Mount Royal alumni drive 'what's next' in Calgary

Social enterprises create opportunity where others see only problems



“From neuroscience, we know that human brains function best when they have hope. For example, if you’re at the end of a close football game, the team that thinks they have a chance at winning will most likely win,” says Tim Lipp, a Mount Royal University alumnus and co-founder of Beaverlodge, an app that allows individuals to perform self-guided energy audits of their homes. Once the audit is done, the app turns into a custom game to guide people into making their house more energy efficient, enabling individuals to make small tweaks over a period of time for a positive environmental impact. The achievable goals make overall change obtainable. 

Beaverlodge is one of four businesses that took home honours at a new initiative called What’s Next YYC in November. Co-hosted by the Trico Charitable Foundation and the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, the event aims to recognize and support social enterprises in the city. Four $25,000 prizes were awarded this year, with three going to enterprises formed by Mount Royal University alumni.

Arguably, these projects were successful because of one simple fact: they provide hope for a better world.

“These social entrepreneurs have all observed something in the world around them that is negatively impacting the health or well-being of people or ecosystems. While these issues may rightly anger or enrage, these entrepreneurs also see assets, opportunities and resources where other people see only problems,” says James Stauch, director of the Institute for Community Prosperity at MRU. 

“These social enterprises are living proof that students and alumni don't have to make a choice between a socially responsible and a commercial path, or between doing good and doing well.”

Meet Beaverlodge, Deepwater Farms and Universal Access, the three successful alumni enterprises that are each thinking creatively to solve problems around climate change, food supply and accessibility. Each one of these entrepreneurs speaks to the unique community offered at Mount Royal as one piece of the puzzle that continues to support them as they build a better future. 

“The MRU community is often what allows an entrepreneur to move into the world and create disproportionately large positive change through their ventures, careers and lives," says Emily Knight, entrepreneur development officer at MRU’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.



Tim Lipp


The alumnus: Tim Lipp
Bachelor of Business Administration ― Accounting, minor in Economics, 2018
Prize: $25,000 Judge’s Choice Award

The problem: Right now, climate change is being fought through protests or events that are largely tailored to more extroverted individuals, and can be very polarizing. There lacks a single solution that encourages individuals to take small, measurable steps towards creating a positive environmental impact.

The solution: Provide consumers with a way to do a self-guided energy audit of their house, and make it fun. Beaverlodge takes users through short missions each day over the course of a few weeks to audit their home. The app then analyzes the information to make home product recommendations and suggest cost-saving behaviours, prioritizing the most important changes first. People “play the game” of home improvement combined with behavioural change over as long as a year.

Why it makes a difference: Simply, Beaverlodge presents climate change solutions instead of problems. 

“We need to move away from trying to scare each other into taking more drastic action because, while the drastic action could help, it’s not as powerful as hopeful, creative action,” Lipp says.







Paul Shumlich

Deepwater Farms

The alumnus: Paul Shumlich
Bachelor of Business Administration ― General Management, minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 2016
Prize: $25,000 Audience Choice Award

The problem: Waste and limitations within our food supply. In any major city, stocks of fresh food in grocery stores are typically limited to a three-day supply. In the average North American home, ingredients for a meal usually travel between 1,500 and 4,000 kilometres to get to plates. About $27 billion worth of food waste finds its way to landfills and composting outlets annually in Canada. Of that, 30 per cent is lost in the field during transportation and distribution, as well as during packaging and processing.

The solution: Deepwater Farms is a state-of-the-art aquaponics operation that produces fish, greens and herbs with little to no waste, blazing a trail for local, sustainable food production in Calgary.

Why it makes a difference: “I believe people have a strong connection to their food. Knowing where it's grown, by whom and how, is special and is not common year-round in Calgary. Beyond that, we're growing sea bass indoors and using the waste to fertilize a vertical farm that grows leafy greens in the same building ― year-round... in Calgary ― so that is also pretty cool,” Shumlich says.








Sean Crump, photo provided by the Calgary Journal

Universal Access

The alumnus: Sean Crump
General Studies
Prize: $25,000 Judge’s Choice Award

The problem: One in five Canadians identifies as having a disability, yet there are barriers in the way of these individuals accessing workplaces, events and businesses. 

The solution: Universal Access helps businesses understand the unique relationship between spatial layout, social inclusion and bottom line impacts. Guided by both lived experience and universal design standards, Universal Access is creating equal access to opportunity for all community members.

Why it makes a difference: Universal Access is working towards a world in which all individuals can participate based on what they can give rather than what limits them, which is also part of the reason why the enterprise chose to make its home at Mount Royal’s Trico Changemaker’s Studio.

“Locating our business at the Changemaker’s Studio ensures that as we grow we can hire individuals based on their contribution, not based on if the space would meet their potential needs,” Crump says.