Nonprofit Radio for December 13, 2021: Is A Social Enterprise For You?

My Guest:

Tamra Ryan: Is A Social Enterprise For You?

What are these and how do you decide whether to take one on—or even consider it—at your nonprofit? What kinds of businesses lend themselves to social enterprise and how do you structure the relationship? Tamra Ryan makes sense of it all. She’s CEO of Women’s Bean Project.


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[00:01:55.34] spk_1:
Hello and welcome to Tony-Martignetti non profit radio big nonprofit ideas for the other 95%. I’m your aptly named host of your favorite abdominal podcast. Oh, I’m glad you’re with me. I’d suffer with Spagnolo arthropod earthy If you disjointed me with the idea that you missed this week’s show is a social enterprise for you. What are these And how do you decide whether to take one on or even consider it at your non profit what kinds of businesses lend themselves to social enterprise and how do you structure the relationship? Tamara Ryan makes sense of it all. She’s ceo of women’s Bean project. tony state too. Congratulations core africa. We’re sponsored by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c o here is, is a social enterprise for you. It’s a pleasure to welcome Tamara Ryan to nonprofit radio She is Ceo of women’s Bean project, a social enterprise that provides transitional employment to women attempting to break the cycle of chronic unemployment and poverty while operating a food manufacturing business. She’s a former partner and board member for social venture partners. Denver and currently serves as part time interim ceo for the social enterprise alliance. She’s at Tamara Ryan and the enterprise is at women’s bean project dot com. Tamara, welcome to nonprofit radio

[00:01:57.34] spk_0:
it’s great to be here.

[00:02:01.24] spk_1:
It’s a pleasure. Pleasure to have you. Yeah. Why don’t you first explain what women’s bean project is all about because it’s an example of what you and I are going to talk about for a while

[00:03:01.04] spk_0:
Okay We are a food manufacturing business. We started with Bean Soup in 1989 and that’s where our name comes from. But today we have 50 different food products that we sell all across the country. What makes us different is that we employ women who are chronically unemployed. So a typical woman we hire hasn’t had a job longer than a year in her lifetime. Though the average age is 38. They come and work for us as for a full time job for 6 to 9 months. And during the time they’re with us, we teach basic job readiness skills and then we also in 30% of her paid time. We teach her life skills, we teach problem solving and goal setting and budgeting and planning and organizing. And so this whole thing is her job for these 6 to 9 months at the end she graduates our program and moves on to mainstream employment in the community. So we’re kind of two businesses were running a food manufacturing business and a human services business,

[00:03:18.54] spk_1:
which is exactly what the type of model we’ll be talking about. What I admire about that I found very interesting is that you said it. Um Well you’re used to saying it, but I want to call it out for 30% of their paid time. The women’s paid time is not spent working. It’s spent learning the soft skills of employment.

[00:03:39.04] spk_0:
Yeah, we call it the huge job. The y ou job. So she has the being job and she has the huge job and she’s paid for all of it. Mhm.

[00:03:45.74] spk_1:
Uh Well, so I see the value and you’ve had uh you had a lot of success with folks. Women having jobs longer than a year after they’ve they’ve I’m going to say graduated, but

[00:03:56.70] spk_0:
we use that term also the

[00:03:59.88] spk_1:

[00:04:32.34] spk_0:
Yes. So we track them at 6, 12, 18 and 24 months. We track them. What makes it easier to track them is that we pay them for those check ins. So we pay them $50 to check in at six and 12 months, $75 at 18 months and 100 bucks. Said two years to check in with us. And what we found that is that at a year uh 95 plus percent of the women are still employed. And I think what makes what’s significant about that is that again, the women we hire haven’t had a job longer than a year in their lifetime before they come to us. So what we really want to know is are we setting them helping them on a path for long term employment? You know, being able to sustain that employment.

[00:04:58.54] spk_1:
So what kinds of nonprofits are our listeners are all in small and mid sized nonprofits. So I think this is an ideal subject for listeners. What what types of nonprofits could consider having a social enterprise as part of their part of their work.

[00:06:06.44] spk_0:
I think organizations that are serving people who are using, you know, by necessity on public benefits and really who for a variety of reasons, whether it’s because of a felony background or it’s because of uh, low education levels or because of the history of addiction, you know, a variety of things that get in the way of, of getting and keeping employment. And so if you’re serving those people anyway, one way to help them, in addition to helping them build their foundation of, of soft skills is to employ them in a social enterprise. So that’s just one way that a social enterprises run. But it’s, you know, it as adults, we learn by doing so. It’s a really great way to work with the people that you’re working with anyway. Two create a business where you’re helping those same people in the long run be able to be successful,

[00:06:19.34] spk_1:
you’re a partner of social venture partners in Denver. What, what did you look for when you were investing in these types of organizations?

[00:07:07.94] spk_0:
Well, we specifically in Spp Denver, we’re looking for small organizations that both needed some funding, but also needed some technical assistance. And the reality is that we don’t, if you’re, if you’re running a human services organization, you don’t necessarily have somebody on staff that has the skills to launch a business, for instance, you know, even to do the market research to figure out what kind of business that might be um have the operational skills, you’re you’re running a human services business but you’re not necessarily running, say in our case of food manufacturing business. And so Spp really looked for organizations that needed the skill set of our partners and also could benefit from the funding that we were providing that. And then SVP’s model the funding and the technical assistance go hand in hand.

[00:07:42.74] spk_1:
So what what about organizations that uh don’t have the expertise that they need? Uh Let’s let’s let’s assume most of our listeners are not in Denver, so they don’t have access to S. V. P. Denver. What how can they how can they fill that void? And even just start like you’re saying like initial market research, how do they know where to get, how to get started?

[00:09:46.04] spk_0:
Well, every nonprofit has a board and I would venture to say that most nonprofits have business people on their board. So there are a lot of resources either through board members or through people that board members know. The one great thing that I’ve observed and I didn’t come from the nonprofit um world for my entire career. I was in the private sector before. And what I love about being in the nonprofit world is that there are lots of people who want to help and and just need to be need, they need help knowing what you need. And so I’ve been I’ve seen lots of ways we’ve been able to engage, uh, professionals in it for us, in, in food manufacturing, um, who have expertise that we need to sit on fair business development committee and help us look at uh, new product ideas. And I think that same concept could easily be applied to any organization that’s trying to figure out what kind of business they might run because that’s the key. You could decide to start a business, but it still has to be a viable business. The just just starting a business, you’re not going to get the halo effect of, you know, you’re doing it as, as a non profit and therefore it’s going to succeed. All the same market factors come into play that do for any business. And so you, you really do have to still find a viable business. That makes sense. That is needed. That you can price appropriately. Um, one of the things about the research for social enterprises or whether or not consumers are going to buy from a social enterprise, whether it’s a product or service. One of the statistics is that all other things being equal? So in other words, quality, price, etcetera. People more and more have a tendency to purchase products and services from a mission based organization or a mission based company. But the most important part of that statement is all other things, other things equal. All

[00:09:54.18] spk_1:
things being equal.

[00:09:55.24] spk_0:

[00:09:58.54] spk_1:
you have to, you have to be able to compete with your private enter, strictly private enterprise, market driven, profit driven competitors.

[00:11:20.24] spk_0:
Yeah. You have to be able to compete. And yet at the same time, you also need to figure out what your competitive advantages yourself. So for instance, in our case we are able to, uh, we’re right now in the holiday season, you know, september to december for women’s bean project, 70% of our sales are made. So, you know, we really peaked during this time of year. One of our competitive advantages is we can bring in volunteers to help us say pack boxes or help us, you know, get shipments out the door or help with with prep of product. And that’s something that is a bit of a competitive advantage because if we were just, you know, in the, in the private sector running a regular food manufacturing operation, we really, I don’t think we could, you know, look somebody in the eye and get and get that kind of assistance. But for us it’s a way to engage donors to get people really invested, get new customers. You know, there are so many ways that, that bringing people from the community in to help us is advantageous not just to get the work done, but to get additional support for our organization.

[00:11:49.34] spk_1:
So you’ve opened yourself up to a whole new set of metrics as, as having a social enterprise and we’re gonna get to what, what the relationship is between the company and and a nonprofit or, you know, how that could be set up by different, by different organizations. But you’ve, you’ve got to measure, you’ve got to measure the company’s profit and the company’s output and productivity, productivity per employee hour or you know, whatever, you know, the, the key metrics for the business are as well as the social outcomes of of your graduates and your employee members and your and your graduates.

[00:12:34.94] spk_0:
It’s a, you know, I joke sometimes it’s a horrible way to run a business, right? Because we intentionally everyday hire women, we don’t know if they’re going to come to work every day. I mean that’s part of their barriers to employment and we work with them and they help, we help them become great employees and as soon as they become great employees, we let them go off and become somebody else’s great employee and we start all over again. Uh, and it’s so it’s super inefficient and we also over higher. So if we were a for profit company and we were trying to be as efficient as possible and, you know, squeeze every penny out of our margin. We absolutely would not hire as many women as we do. But that’s not the point. The point for us is to use our business to advance our mission. So we hire as many women as possible as we can justify based on what our sales are going to be.

[00:13:09.24] spk_1:
So what are some of the things that nonprofits need to think about, uh, beyond all right. What’s a, what’s a viable business? What other, what other factors are important?

[00:13:16.04] spk_0:
Well, maybe the biggest thing is it’s hard. And I joke sometimes with our team, like if this were easy, everybody do it. Do

[00:13:20.79] spk_1:
we really want to do it? Do we really want to do it as an important threshold?

[00:15:30.84] spk_0:
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s hard because you have to have the ability to entertain two opposing ideas at the same time, right? We need to run an efficient manufacturing business and we also need to deliver on our mission. And those two things actually often don’t go together very well. And so being able to both entertain those ideas and acknowledge that perhaps today the business wins. Maybe we, um, the women instead of, um, Spending 30% of today’s time in a class say financial literacy, they’re on the production floor for the whole day because we have a lot of work to do, But tomorrow maybe it’s the, it’s reversed and they’re spending the whole day in some sort of training and not making any product at all. And so our job is every day to, to balance that out. And so that’s, I think one of the hardest things is, uh, is having that ability to understand that if not for the mission, your business doesn’t really exist, but yet your, your business has to be profitable in order for to make sense and contribute to the mission and, and that, you know, balancing act, you know, is a constant. So that’s part of what makes it hard. I would say another thing is that you, you still have to find all the other, I mentioned this before, All the other market forces still prevail. So if you have a product that nobody wants to buy, you’re not going to have a successful business and there’s no amount of mission that’s going to forgive that at least not in the long term. And you know, at this point, women’s bean project is 32 years old and I think in a lot of ways we’ve just been lucky. There was no initial market research that said, you know, being super. I think that’s the key to success. Nobody, nobody did any kind of research at the beginning. Our founder just noticed she was in her late fifties, she’s gone back to school to get her master’s degree in social work and she noticed a lot of her friends who were around her age were eating bean soup for health reasons. And so she invested $500 of her own money and bought beans and put two women to work making 10 bean soup. The crazy thing is that’s still 32 years later, our best selling product,

[00:16:45.14] spk_1:
it’s time for a break. Turn to communications. Do you have all the time. You need to do all the writing. You need to do social posts, blog posts, newsletters, the annual report, website updates, board reports, fundraising appeals. Acknowledgment messages, staff, communications, process documentation, training documents. Do you need help with writing in 2022? Turn to communications, your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot C. O. Now back to is a social enterprise for you. All right. That’s a terrific story. But it’s, it’s, it’s more or less than or what not to do in in determining what, what, what businesses gonna survive. Because, you know, you said it, I’m just gonna amplify it. No amount of mission is gonna forgive, uh, bad, bad marketing or a bad bad entry choice or, or any of the, any of the market forces.

[00:17:02.44] spk_0:
Yeah. And I think you also have to have either a product or service that has a decent enough margin margin to sort of forgive the inefficiency. And I also wouldn’t choose food for that reason the ship sailed for us. But you know, that’s not the highest margin. Um, you know, product category. For sure.

[00:17:22.24] spk_1:
Right now, food is notoriously low margin. Um, but you know, you said you gave an example of hiring many more women than you need, then you would. Well, maybe then you do need, then you would, if you were strictly market driven.

[00:17:28.84] spk_0:

[00:17:36.24] spk_1:
Yeah. All right. Um, before, before we move on. Any other advice about the, the opening questions to talk about with your board, with your leadership?

[00:19:18.34] spk_0:
Well, another aspect of balance I think is uh, is balancing being opportunistic and, and um, and not being so bullish on an idea that you ignore, um, other signs. So as an example, uh, years ago we were approached by somebody who had a whole bunch of equipment for canning and they were willing to give us all the equipment, let us have access to the facility, a whole bunch of things. But what we really had to analyze and I think this happens actually a fair amount to organizations that are thinking of starting businesses. Somebody thinks I’ve got a great idea, I’ll just give this to them. But the thing was, we weren’t in the canning business, we are a dry food manufacturer and what it would have meant for us just, you know, pivot and create another business. You know, really wasn’t worth that. What seemed like a super generous donation. Um, it was forgive the pun, but it was a whole can of worms that we didn’t necessarily mean I need to open. But that’s an example because when you start talking about this, all manner of people are gonna surface who are interested and willing to help. And one of the most important things you might, I need to do is say no thank you because you know, sometimes gifts are not always gifts in the, you know, when it really comes down to it, it’s maybe not the best strategy and it’s sometimes hard not to get all, you know? Um Starry eyed about something that seems like a fantastic gift and the next thing, you know, you’re in the canning business and you never intended to be in.

[00:19:42.74] spk_1:
Now you’re doing wetsuits instead of instead of dried soup. That’s a that’s a huge pivot. Um And yeah, I mean, that’s and that’s in the nonprofit, the straight uh non profit sector as well. You know, there are gifts that come sometimes with strings. You know, if you’ll if you’ll adopt this, create this program or

[00:19:46.62] spk_0:

[00:20:33.44] spk_1:
school, but if you started admitting boys, I’ll give you the seven figure gift. You know, that’s those are the gift size can be transformational, but that doesn’t mean you you sacrifice your mission and transform your mission to accept $1 million dollar gift. Um So All right. But, you know, Mhm interesting. You know, you you you evaluated from the nonprofit perspective, but also from the market forced perspective. You know, now we’re entering, it’s a whole new business. Now we’re gonna be competing with uh um Campbell’s, you know, Campbell’s and Hunts and Hormel, you know, whoever, whatever that be, whatever the soup manufacturers are. Um All right, So value right, important lesson to sometimes the better answer is No, no, thank you, gracious. No.

[00:20:38.85] spk_0:
Yes. All right.

[00:20:47.24] spk_1:
All right. Um advice on types of businesses that that could lend themselves to this.

[00:22:15.84] spk_0:
I’ll start with um service businesses because sometimes those can actually be really great supports for a really great social enterprises and supports for human services organizations. The nice thing about service businesses are very localized. So you could serve one community and then an example of a service business might be a uh, landscaping business or there are several social enterprises around the country that do uh go to business districts and clean up trash and snow removal and leaf removal and those kinds of things. Again, those are very localized. And what’s nice about that is that you could do it in this city and then maybe you pick it up and you do the same thing in another city. Those are really cool ways to be able to employ a lot of people and engage in multiple communities. Uh and there are, you know, other businesses um, like uh, has control is another one where, you know, that’s a pretty expandable business, um, cleaning services, especially in offices and things like that. Um, so those are some examples of businesses that actually could be really great businesses for people. And when you’re selling a service, that’s a really different dynamic than, say, you know, consumer packaged goods where, you know, you’re competing with marketing dollars from companies, it’s just much more challenging um, area to be in. You

[00:22:51.64] spk_1:
also, you also have the advantage of being able to, as you said, start local. So you can say initially the impact of our work is local. And so there’s a there’s an appeal to an appeal to the mission with your caveat that uh lots of mission is not going to overcome bad, you know, uh not being competitive market market wise, but you can say that you have that you have that local impact at least as you’re, as you’re getting started and then as you’re suggesting, you know, you can expand.

[00:24:09.44] spk_0:
And I think, you know, if you’re making a product, one of the potential challenges is that if you make a product that in our case our products consumable, so we can have repeat customers, you know, of course it has to be a good quality and taste good and all of those things. But we have customers we’ve had for 30 years and who keep coming back over and over again. If you end up making a product that’s not consumable. The challenges that, you know, say you’re making uh cutting board, there’s only so many cutting boards, somebody needs or only so many gifts you can give, you know to other people. And so you always have to be finding new customers to be able to grow your business. And that said, there’s, you know, when you start out, your customer base is so small that the world really is, you know, is pretty large of possible customers. But there’s a point at which without spending a lot of marketing dollars or advertising dollars to get noticed that you really sort of tap out the people you can access and that’s, you know, so that’s an interesting challenge of making a product where you can teach some really amazing skills, but at the same time, you know, you might have a limited customer base.

[00:24:21.14] spk_1:
Can I get these uh can I get these meals and just add water? Are they, are they that are there that simple from women’s bean project?

[00:25:19.44] spk_0:
Pretty straightforward like that. So a soup mix, you would at water, you put it in a safe crock pot and let it cook for the day. And at the end you are 10 being soup, you just add a can of tomatoes or you could add vegetables and hope into other things if that’s what you wanted. But just to finish off the recipe, it would just be adding a can of tomatoes. We also have baking mixes. And so in that case it’s everything that you need. You would add an egg and some oil or butter and you’ve got brownies or corn bread or stones. So it’s a nice thing about like a baking mix for instance is you don’t have to buy a bag of flour and buy a bag of sugar and all of those things and then have them left over. You can use our mix and use the eggs that you have and the butter that you have. And next thing you know, you made these yummy brownies and you look like a total baker. No one’s the wiser,

[00:25:20.98] spk_1:
right? You don’t have, you don’t have four and three quarters pounds of flour

[00:25:25.05] spk_0:

[00:25:30.94] spk_1:
Okay. A little digression. But I was interested in and how simple the meals are. Okay,

[00:25:31.49] spk_0:
we do have an instant,

[00:25:33.37] spk_1:
we have,

[00:25:47.84] spk_0:
yeah, we have instant beans and rice cups also, which literally are adding water. Um and then and we also have some ready to eat snacks. So you know, just keep them in your desk and you know, nosh on them whenever you feel like it. So we have a pretty wide variety of different products.

[00:25:58.84] spk_1:
Ok, I’m going to check women’s bean project dot com. Um So, okay, so service businesses were, you’re suggesting service businesses, what what else, what else could folks consider?

[00:27:43.74] spk_0:
Well, there’s some great social enterprises. Again, these are pretty localized that to screen printing. So you think about your inner city and you have your screen printing business, you’re able to employ people and you’re able to serve all the companies locally for, you know, their employee t shirts or you know, races or things like that. Again, very localized but also scalable As well. Um there’s a really awesome social enterprise out of Boston called more than words and more than words serves youth 16-24 who are either aging out of the foster system or justice involved and they sell books, they sell books have been donated from the community and the the youth learned the skill of scanning the I. S. P. N. Number to make sure it’s marketable. And they recycle the books that don’t have uh aftermarket value. And then they sell the books that do and they sell both online. They have a couple of bookstores. The cool thing is all these youth are you know they’re helping them find homes, they’re helping them with their academic goals helping them sort of adult you know into the community. Yet at the same time they’re also learning these skills of running a book business. So they have measurable uh um outcomes that they have to achieve. They have certain sales goals they have to meet for their various channels. It’s a really amazing business that that they’re operating in the youth. Stay with them for a couple of years.

[00:27:47.64] spk_1:
What’s the name of that 1?

[00:27:51.14] spk_0:
It’s called more than words? Okay.

[00:27:53.24] spk_1:
Yeah back on the service side I’ve seen uh copy copy services copy and print and print shops.

[00:28:33.54] spk_0:
Yeah A bank of America actually has their own social enterprise that they operate in the house. And they serve people with developmental disabilities are they employ people with developmental disabilities but they do all the printing for their own needs. Um There’s also electronics recycling. Uh you know the statistic is that people who are on the autism spectrum have an unemployment rate of about 85%. And and yet they are uniquely talented to disassemble electronics. So there there are electronics recycling organizations that employ people on the autism spectrum to just disassemble and um and then they part of so they’re providing the employment, they’re getting the donations of the electronics um and in some instances they’re being paid by the companies to take the electronics and then they also they sell the commodities of all the things that come out of those electronics,

[00:29:00.49] spk_1:
metals, plastics.

[00:29:01.67] spk_0:
Yeah, so you know when you think about that as a we use the term triple bottom line, it’s helping society, it’s helping the environment and it’s you know, it’s it’s making money. That is a really awesome example of of a business that hits at every level.

[00:29:24.54] spk_1:
Yeah, excellent, excellent. Another these are good another example or category.

[00:29:52.54] spk_0:
Well there are some social enterprises that instead of employing people provide employment services. So there is a social enterprise that here in Denver that specifically helps people who are bilingual, english spanish get jobs in the community with employers who need people who are bilingual, but that could apply to kind of any language or not even be bilingual, you know, so they and so companies come to them when they need people who maybe it’s customer service people who can speak another language other than english. Um and so again a service business but not where they are employing people.

[00:30:11.34] spk_1:
Right, right. And and so companies pay for the for the referral for the screening.

[00:30:16.04] spk_0:

[00:30:16.58] spk_1:
the placement basically they’re paying a placement fee,

[00:30:20.94] spk_0:
yep, exactly,

[00:32:45.74] spk_1:
it’s time for Tony stick to Core Africa, the Core Africa Ceo and longtime non profit radio Fan Liz Fanning announced last week a three year $17 million collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation. Outstanding, congratulations Liz, congratulations! Core Africa. This is going to allow Core Africa to expand from four countries, 2, 8 countries in Africa. and initially Mastercard Foundation was funding 56 young volunteers That’s going to scale up to 500. Almost 10 fold. This is, you know, talk about scaling, it’s just terrific news. Um and I think the real lesson here is in what the Mastercard Foundation Ceo cited in his quote, he says quote, Core Africa has proven its impact in rural communities and demonstrated the value of deploying a network of service minded young Africans to solve pressing issues across the continent. Their vision aligns with our young Africa works strategy end quote and he goes on. So he’s talking about the proven impact and vision alignment with what Mastercard Foundation is looking for. It’s just terrific news to scale like that, a $17 million, three year collaboration with a marquee name. Foundation for Core Africa, it’s terrific. You know, it’s a, it’s a testament to the work that they’ve done the impact that they have proven. So again, congratulations to Core Africa on this monumental funding for your important work That is Tony’s take two, we’ve got boo koo but loads more time for is a social enterprise for you.

[00:33:12.54] spk_0:
But there’s, you know, there’s just so many different kinds, there are cafes that’s a fairly popular kind of social enterprise. Um here in Denver we have a cafe called same cafe and same stands for, so all may eat and they, it is a pay what you want model. So you walk in and the menu is listed for the day and you decide how much you’re going to pay. You

[00:33:18.46] spk_1:
have heard of them.

[00:33:37.74] spk_0:
Yes. And, and so you might be sitting down and having, you know, decide that you want to pay $10 for your lunch, but you also might be sitting next to somebody who is um experiencing homelessness and didn’t pay anything and if you decide if you don’t have any money to pay for your lunch, then you work in the kitchen or you clean or you know do dishes and um and so again, it’s a really cool concept that serves people all, you know, it’s beneficial to the community at multiple levels.

[00:34:06.14] spk_1:
Excellent. These are cool examples. Yeah. Um so, all right, so we talked about services, uh some some product, I love the recycling example too. Uh any anything else before we, before we move on to organizing these these entities.

[00:35:37.54] spk_0:
Um well, the last one I’ll mention is one that’s been around for a long, long time, like women’s bean project is called Grace and bakery. They’re out of Yonkers new york and they make the brownies for Ben and jerry’s ice cream. So a big, the bulk of their business is brownies for Ben and jerry’s and they also have now gotten into doing some retail sales and corporate sales. So you might see your listeners might have seen them in some for instance whole foods at sort of a point of sale or point of purchase with a little brownie and it says these brownies changed lives, but Grayson is a for profit company. So this is a nice segue into the next part of our conversation. They are actually a B corp a benefit corporation and they they have an open hiring model. So instead of specifically going out and trying to recruit people experiencing chronic unemployment, like we do, they are always accepting applications and when they have an opening they just hire the next person on the list. So they hire, they don’t, you know, interview or you know, look at qualifications, they just hire the next person and uh you know, so they will have more turnover than a normal company would, but they’re also within that community in Yonkers, they’re they’re really changing people’s lives give by giving them an opportunity for employment that they might not otherwise have had.

[00:35:42.64] spk_1:
Okay, that’s interesting. First, that’s Grayson, G. Like

[00:35:46.56] spk_0:
G. R E Y S. T O N.

[00:36:23.63] spk_1:
Kristen bakery. Yeah, these brownies save lives. Okay, so listeners, we might, we might see those at at checkout sounds like point of sale places. Okay. Um, but then, you know, there’s the issue of, you know, giving a job versus teaching job skills in addition like, like, like women’s bean project is doing, it seems to me that the, the training beyond the skills for the job is more empowering than then giving a job and just giving a job.

[00:36:49.83] spk_0:
Well, I think that’s consistent with our philosophy at women’s bean project that there are because we acknowledge that there are lots of things that get in the way of somebody being able to get and keep the and keep I think is the important part, right? Like in a weave prior to the pandemic and I think we’re back to a, there’s a lot of jobs, but um, and so you could go from job to job to job in an environment where there are lots of jobs. But the important thing is, are you going to a job where you are a contributor where there is opportunity for advancement and benefits and all the things that make it more of a career than just a job. That’s what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to change the, are the women we serve. That’s the trajectory we want them to be on when they finished.

[00:37:27.13] spk_1:
All right. So, you know, of course, different missions. I mean just like nonprofits that Grayson has uh, has a different model, but but there there generously hiring, they just hire the next person on the list.

[00:37:33.13] spk_0:
Yeah, Yeah. Sorry?

[00:37:34.33] spk_1:
All right. So, yeah, as you suggested, and I wanted to talk about the how to organize and structure these, you know, like what’s the relationship listeners already are in non profits? Most of our listeners are uh, you know, how what would that relationship look like if they did start a social enterprise?

[00:37:52.13] spk_0:
Well, I know as as the interviewer here, you you will hate to hear this answer, but it depends. Okay, listen

[00:38:00.16] spk_1:
now, don’t hold back on. Don’t

[00:38:02.29] spk_0:
don’t tell

[00:38:04.31] spk_1:
listeners of nonprofit radio what you think they want to hear?

[00:38:06.87] spk_0:

[00:38:07.71] spk_1:
an educated self selected group.

[00:38:09.80] spk_0:
So yes, so nuanced

[00:38:12.28] spk_1:
answers are very welcome.

[00:40:13.71] spk_0:
Well, it it does depend and it depends on what you want to do and how you might want to structure it and and honestly tolerance, risk tolerance of your board and you know, of your team. So, um Women’s Bean Project is a five oh one C three. A big reason for that is because we were founded in 1989 and if you wanted to do good, that was the choice, right? That’s all you had. Um, today there are lots of different structures. You could, or opportunities. You could be a for profit company, um, and become a benefit corporation, B Corp you could be a subsidiary of a nonprofit. Um, you could be an LLC, you know, there are just so many different ways. And so generally what I tell people is first figure out what you want to do, then figure out what the corporate structure makes the most sense. What I will tell you is that I wouldn’t necessarily change our corporate structure because we’ve made it work for ourselves. Our the way we have structured ourselves by having everything under one roof. The huge job in the beam job is that we what that’s done is that it has allowed us to have a mixed revenue uh pie, so to speak. So about 60% 60% of our operating budget comes from our product sales. What that does is it supports the business that supports women’s time while they’re working in the business. And it gives us the ability by the beans and the flour and all those things and makes a small contribution to our program operations. And then we fundraise to support program operations because again when a woman is in a financial literacy class or working on a resume or even in job search, looking for the next job, we’re paying her still. So we fundraise to both support those classes but also to be able to pay her. And because we’re five and one C three we have the ability to do that. It also probably gives us a little bit of wiggle room in terms of our inefficiency. Um you know I would if we were if if all of our revenue had to come from our product sales. We would probably have to compromise the mission a little bit and hire fewer women because we have to run a business with much better margin than we currently do

[00:40:27.55] spk_1:
more efficient.

[00:41:28.61] spk_0:
Yeah. But I will also say that there are plenty of situations where the, a board of a nonprofit, they might be interested in this idea of having revenue that’s basically unrestricted revenue, but they don’t want to risk the larger organization or they do or they want to just sort of run it on the side as sort of a separate entity and maybe not have it be a distraction within their main business, so to speak. There there are risks in that as well though. I’ve seen lots of uh, non profit big human services organizations that run social enterprises and they sort of treat them like the red headed step child. And, and look at him like what have you done for me lately? Little, you know, business, Why are you not contributing more when the reality is they’re kind of stifling the growth of that, that business. Um, and, and perhaps, um, you know, causing it to, you know, not prosper. Yeah, that’s

[00:41:48.11] spk_1:
a mistaken, well not only organization, but just in, in culture, in you think that the way board members and I guess the organization collectively thinks about its social enterprise as, you know, as uh, the ugly step child.

[00:41:50.51] spk_0:
Yeah. And that’s the risk, right? If of creating a structure where you sort of set it off to the side. I mean I understand that sometimes that’s done to avoid risk, but sometimes it creates more risk for the survival of the business. One of the things I worry about having been in this field for a long time is that, you know, uh we’ve now come to a point where social enterprise is kind of cool. It’s kind of come into its own, I joke that it’s like women’s bean project has been wearing a velour tracksuit for 30 years and now suddenly velour track suits are in uh but you know, so

[00:42:24.27] spk_1:
stay behind me with bell bottom suit.

[00:42:27.61] spk_0:
Yeah, exactly. Behind long enough, if I hold on to these

[00:42:30.51] spk_1:
things long enough they’ll come, they’ll come my dozen bellbottoms suits will come back.

[00:43:14.10] spk_0:
It turns out that’s happening for social enterprise. But what I worry is that organizations will start a business and do that and sort of cut it off at its knees and not even maybe recognize that and it won’t survive and then they’ll look back later and say, yeah, we tried that. It didn’t work. But I can tell you that if it it’s not always because it’s a bad idea that it doesn’t work. It could be because you just didn’t give it the opportunity for us, we in the nonprofit world are notoriously risk averse. That’s not a news flash to anybody I know. And so the challenge is to be willing to take some risk and balance at risk. You know, it’s a risk reward ratio in a business and balance that risk a little bit um With with what the benefit could be a long term.

[00:43:36.70] spk_1:
Yeah you started the transition again. I love it the way you segue easily uh lessons you know, lessons learnt things to look out for things to be sure you you’ve considered You’ve been doing this for 30 what 32 years?

[00:43:39.70] spk_0:

[00:43:40.60] spk_1:
two years.

[00:44:59.49] spk_0:
Yeah, Well I often say we have 32 years worth of mistakes. We could totally help somebody else avoid and leave them free to make all their own mistakes. Um you know it’s I would say the lessons learned are are consistent with what I’ve been saying, which is you really do um If you want a social enterprise to survive, you really do have to embrace it as as being a means through which you’re going to deliver on your mission and not set it on the side and say well you know someday you’re gonna make me some money and I’ll be able to use that money to advance my mission. They have to be interwoven. Um so you know, we don’t exist to make bean soup yet we can’t exist without it. And that idea that the two are inextricable um is probably the most important thing and the most important, honestly lesson that I’ve seen. I watched a social enterprise um be formed out of an organization that was providing initially providing the same service for free. And then they formed the social enterprise too monetize the service, but yet they kept offering the service. So they had this business and they kept offering the service for free. So

[00:45:01.07] spk_1:

[00:45:46.09] spk_0:
And um, and then eventually decided that the social enterprise wasn’t working. And the, the problem I thought, you know, it’s, it’s easy monday morning quarterback, admittedly, but you know, was that they set it up to be a complete, you know, be its own competition. So of course it was, there was always going to be that tension and that conflict. You’ve got enough tension and conflict, just trying to advance your mission and advance your business without setting yourself up for failure. So, you know, that’s another lesson which is be prepared for there to be tension between the business and the mission. But be okay with that because that’s part of what you’re doing is you’re trying to change the world by using market forces. Uh, and you know, we are, we’re a country of consumers. So let’s take advantage of the fact that we are a country of consumers. Everybody needs to buy products and services. So what a great opportunity to, um, to, to, for lack of a better word, exploit that.

[00:46:16.38] spk_1:
I love the way you say, you’re working to change the world by using market forces. Um, all right. Any anything else? You wanna, you wanna leave folks with anything that we didn’t talk about that you feel is is important. Anything I didn’t ask about,

[00:47:21.58] spk_0:
you know, I would say, uh, the last thing would be that if you are thinking about, um, starting a social enterprise, start looking at other models and seeing what other groups are doing. And especially if they’re localized, there’s, you know, there’s no reason to that. You wouldn’t be able to learn from their mistakes. Um, so you we have been asked often whether or not we would expand women’s Bean project out of Denver across the country. What we have chosen instead is to be more open source where we look forward to sharing the things that we’ve learned because I think ultimately, if we want to lift up the whole field, not just, you know, aggrandized women’s Bean project, that’s not our goal. Our goal really is to help other organizations create or prosper with their social enterprises, not just have us get bigger and bigger. There’s enough need to go around.

[00:47:27.88] spk_1:
Mm hmm. What about social enterprise Alliance? Is that a resource for folks?

[00:47:41.68] spk_0:
It absolutely is. And that might be a great place to start to figure out what is out there. They have social enterprise alliance has, uh, you know, members all over the country who are involved at various levels of social enterprise. So they might be running social enterprises or they might be consultants to social enterprise. Um, if you need an attorney to talk with, for instance about what your corporate structure might be their resources there. Um, but the nice thing about that is if you’re in the initial stages of just doing research is a great place to start.

[00:48:12.47] spk_1:
Okay, good value. You can have conversations with folks, you can, you can, it’s a good place to start your research and, and, and grow if you decide to

[00:48:14.13] spk_0:
mean, you

[00:48:23.87] spk_1:
might start your research and decide. It’s not really, you know, you can’t tolerate the risk or the tension. Uh, it was just something you don’t want to take on, but at least you do it, make that decision informed.

[00:49:44.67] spk_0:
Yeah. I always think that fear is not a reason not to do something right. Like you can acknowledge the fear and sort of do the things that, that you need to do to, um, to try to overcome or, you know, address the fear, but staying noticed something just because you’re afraid. It’s maybe not the best reason. Uh, and I think also, you know, we have a tendency to sit at the, at the starting line and try to anticipate all the problems we’re going to have. And, and I guarantee, first of all, we’ll be wrong about what problems we think we’re going to have and whatever solution we decide it’s gonna not be appropriate for whatever problem you end up having. And so ultimately you just got to start and and have faith that you have gather the resources and the expertise enough that you can address the problems as they come up. But I think that that tends to be and in my experience, just going to lots of, you know, speaking on lots of panels and talking with lots of organizations that are thinking about starting social enterprises is they, they often get stuck at that starting line and have a hard time pulling the trigger. Um, the reality is, it might not work, but think about it. I, I think you learn more from failure than you do successful a lot of times.

[00:49:57.67] spk_1:
Yeah, too much ready, aim, aim, aim and, and, and no firing. All right, outstanding. Thank you Tamara, thank you very much.

[00:50:00.34] spk_0:
Thank you

[00:51:23.16] spk_1:
my pleasure. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for sharing the women’s Bean project story and and beyond. Uh, tomorrow Ryan Ceo women’s being project. It’s at women’s Bean project dot com. You want to look at their dried foods and other products, especially now around the holidays and Tamara is at tomorrow Ryan. Thanks so much Tamara next week. How about our annual replay of zombie loyalists? I think. So, if you missed any part of this week’s show, I beseech you find it at tony-martignetti dot com. We’re sponsored by turn to communications pr and content for nonprofits. Your story is their mission turn hyphen two dot c. O our creative producer is Claire Meyerhoff shows social media is by Susan Chavez Marc Silverman is our web guy and this music is by scott Stein. Mhm. Thank you for that information, scotty You with me next week for nonprofit radio big nonprofit ideas for the other 95% go out and be great.

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