The purpose of a business is not merely about profit. Every business has a positive, negative or neutral impact on people and place. Within this desire for broader stakeholder engagement, businesses and impact-minded enterprises have emerged that are both financially viable and socially beneficial.
A job can often be the difference between a place to live or homelessness.
In the beginning, Access Ventures made investments specifically in strategic real estate; we quickly realized employment was a major hurdle to a person being able to afford a quality residence for their family. More than 50% of a resident’s disposable income will go towards housing costs in an underserved neighborhood, and a job can often be the difference between a place to live or homelessness.
Even though the unemployment rate has decreased in the last couple of years, there are still segments of our communities that are still not able to participate. For example, in Kentucky the 12th highest (imprisonment rate in the United States) it can be difficult for a person with a felony to find employment opportunities. Additionally, a person that leaves trafficking is dealing with trauma and is not likely to make a major transition into an office job as quickly as others may be able to.
Access Ventures began to look for different ways to improve our communities through impact-minded enterprises. These are companies that have a dual objective: profit and purpose. As an example, impact-minded enterprises want to be a “fair chance” employer – a place of work that considers the whole person’s needs and builds an employment infrastructure that supports them to that end.
Fair Chance Employment increases job opportunities and will reduce recidivism and racial disparities (25% of African Americans in KY have a felony record) in the criminal justice system and strengthen our communities. According to the National Employment Law Project, “mass incarceration and overcriminalization have left 70 million people in the United States—nearly one in three adults—with arrest or conviction records. And punishment does not end with completing a sentence.”
People with records are subjected to lifelong penalties and discrimination in nearly every facet of life that is essential to the ability to thrive: housing, education, eligibility for social service benefits, family issues, electoral and civic participation, and critically, employment.
National Employment Law Project
An impact-minded enterprise could also be a manufacturing company that seeks to preserve jobs in an industry or market. Alternatively, it could be a company who has focused their efforts to build a better supply chain. For example, a coffee roastery might seek to source beans ethically while working directly to improve the lives of farmers in rural Central America.
What is the goal of Impact-Minded Enterprises?
The purpose of our impact-minded enterprise initiative is to find promising businesses that are not simply about profit, but also consider their impact on people and place. Access Ventures’ invests in companies that demonstrate this mindset by meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.
However, we do not believe our job is complete after funding an impact-minded enterprise company. To see our vision of creating inclusive economies we think they are best positioned to support one another. We facilitate collisions between these dual-purpose businesses to share best practices and lessons learned, as we all work to improve access for all.
For example, we recently invested in Hot Chicken Takeover of Columbus, Ohio that is working to provide the best damn hot chicken to residents of Columbus, while also creating a place for fair chance employment (over 70% of Hot Chicken Takeover’s workforce are formerly incarcerated).
We also supported Scarlet’s Bakery in their launch in 2016 – an employer of women trying to make a better life for themselves and their families outside of the adult entertainment industry. Some of the best work to-date has been in connecting these two social entrepreneurs. Rachelle from Scarlet’s Bakery has even traveled to Columbus to work in the Hot Chicken Takeover kitchen and see first-hand how Joe and his team have built an entire culture of dignity and community.
Every investment we make into a business or community must be something we are proud of, something we ourselves support, and something people will love. If you are involved with an organization, initiative, or idea that you believe is an impact-minded enterprise and fits our mission, we’d love to meet you and learn more! Send us a message with more information about your organization.
Written by Bryce Butler @brycebutler