Social Enterprise

Creating an Ecosystem of Opportunity on Pine Ridge

Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (TVCDC) is a Lakota led non-profit based in the Thunder Valley community of the Porcupine District on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2017. For the last five years, TVCDC has participated in and co-created the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, alongside The Democracy Collaborative, the Northwest Area Foundation and four other Native American community-based organizations, to develop and work through strategies that build and root wealth locally for the benefit of their community.   Read more about Creating an Ecosystem of Opportunity on Pine Ridge...

PAR-Recycle Works

PAR-Recycle Works is a nonprofit electronics recycler that provides transitional employment to people returning from prison.  Revenues generated through its e-recycling services are used to help formerly incarcerated individuals rebuild their lives through employment, character development, and other services.  PAR-Recycle Works provides training and employment to 6-8 people at a time, who spend 6-9 months with the nonprofit.

Green City Works

Launched by University City District as a way to create job opportunities and beautify University City, Green City Works is a social enterprise that provides landscaping services to University City’s institutions and businesses.  Committed to eco-friendly practices, Green City Works never uses chemical fertilizers, produces and uses compost from local organic waste, plants native perennials, and sources materials from local growers and producers.  The enterprise’s landscaping crew includes 10 people, all of whom receive higher than average pay, benefits, and full-time work.

Urban Ministry’s WE Community Café

Founded in 1976, Urban Ministry is a faith-based nonprofit striving to help Birmingham’s West End community thrive.  To help residents access fresh, organic produce and provide area youth with fair-wage jobs, Urban Ministry partnered with Church Without Walls in 2008 to create the WE Community Gardens.  Today, the garden produces about 3,500 pounds of food on an annual basis—2,000 pounds of which are donated to those in need with the remainder sold at affordable rates at community markets.  Some of the produce is also used at Urban Ministry’s WE Community Café, which serves quality, healthy food while providing job training and employment opportunities for youth who are chronically unemployed or underemployed.  Patrons are asked to pay what they can, and those who cannot pay can volunteer instead.  Revenues from the Gardens and Café help support the nonprofit’s programs.

Magic City Woodworks

Magic City Woodworks provides young men with job and life skill training.  The faith-based nonprofit provides five paid, year-long apprenticeships through which participants learn carpentry skills while making a range of wooden products that are sold to help support the initiative. Launched in 2013 in a one-car garage, Magic City has expanded its operation to a 12,000 square foot warehouse downtown.

Second Cycle

Second Cycle is a community cycle center that supports, educates, and advocates for cyclists in the Hilltop neighborhood and surrounding Tacoma community.  Launched in a small basement in 2008 by a group of cyclists, bike mechanics, and bike messengers eager to encourage bicycling, Second Cycle incorporated as a nonprofit in 2011 and moved into its current storefront from which it provides a community work space, bicycle maintenance classes, youth bike programming, and affordable repair services and bicycle components.  The nonprofit performs $100 a day in in-kind services and helps 175 community members a week during its open shop hours.  To ensure everyone can access its services, Second Cycle offers low-income people, those experiencing homelessness, and youth access to the shop’s resources at a reduced rate or no cost.

Hilltop Artists

Launched in 1994 with 20 participants, Hilltop Artists is a nonprofit that uses glass arts to connect over 650 students a year to promising futures.  The nonprofit offers its programs at studios in area public schools, where students can participate free-of-charge in glass arts such as fusion, mosaics, flameworking, and glassblowing.  To help generate revenues for its programs, the nonprofit sells some of its participants’ work at local events and through its on-line store.  In 2014, such sales generated over $133,500.

Old School Farm

Founded in 2013, Old School Farm is a 9-acre sustainable farm that grows quality food while providing jobs for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  The fresh produce is sold through the nonprofit’s CSA and at farmer’s markets, and used at the on-site, farm-to-table restaurant, The Old School.

Harvest Hands/ Humphreys Street Coffee and Soap

Initiated in 2007 by Brentwood UMC, a church seeking to partner with an urban neighborhood to affect positive community change, Harvest Hands is a nonprofit guided by a mission to empower people so that they can bring about positive change within themselves, families, and neighborhood.  A key early focus was its after-school program, which has expanded from 12 to 60 elementary and middle school students.  Recognizing that older students needed more than homework help, the nonprofit launched enterprises through which students could earn money and learn skills.  In February 2016, its two enterprises merged into one company, Humphreys Street Coffee and Soap, selling homemade soap and ethically and sustainably-grown and traded coffee.  The business currently employs about 16 youth from South Nashville, and all profits are directed towards the nonprofit’s programs and scholarships for participating students.

Thistle Farms

Started in 2001 as a small enterprise making products in a chapel kitchen, Thistle Farms now includes three social enterprises that provide supportive, skill-building employment opportunities to 59 women healing from prostitution, trafficking, and addiction.  The enterprises include Thistle Farms Home & Body, which manufactures natural bath and body products sold online and through 450 stores across the country; Thistle Stop Cafe, which provides drinks and homemade, healthful food; and Thistle Farms Studio, which makes a variety of artisan crafts involving paper-making, screen-printing, sewing, and metalwork.  Launched in 2012, Thistle Farms Global is a partnership of 18 social enterprises from 10 countries employing over 1,000 women that have come together in an on-line international marketplace that directly links women producers to customers, thus increasing wages and profits for the women survivors.

Go Green Home Services

Launched in 2009, Go Green Home Services is a social enterprise that makes home repairs and upgrades that improve a residence’s health, safety, and energy efficiency.  Half of its net revenues support Hands On Nashville’s Home Energy Savings program, which provides free energy-saving upgrades to about 50 Nashville low-income families a year.  Since 2011, the program has helped 275 low-income homeowners save an estimated $275,000 in utility costs.

Crossroads Community

Crossroads Community is a nonprofit aiming to create hope and a sense of connection for young people facing adversity and neglected animals by bringing them together to heal.  To provide paid job training opportunities for youth while generating revenue for its other programs, Crossroads runs a social enterprise, Crossroads Pets- Shop & Adopt Store.  In addition to providing community members with pet products and grooming services, the store functions as a pet adoption center for rescued animals.  As many program participants have struggled to find affordable housing, Crossroads Community is in the process of developing a residential space above its store that will provide safe, affordable living space to program participants transitioning into adulthood and independent living.

Project Place

Established in 1967, Project Place is a nonprofit that helps individuals achieve employment, shelter, and hope for the future.  To enable clients to develop job skills while earning a regular paycheck, Project Place runs four social enterprises: a facility maintenance business, a vending machine services business, a food services and catering enterprise, and an enterprise providing business services for people making specialty products.  In 2015, the nonprofit’s social enterprises employed nearly 100 clients and generated one-fifth of Project Place’s operating budget.

Social Entrepreneurs: Forget Everything You Think You Know about Raising Capital

Flowers getting water they need to grow

When you hear the word “investor,” what do you picture?

When I ask most people this question, they describe a white man in a suit (or, if in Silicon Valley, maybe khakis and a button down shirt) in a fancy office spending every work day combing through pitch decks, executive summaries, and due diligence and barking tough questions at terrified entrepreneurs. Read more about Social Entrepreneurs: Forget Everything You Think You Know about Raising Capital...

Verde Community Farm and Market

Located at Verde Gardens, a supportive housing community for formerly homeless families run by the nonprofit Carrfour Supportive Housing, Verde Community Farm and Market is a 22-acre organic-certified fruit and vegetable farm established in 2013 to provide employment opportunities, job skills training, educational outreach, and healthy, fresh produce for Verde Garden residents.  In 2015, the project added a restaurant component, Verde Kitchen Café, which serves products grown on the farm and provides additional job opportunities. As of 2015, Verde Community Farm and Market employed 15 people.  All of the enterprises’ revenues support the health, financial, and psychological services offered by Carrfour to Verde residents.

Democracy Collaborative In Left Forum

Between The Lines
Left Forum

At Left-Forum—co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative—Gar Alperovitz discusse building the Pluralist Commonwealth and "the Resitance" in 2017...listen here