3 ways to give back this spring with Nashville Social Enterprise Alliance

“Making more money doesn’t make people happier unless they’re using it in a way that increases the lives and benefits the lives of those around them.”

Hannah Pechan is the executive director of the Nashville Social Enterprise Alliance-- the largest chapter of the national Social Enterprise Alliance, an organization of businesses with the goal of giving back to their respective communities through market-based solutions.

“I talk about it similarly to a chamber. We provide services to our members to help them grow and connect with their market,” Pechan said.

The Alliance helps members to do everything from reach out to a wider market to host benefits, as well as connecting with the national Social Enterprise Alliance, which has 16 chapters and over 1,000 members, Pechan said, giving members the chance to work with other businesses across the country.

The definition of social enterprise varies among businesses and organizations, Pechan said. Some people call it “profit plus purpose,” Pechan said. Others, “mission meets market.”

“My unofficial slogan is ‘don’t be boring,’” Pechan said. “To me, it’s the way I pitch social enterprise to people in conversation. It means stretching people.”

Why Nashville is perfect to start a social enterprise

Social enterprise forces people to think about trying to push the boundaries of what’s possible and deliver social solutions and also make a profit, Pechan said. The difference between this system and a regular non-profit: It doesn’t rely on donors, and can live on even if donating stops.

A burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit exemplified in Nashville social enterprise-based businesses like Nisolo, Thistle Farms and Project 615 was part of the draw for Pechan, who is originally from Ohio.

“Now that I’ve gotten to know Nashville more, I can see why it’s a hub for social enterprise,” Pechan said, citing the city’s philanthropic spirit, affordability and strong fiscal roots.

Nashville is also a city with a lot of young people moving into the city, eager to start their own businesses, and Pechan said that students can be easily integrated into the entrepreneurial or social enterprise community directly from one of Nashville’s 21 universities.

“You’re already in a community that wants to see you succeed. In terms of my support to our member base, it’s very evident that there are, not only on the consumer side, mentors and resources who want to see them succeed.”

Good Makers Market

Good Makers Market is an event partnered between the NSEA and EC twice a year, during which local social enterprise vendors gather together and celebrate with the community with shopping opportunities that give back.

“It’s a consumer-facing market, a social impact market, so every vendor there has a social impact component of what they’re doing for the day. Some people are true social enterprises. Some people want to be involved for the day and connect with a non-profit to donate to or a cause to give back to,” she said.


Pechan said she wants the event to feel welcoming to everyone, whether or not they can shop. This springs’ event-- to be held on May 1-- will also include food trucks, games and yoga.

“We want it to be a celebration of good going on in the community as well as a retail market,” Pechan said.

Business for Good Competition

On the Saturday before the Good Makers’ Market-- April 30--, Pechan will also be working with the fourth annual Business for Good Competition, an event focused on highlighting new and upcoming social enterprise businesses and services and sponsored by Launch Tennessee, Lipscomb University, Belmont University and LBMC.

The top ten competitors will be promoted, while the top four competitors will be offered positions at 36|86 Conference held in Nashville to connect startups and investors. The top prize is $10,000.

“To me, it’s a great opportunity to be able to pair something that’s a little bit more inward-facing with something that’s really consumer-facing,” Pechan said. 

This year, Pechan is excited to better extend the competition to students and a “more mature ecosystem” already involved with the NSEA. The event will include social enterprise stories from around Middle Tennessee, a spoken word intermission and the presentation of finalists. Get your tickets for Business for Good Finals

Impact Coffee Series

Pechan was interested in finding a way to highlight the ways that traditional non-social enterprise businesses were positively impacting the Nashville area and state as a whole.

The solution: The Impact Coffee Series, a series of talks by local business owners who are investing back into the area that has invested in them.

The first guest was Michael Kenner of MiKen Development, who showcased how a business can be used as a tool to give voice, status and power that can be used to benefit the community. RSVP for the next Impact Coffee.

It’s a message Pechan said she hears a lot from business owners: That reaching out to others can be used to advocate for others, to give back.

“We’re really excited to have that be a monthly series here at the Entrepreneur Center, highlighting those owners, executives, employees, entrepreneurs who want to display what they’re doing through their business,” she said.

For more information about how to get involved with social enterprise in the Nashville area, email Pechan at hannah@socialenterprise.us, visit the Entrepreneur Center or check it all out online at nashvillesocialenterprise.org. Here more stories like this on our Nashville Entrepreneur Center Podcast. Featured image by Mohamed Soliman.