first approached her to join Mentor 2 Market. Working with those on the Kelowna-based campus again is one way Heidt can pay it forward.
“I’ve heard a few pitches already from students. Even if their business isn’t about sustainability, they want to be so green on the back end. It’s very humbling to be invited to be part of their journey,” Heidt says. “It’s full circle for me because I know what it’s like to be in that position, with all these ideas and not exactly sure what’s happening.”
Heidt admits to having those same feelings when she began her career. She would even admit she took some leaps before then while completing her master’s degree. When she began contemplating post-graduate work there was no such thing as a sustainability degree. But Heidt was able to select courses across disciplines to forge her master’s because even a decade ago, the concept of sustainability was just beginning to move from theory into practice.
Heidt said UBCO’s faculty and staff embraced the challenge of being among the first to offer such an education.
“My experience was unique,” she says. “I didn’t have any roadblocks. It was all very fluid and supportive. I think because the people that I was working with, those who were on my committee, they all believed in the future of sustainability and growing sustainable communities.”
Her first foray into the business world came with GreenStep Solutions, an environmental consulting company based in Kelowna. She then launched MotherLove Kombucha with a business partner, only just recently selling her stake as she branched out again to create Chickpeace.
Heidt said she envisioned Chickpeace as something of a lifestyle hub for people who want to do better for the planet. The refillery is more than a business that sells zero-waste, sustainable household products; it also sells beauty and lifestyle products, small groceries, and collects compost. The composting program gives apartment dwellers or those without space to compost a depot to drop their organic waste. It started with one 200-litre bin, quickly expanded to four 200-litre bins and now requires a three-cubic-yard dumpster.
“I knew that I just wanted to have a meaningful business. I knew the planet needed businesses that had a social purpose in mind,” Heidt says. “There were few places in Kelowna where you could shop with your values in mind. It has been so exciting. I think we have grown in ways I did not expect us to grow. We get so many people coming in every single day. Thousands of pounds of compost have been diverted because of our program.”
Heidt knows it’s making a difference, and now she is hopeful her enthusiasm for sustainable businesses—not just refilleries, but all businesses—filters down to the next generation of graduates just the way UBCO supported her.
“I didn’t know the word ‘sustainability’ at that time,” she said. “I just knew when I came back and I wanted to focus my post-graduate work on helping to save the planet.”