Aspire Food Group : First Recipient of the Richter Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program

Case Study

Aspire: An innovative social enterprise

It began in 2012 as an initiative between five MBA students at McGill University. Now, Aspire is recognized as one of the world’s most innovative social enterprises, proposing practical solutions to address the problem of malnutrition in certain populations by producing micro-livestock (i.e. insects) on farms and developing innovative, insect-based food products. In a world plagued by rampant globalization and population growth, where the amount of arable land and water resources has decreased dramatically, micro-livestock is well positioned to address many of the world’s food insecurity issues as it is extremely resource efficient, using significantly less land, water and feed than traditional livestock (e.g. cattle and poultry). Aspire has made it its mission to provide access to nutritious and high-protein food from micro-livestock to people living in economically disadvantaged regions of the globe.

 As winners of the 2013 Hult Prize, Aspire team members were awarded $1 million in seed capital, presented by former U.S. president Bill Clinton. The prize provided the start-up capital necessary to launch their project and the students also received advice from the international business community.

 The company and its challenges

Five strategic steps define the company’s current and future trajectory, which includes the establishment and operation of facilities in the U.S., Mexico and Ghana:

  • Establishment of mass insect production on centralized farms;
  • Creation of insect farming units to be used by small-hold farmers;
  • Testing of farming units with local small-hold farmers;
  • Deployment of farming units across several cities and introduction of quality control measures;
  • Production of innovative insect-derived food products.

 Start-up companies always face many challenges, but when the scope of endeavour is international at the outset, as is the case with Aspire, the level of complexity increases tenfold as the business must deal with many other factors, including linguistic and cultural differences, knowledge of and compliance with local and international laws and regulations, etc. From the start, Aspire expected to encounter many issues: “Since we are entering a completely nascent yet revolutionary industry and dealing with the added complexity of operating internationally, we knew there would be many challenges”.

The Richter Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program: an inspiration derived from Aspire’s vision

From a financial and accounting perspective, Aspire required our financial and tax assistance to establish an optimal international structure for the development and operation of its specialized agricultural facilities outside of Canada (i.e. in the U.S., Mexico and Ghana.) Richter has been working hand in hand with Aspire, its legal advisors and others to assist them in starting up their business and realizing the plan that won them the Hult Prize. 

 Richter’s Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program was created to unite Aspire’s passionate management team with Richter’s commitment to philanthropy. While donations and charitable giving have always been part of Richter’s culture, this Program allows Richter to play a more active philanthropic role by giving our time, expertise and business experience to social entrepreneurs. 

 Designed to be awarded to other social entrepreneurs every two years, the Richter Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program comprises a number of benefits, including a considerable reduction in audit and tax service fees, banked service hours to address accounting, tax and financial questions, and an ongoing follow-up service through quarterly meetings with an integrated team. This is the Richter Approach.

 The Richter Approach: practical approach and integrated services

If Aspire chose Richter over other large firms, it is not simply because of the Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Program’s many advantages. Aspire’s management team was looking for a practical approach, where they could rely on knowledgeable advice from experts who truly embody the entrepreneurial spirit:  “At every meeting with Richter, we are able to identify new opportunities to explore that bring value to Aspire and that enable us to be efficient with our resources”. Aspire also wanted to be able to count on guidance from a multidisciplinary team of professionals that fully grasped its overall objectives and with which it could develop a rewarding and long-lasting relationship based on trust.

 Preparing for tomorrow today with Richter

A young company whose management is passionate and fully convinced of their vision to address the world food shortage in a sustainable way, Aspire should skillfully navigate between the obstacles that will inevitably arise along its road to success. Having laid the foundation for this highly innovative project, the company must now get ready for the next phase in its growth: namely, careful financial management and obtaining financing. Richter will continue to guide Aspire with the same dedication and enthusiasm through each of its next steps.

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Infographic Aspire EN  

 Click here to read the Press Release.

 

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