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Posts Tagged ‘social enterprise’

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Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
“You’re free to be yourself here and grow in so many ways,’’ said Phedorah, a worker at More Than Words. Boston landlord Stuart Rose is supporting the nonprofit with low rent in Boston’s pricey South End.

I’ve often thought how a charitable landlord could give new life to a town where empty storefronts are proliferating. Of course, a landlord needs to make a living like anyone else, but supporting artists or worthy causes when he has many buildings can increase the value of all his properties.

Stuart Rose is a landlord offering low rent to a charity, and it isn’t even in a decaying neighborhood. He is really just doing good.

Rose is supporting More than Words, “a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers youth who are in the foster care system, court involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.”

Megan Woolhouse writes at the Boston Globe, “Raise a toast, the former Medieval Manor, boarded up for more than a year, will come to life again as a sprawling used bookstore with an unusual social mission.

“It will be run by More Than Words, a nonprofit whose employees are youth from troubled backgrounds who often live in foster homes and homeless shelters.

“Moreover, the owner of the building on East Berkeley Street elected to give More Than Words discounted rent instead of giving in to the tide of gentrification washing over this corner of the South End. The five-story brick building is surrounded by some of the most expensive new real estate in the city, with its neighbor, the Troy, charging as much as $4,600 for a unit.

“ ‘This is 100 percent the convergence of everything right in the world,’ said Jodi Rosenbaum, who founded More Than Words 13 years ago. ‘You don’t see that very often.’ …

“The building has been owned by Stuart Rose for decades, who agreed to lease Medieval Manor’s former space to More Than Words at below-market rate for 13 years. Rose declined to be interviewed, saying through a spokesman that he didn’t want to be ‘knighted’ for his good deeds. …

“More Than Words describes itself as a social enterprise, and provides on-the-job training for youth who have faced problems in court, at home, or in school and struggled to find work. More than 70 percent of its youth have been involved with the foster care system and 40 percent in the courts. The teens also receive intensive case management working with counselors, who help them work through issues and identify goals. …

“The first-floor space will need a significant renovation after decades as a bawdy haven for Renaissance meals. More Than Words has launched a $5 million fund-raising campaign, and Rosenbaum said Liberty Mutual has already donated more than $1 million after its chief executive, David Long, visited the facility.”

Read about all the plans at the Globe, here. There’s more on the youth program here. It’s a great organization, and I can say on the basis of numerous visits to the storefront in Waltham, you’re sure to find a good book there.

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I like reading that the numbers of socially conscious companies are increasing. Recently, Naz Akyol at Social Enterprise Greenhouse in Providence wrote about one such business.

“Three years ago, active duty airman Michael Gnoato lost his life in a fatal car accident in Wyoming. Major Pettaway, a Marine who knew Mikey since high school, missed the funeral because he was deployed in Afghanistan at the time, but Navy Seabee Sadam Salas was there to speak at their best friend’s funeral. …

“The two young men are the co-founders (as well as CEO and CFO, respectively) of Mike’s Ice, a deliciously novel idea that pays tribute to their fallen friend, and also a social enterprise committed to fighting veteran homelessness and more.

“Sadam and Major [sell] Thai style ice cream rolls that come in seven fun flavors, … a commodity that only recently hit US markets with only a handful of stores in New York City. They also decided to give their venture four wheels and make Mike’s Ice a mobile truck. …

“Everything that is sold at Mike’s Ice is made from scratch, which means the truck needs to be equipped with special ice cream making machines as well as equipment for storing their ice cream bases and toppings. When asked about the greatest challenge they have faced so far, Sadam smiles and says: ‘You don’t sleep a lot.’ …

“Mike’s Ice received a SEG Hub Scholarship from Social Enterprise Greenhouse … [and] is partnered with Backpacks For Life, a nonprofit that provides homeless veterans with backpacks that contain essentials for survival.

‘We are both veterans, and now we are also entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs exist to solve problems,’ Sadam says. ‘Veteran homelessness, suicide …. these problems shouldn’t exist. These are people who fought for their country.’

More here.

Photo: Social Enterprise Greenhouse

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You know how once you become aware of a thing, you see it everywhere? That’s what I’ve been experiencing since I learned about how the Providence Granola Project trains refugees on the ins and outs of a food business, acclimating them to the US work culture and helping them develop concrete skills.

Now every few days I seem to read about another food business focused on hiring refugees. Autumn Spanne wrote recently for the Guardian about one in New York that hires refugees who have cooked for large groups (including large families).

“When Manal Kahi arrived in New York from Lebanon two years ago, to pursue a master’s degree in public administration, she longed for authentic hummus, but couldn’t find a restaurant or supermarket that came close to her expectations. So she started making her own, based on a recipe from her Syrian grandmother.

“The recipe was a hit with her friends, and it occurred to Kahi that there might be a successful business in it. The idea also dovetailed with her growing concern about the Syrian refugee crisis. Since the beginning of 2013, the number of Syrian refugees registered worldwide by the United Nations has grown from half a million to more than 5.5 million. …

“Kahi sought a way to help. She decided to start a social enterprise designed to help refugees from all over the world get established in their new country and provide New Yorkers a positive entry point for interacting with the city’s refugee community. Kahi’s efforts put the spotlight on the role business has to play in the refugee crisis, and whether there’s a need for new approaches to help recently arriving refugees integrate and become self-sustaining.”

In January, “Kahi and her brother launched Eat Offbeat, a for-profit meal delivery startup that employs recently resettled refugees from around the world as chefs who prepare traditional dishes from their countries of origin. The main prerequisite is that they enjoy cooking and have had experience cooking for groups – even if that just means extended family. …

“The goal, said Kahi, is twofold: help refugees get a foothold in the US, and ‘change the narrative around refugees.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Eva Cruz/Eat Offbeat  
Potato kibbeh is one of the dishes on the Eat Offbeat menu.

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Dan Holin, who used to run a Concord-Lowell volunteer partnership called the Jericho Road Project, is now director of special projects at UTEC in Lowell. (UTEC doesn’t use the longer title its youth founders originally came up with, but since people ask, it was United Teen Equality Center.)

UTEC describes itself as a nonprofit that “helps young people from Lowell and Lawrence, Mass., trade violence and poverty for social and economic success. It works to remove barriers that confront them when they want to turn their lives around and offers young people paid work experience through its social enterprises: mattress recycling, food services and woodworking.”

On May 15, Acton’s Pedal Power joined members of the Concord-based Monsters in the Basement bicycling club to share their bike-repair expertise with young people who wanted to acquire bikes and learn to maintain them. Holin, a serious biker himself, organized the event to give UTEC young people two things that he said they normally lack: transportation and fun.

At the event, one of them, Sav, recounted his story of change. Before UTEC I never talked to anyone,” he said. “I was a problem child on the streets. I was hanging around with gangs, selling drugs. I don’t do that now. Seven months ago, I moved from a place with nothing positive. Atlantic City. I let my family know I’m ready to live life. It was hard for me to get into something good: I’ve got a lot of tattoos and a record. But I’m in the culinary program here. It’s a family. They make you feel like you are somebody that has a chance. They give me love like a family. They changed my life for the better. There are so many new things to do here. Yesterday I went kayaking.”

More here.

Sav, in sunglasses, got a good bike at UTEC’s bike event in Lowell on May 15. The bike will provide transportation to his job at UTEC. It will also provide some much needed fun.

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Interested in doing well by doing good? Consider attending the April 29-April 30 Providence event hosted by the Social Enterprise Greenhouse and the Social Innovation Initiative at Brown University.

According to the nonprofit’s website, the 2016 SEEED (Social Enterprise Ecosystem for Economic Development) Summit “provides a comprehensive support system to inspire, start, grow, and sustain successful social enterprises. …

“This year’s conference theme is Growing Businesses with Impact. We will explore the unique challenges facing a social enterprise at three stages of growth, with half day modules devoted to launching, growing and transforming. 

“Whether you’re a social entrepreneur, student, academic, impact investor, policymaker, or plain ol’ fan of ‘do well, do good’ business, we hope you will join us. This year’s conference will include free coaching, a ‘Buy With Heart’ market, lunchtime roundtable discussions, and a pitch competition. …

“The conference is hosted jointly by Social Enterprise Greenhouse and The Social Innovation Initiative at Brown University, in collaboration with sponsors The City of Providence, The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and Worldways Social Marketing, as well as knowledge partners Bridgespan and Neighborhood Economics/SOCAP.

“SEEED is the first impact conference in the US to adopt a ‘pay what you can’ ticket model so that the event is accessible to everyone. However, it costs us $200 per participant. Therefore, we ask all attendees to pay what they can to support our mission (the minimum payment to register is $1.00). … For any questions contact info@segreenhouse.org.” Register here.

The keynote speaker is Willy Foote of Root Capital. According to Sacha Pfeiffer in the Boston Globe, “This year, the Cambridge nonprofit Root Capital expects to have surpassed $1 billion in loans made to small businesses in the developing world, a sector neglected by large commercial banks. …

“Because many farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America don’t have the traditional collateral needed to borrow money, such as property deeds, Root Capital relies on less conventional ways to judge creditworthiness. For example, it accepts future production of harvests — including cocoa, coffee, cotton, fruit, and nuts — as collateral for financing. That approach has been a success; Foote says Root Capital’s repayment rate is about 97 percent. …

“Root Capital doesn’t just loan money; it also offers financial training to rural entrepreneurs, helping them improve their business skills and strengthen their market connections.”

Read more about Foote and Root Capital in the Boston Globe article.

Photo: Heidi Gumula
The Social Enterprise Greenhouse has its headquarters at 10 Davol Square, Providence. 

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There is a new WordPress blog that hopes to create an online business benefiting an impoverished part of the world. It’s called Life Out Of The Box.

Bloggers Quinn and Jonathon write: “We left the United States in May 2012 and moved to Nicaragua to create a business that gives back to the community. Since we moved here, we’ve been traveling all over the country to find various handmade products by the people of Nicaragua and ultimately develop a line of products that we can sell overseas. Buying and selling products from these local artisans will not only help their local economy, but will also expose people overseas to the beauty of an unfamiliar culture.

“Life Out of the Box is a product for a product business. For every product that we sell overseas, we will give back a product to help educate the kids here in Nicaragua. Sell a product, give a product. One for One. We want to give the kids a useful product that will allow them to have the opportunity to live their life out of the box and pursue their own dreams. So far, these products include a variety of notebooks, agendas and pencils. We are both very connected to education and believe that it’s the best place to start in helping developing countries. It’s the root of where change can start – where kids can learn and develop their own skills to improve their country’s economy, help their families and go on to teach the next generation.

“While we’ve been traveling around the country looking for products to sell, we have also been working with various non-profit organizations to find out how we can make a difference. Overall, our journey has been very exciting and fun and we hope that you follow us in our pursuit of living Life Out of the Box.”

After Thanksgiving, the couple had a “soft launch” of their store, here, and would appreciate feedback.  My own feedback, as one who knows very little about marketing, would be to show a greater variety of products, perhaps on interesting backgrounds like sand or flowers. Also, I see a price but nothing about how to order. I realize they are just getting started.

Jonathon and Quinn could probably learn from  talking to successful social enterprises like Toms Shoes and Serrv. Toms Shoes gives footware to needy children (“with every pair you purchase, Toms will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. One for One”).

Serrv is a nonprofit selling crafts from all over the world. They’ve been doing this for more than 60 years, so they have a long track record, and their catalog has capsule interviews and photos of the craftsmen and women — making a great personal connection! I just got myself  couple things from Serrv.

At the winter holidays, people often like some of the presents they give to serve a dual purpose and benefit those who need help most. I wish the best of luck to Jonathon and Quinn.

Photograph of Quinn with friends: Lifeoutofthebox.com

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Here is a business that is in the business of innovating to solve problems in poor countries.

The latest initiative at Design that Matters has been to find a low-cost way to treat babies in the developing world who have jaundice. This week the group tested Firefly, an easily transportable phototherapy bassinet specially designed for Vietnam. The doctors in Vietnam were ecstatic.

“Currently infants born with jaundice in Vietnam will first travel to a district hospital in their search for treatment, which are usually not equipped with the proper tools to treat any newborn health issues and are referred on to a provincial or national hospital. Due to this lack of equipment at the rural and district level, infants’ conditions worsen as they travel for multiple days, risking the development of permanent brain damage. …

“In response, Design that Matters (DtM), the East Meets West Foundation (EMW) and Vietnamese manufacturer MTTS have launched a collaboration to develop a new infant care device that will treat newborn jaundice during the critical first days of life.” Read more about Firefly here.

“Design that Matters (DtM), a 501c3 nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, creates new products that allow social enterprises in developing countries to offer improved services and scale more quickly. DtM has built a collaborative design process through which hundreds of volunteers in academia and industry donate their skills and expertise to the creation of breakthrough products for communities in need. Our goal is to deliver a better quality of service, and a better quality of life, to millions of beneficiaries through products designed for our clients.”

John’s company, Optics for Hire played a role.

 

 

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