Feed Apparel Provides Meals for Food-Insecure in Two Countries

You don’t have to give the shirt off your back to help the poor. Thanks to international social enterprise Feed Apparel, buying just one “fashionably social” shirt, top or hoodie for yourself can help feed poverty-stricken people in India and England for weeks.

Two lines of clothing from Feed Apparel, founded in 2018 by social entrepreneur Patrick Sylvester, are dedicated to feeding the hungry. For every item sold in the company’s Feed Classic line, the company provides nutritious food to a person in need in India for a month, thanks to a partnership with the well-known charity, Feeding India. Items sold from a new line called Feed LDN supplies three meals to three people in London in coordination with Foodinate, a Manchester social enterprise.

Feed Apparel offers two lines of “socially fashionable” clothing to help the food-insecure in India and London, England.

Feed Apparel’s line of menswear includes T-shirts, hoodies, vests and joggers. The women’s line consists of tops, vests, sweatshirts, hoodies, and joggers. The garments are manufactured using sustainable techniques, including “full traceability of all fibers and a focus on recyclable materials,” according to UK business publication Business Quarter (BQ).

In addition to the new relationship with Feed Apparel, Foodinate partners with restaurants throughout the UK to provide a free meal to food-insecure individuals for every meal purchased by a customer. The meals are served by various charities, including homeless shelters and soup kitchens. The organization has fed more than 50,000 meals to people in need, according to its website.

Feeding India combats food waste and, through requests via its mobile app, diverts good extra food to donation centers that help people in need, especially children, the specially abled and the elderly.

Hoodies, T-shirts, vests and joggers are among the garments sold by Feed Apparel to help feed the hungry.

A 2017 report found that 27 percent of Londoners live in poverty. “We live in the seventh richest country in the entire world, and yet so many people are going without,” Caroline Stevenson, founder of Foodinate, has said. “I wanted to create a link between the two sides of the same coin, enabling local businesses and local people to help those in need in their own community. It’s about making a sustainable, scalable impact on a huge issue but in a really simple way.”

Homeboy Industries Transforms Lives for Ex-Offenders

Many ex-offenders who want to “go straight” face an uphill struggle when it comes to landing a job. For them, Father Gregory Boyle must seem like a godsend.

Boyle founded Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries, which offers employment training and opportunities in a wide range of fields, from baking and retail to cellphone repair, for the formerly incarcerated.

The U.S. has one of the largest populations of ex-offenders in the world, and most employers aren’t exactly clamoring to hire them. “We work with the population that nobody desires to work with, and it’s a principle of this place that we stand with them,” Boyle says on the Homeboys website.

When the priest, who calls himself “Father Greg,” became pastor of the Dolores Mission Church in east Los Angeles, his parish had the worst poverty and the highest concentration of gang activity in the city. In response, he and his team developed what they describe as “the largest gang intervention, rehab and re-entry program in the world.”

The Homegirl Cafe is one of nearly a dozen social enterprises operated by Homeboy Industries.

Social entrepreneurship is a key part of the mission. Homeboy Industries has created almost a dozen social enterprises that offer 18-month job training programs for the formerly incarcerated. Clients learn marketable skills by working in a bakery, a retail shop that sells Homeboy swag, and a catering business, among others.

The Homeboy Bakery, for example, supplies products—including cakes, rolls, muffins, pretzels, scones and more—to other Homeboy enterprises, such as Homeboys Farmers Markets, Homegirl Catering, and the Homeboy Diner located at L.A.’s city hall, as well as to local restaurants and cafes.

At Homeboy Recycling, ex-offenders learn how to repair iPhones and recycle old PCs.

Homeboy Electronics Recycling employs 25 people. It recycles more than 5,600 PCs and repairs 3,900 iPhones every year, according to the website.

The Homegirl Café, a Zagat-rated restaurant specializing in Mexican fare and grilled-cheese sandwiches, provides a safe space for women who have experienced domestic violence and the challenges of single parenthood as well as gang involvement and incarceration.

The organization even makes its own Homeboy-branded chips, salsa and guacamole for sale in grocery stores around the U.S.

Emily Chapa went from prison and drug addiction to serving as a substance abuse counselor for Homeboy Industries.

The Homeboys website also tells the personal “transformation stories” of many of its clients, such as Emily Chapa, who now serves as a substance abuse counselor. “I’d been using since I was 15 years old, and this is the longest I’ve ever been sober in my life,” she said. “I may have abandoned my kids as they were growing up, but today I’m different. I’m a good grandmother. One thing we need to learn as women is that being emotional is not a weakness but a strength. We need to learn to use our voices and take care of ourselves, or we can’t take care of anybody.”

Homeboy Industries also provides its clients with milestone experiences that most of us take for granted, according to Homeboy trainee Fernando Martinez (pictured above). “I’ve been sober for a year and four months,” he said. “That in itself was a big accomplishment for me. I never thought I would be living a sober life. It’s helped me shape my life to achieve things like getting my driver’s permit. I’ve never gotten anything big like this before. I’m now able to succeed at a lot of things I never would have been able to by myself.”

Homeboy Industries has earned recognition from former Vice President Joe Biden and actor Jim Carrey (see video below). “I believe this room is filled with God,” Carrey said during a visit to the organization. “You are heroes to me, and I admire you … You’ve made a decision to transcend and leave darkness behind.”

Rollins College’s Department of Social Entrepreneurship Enlists Students on T-Shirt Campaign

When you’re looking to deliver a message to the masses, say it with a T-shirt. That’s the idea behind a contest sponsored by the Department of Social Entrepreneurship at Rollins College in Central Florida.

Rollins already has earned global recognition for its Social Entrepreneurship program, the first to be accredited by AACSB International, a nonprofit association that brings together educators, students and businesses to develop the next generation of leaders. AACSB accreditation ranks the department among the elite—less than 5% of business programs around the world attain it.

Now Dr. Tonia Warnecke, the George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Chair of Social Entrepreneurship at Rollins, wants to spread the word about the innovative program campus-wide as well.

The department has challenged students to design a T-shirt that captures the essence of the program, Warnecke said. “In addition to coming up with a great slogan and design, we decided to have the contest as an opportunity to engage students in the social entrepreneurship major and minor,” she added. “It is important for students in the major and minor to be part of a community and to feel connected to the program they are enrolled in. It also gives them the chance to think critically about how they want to raise awareness of social entrepreneurship as well as share the opportunities provided by their major with others.”

It’s no secret that young people appreciate the fashionable simplicity of logoed T-shirts that express their interests and passions. “Students love having T-shirts displaying the programs, clubs, organizations, and sports they are involved in,” Warnecke said. “In addition to being fun and rewarding, the contest is a way for students to further develop their creative design and marketing skills.”

The contest launched on February 13, and the deadline for submissions is March 1, although Warnecke said the department may decide to extend the deadline as midterms approach. “We received our first submission the day after the contest launched, and I have received email inquiries from several students about the contest, so students are excited about it!”

Warnecke earned her bachelor’s degree from Rollins College and returned as a faculty member after receiving her masters’ degree and Ph.D. She co-developed the school’s Social Entrepreneurship major and minor at Rollins College in 2013, according to her Chair’s Message on the Department of Social Entrepreneurship’s website.

“In our global economy, thinking about business as a tool for social change has never been more timely,” Warnecke wrote in the Chair’s Message. “In the aftermath of the Great Recession, and in a society where environmental degradation and socio-economic inequalities are becoming more serious every day, social entrepreneurship helps students hone their skills of leadership, innovation and creativity and fully engage in their communities—local and global—as they apply business skills in novel ways.”

To learn more about the Social Entrepreneurship program at Rollins College, read the department’s mission statement here.

How Foundations Can Help Opportunity Zone Communities Succeed

By Cody Evans & Agnes Dasewicz

The Opportunity Zone tax incentive–passed in amended form as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017–is a potentially powerful new tool for helping low-income communities. By providing breaks for certain investments in distressed areas, it has already led to the creation of nearly $1 billion in new funds. Officials from the Treasury Department expect $100 billion in private capital will be deployed through the incentive.

But the policy may fail to achieve its goals unless foundations guide investments in the right direction. Their deep experience in struggling local communities around the nation prepares them for the challenge.

Lawmakers passed this policy with the belief that investors don’t pay enough attention to the breadth of good financial opportunities available across the United States. But investors may still worry that low-income neighborhoods present more risk than other areas. And they may only use the Opportunity Zone tax break to enhance investments they would have undertaken anyway, rather than pursue potentially lower-return projects that truly help local communities.

Failure to address the challenges the Opportunity Zone policy seeks to solve has ramifications for a critical factor in communities’ health around the nation: the distribution of jobs. The majority of new employment in the United States over the past 10 years has come from the formation of new businesses, yet between 2010 and 2014 half of America’s new firms were concentrated in just 20 counties. Entrepreneurs and small business leaders in undercapitalized areas around the country need help, or their communities will fall further and further behind.

Fortunately, foundations already know how to serve as the connective tissue that channels investment to marginalized regions and nascent economic ecosystems. Here are their four proven approaches:

1. Support Independent Transaction Advisors

Since Opportunity Zone areas are now indirectly competing with each other for tax-advantaged capital, local public officials, association heads, business leaders, and other community constituents need expert advice to develop investable deals and recognize alignments of interest with new investors.

Transaction advisors—private and independent experts who work with local government officials to prepare a pipeline of potential private sector investments—can provide it. They helped Power Africa, launched under President Obama in 2013, deliver more than $5 billion in private investment for energy projects on the historically undercapitalized continent in the program’s first five years. Their efforts contributed toward lining up at least $10 in private funding for each $1 in public funding, demonstrating that well-placed funds can drive high multiples of market-rate capital towards beneficial investments.

Foundations who wish to support local champions in Opportunity Zones can use their limited funding to directly embed independent transaction advisors in city governments, local associations, or community nonprofits. There they can help prioritize projects, provide financial expertise, and become the focal point for Opportunity Zone investments. If enough experts are deployed nationally, they can form a powerful knowledge-sharing network, help develop appropriate metrics of success, and replicate approaches that work from one area to another.

The California Opportunity Zone Partnership from Accelerator for America, for example, will use experts from metropolises in California to advise leaders in smaller cities on attracting productive investment. Foundations could encourage similar programs across the country.

2. Support Policy-Aligned Fund Managers

By supporting fund managers who align their efforts with the intent of the Opportunity Zone policy, foundations can signal the best investment options among many, and in the process reduce financial risk for other investors and channel money to where it’s most needed. They can do this by:

  • Providing guarantees that would reduce the risk of investing in a fund by compensating investors for a pre-specified amount of losses.
  • Taking on first-loss positions in a fund’s investments.
  • Supporting new innovative fund structures.
  • Seeding new fund managers.

The federal government has a long track record of funding innovative businesses and investing structures through programs such as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), In-Q-Tel (IQT), and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). By taking early stage risks that the private investing market wouldn’t bear, these institutions have used relatively small amounts of dollars to achieve massive impact. Foundations can occupy a similar space.

Access Ventures, an investment fund in Louisville, Kentucky, for example, has been rebuilding the low-income neighborhood of Shelby Park. Over the last five years, through a combination of investments, loans, and grants, the organization has supported local businesses and created more than 200 jobs. It is partnering with Village Capital, a small business investment fund based in Washington, DC, to replicate this experience nationally in places such as Atlanta, San Antonio, and Kansas City. Both Access Ventures and Village Capital were seeded and developed with public and foundation support.

3. Be Hyper-Local

When the Kresge Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation issued a request for letters of inquiry from aspiring Opportunity Fund managers, 113 of the 141 respondents were raising funds with an explicit state or local focus. This embrace of geographic specificity indicates that foundations will likely have many chances to support Opportunity Funds that share a focus on the same communities, while also giving them a position from which to ensure new capital goes toward inclusive growth.

Fund managers would benefit from such partnerships at all stages of the investment process. Before investment, they would enjoy access to community expertise that foundations have built around across the country, including recommendations for mission-aligned local investors. With foundations’ help, fund managers could also identify promising local projects that aren’t quite off the ground and help move them toward investment readiness.

Foundations could use program-related investments to support development of local entrepreneurs or the re-skilling of local workers. And once investments are ready, foundations can provide first-loss guarantees or other forms of support. Finally, they can help investors broker successful exits to other local investors years down the road.

In Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, the Incourage Community Foundation partnered with the local chamber of commerce to launch more than 20 programs. One of them, an entrepreneurial boot camp, helped launch more than 40 local businesses. The collaboration also led venture funds to support the programs and created workforce training that benefitted a dozen local companies. By combining its philanthropic efforts with local community investment, Incourage drove inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Foundations that replicate approaches like Incourage’s would have the chance to direct a whole new pool of capital towards inclusive investments in the local communities they already serve. They would also define what a beneficial project looks like for a local area, drawing in further investment from others who want to see their dollars go to work in a policy-aligned manner.

4. Develop and Track Success Metrics

Investing alongside the private sector will help foundations exert influence over the goals and success metrics of new Opportunity Funds—an especially important undertaking because the policy currently lacks impact reporting requirements. And by directly supporting new funds, foundations have the chance to shape fund managers’ definitions of equitable growth and ensure periodic reporting on those measures. It shouldn’t be too far of a reach—investors increasingly want partnerships with socially driven institutions to help them embed sustainable development measures into their financial goals.

There are already efforts in the foundation community to develop and publish standards for Opportunity Zone investments. Existing frameworks, such as the Social Progress Index, can also be used to develop best practices.

Harm or Help?

As the Opportunity Zone tax incentive enters the mainstream of the investment world, foundations have a choice. They can allow the policy to fall prey to the view that it is just another tax cut for the wealthy and an accelerator of gentrification. Or they can drive the policy closer to its intended outcomes by forming the much-needed connective tissue between private investors, community leaders, and the public sector.

Our most distressed communities are counting on their answer.

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Three Ways to Make Civic Engagement Efforts Really Work

By Hollie Russon Gilman & Elena Souris

When city government officials combine technical expertise with a real understanding of local residents’ lives, they stand to create truly effective policy. That diligence, however, requires time, money, and a willingness to experiment—resources municipalities usually have in short supply—and as a result, it can seem unrealistic.

But experiments with civic engagement, outreach, and philanthropic models in Philadelphia show it’s possible to make real progress despite these constraints. With our colleague, Chayenne Polimedio, and at the invitation of the Knight Foundation, we spent nearly a year researching how nonprofits, philanthropy, and local government in Philadelphia are engaging with and learning from “lived experts”—people who have first-hand experience with their community’s unique challenges—and combining these hyper-local insights with their own technical, policymaking expertise to make municipal government more responsive to people’s needs. Here is a look at three ways this is playing out.

1. Change What Services Are “Supposed” to Offer

At a time when civic trust is low and loneliness is high, public spaces like parks, recreation centers, and libraries can make a difference by fostering personal connections, as well as social capital between residents and government. They are where residents gather to participate in educational and after-school programming, to use free wi-fi and information resources, and to work out and play with recreational equipment. In short, they are accessible places where communities and local government can meet.

One innovative way to expand civic participation around existing public spaces is through structured volunteer organizations. In Philadelphia, most parks and libraries have “friends” groups, and recreation centers have advisory councils. These groups are made up of neighbors who help support their public spaces through fundraising, planning programming, providing light maintenance, and doing other work. They also host meetings and events, where they act as a mediator between group members and the city. In these forums, local residents can voice their concerns and views on municipal matters and build relationships with civil servants. A public park can become an entry point into local politics and enable new community leaders, thus helping the city make decisions with residents, rather than for them.

“The best caretakers [of public spaces] are the stakeholders,” says John “Stash” DiSciascio, executive director of a disc golf course volunteer group called Friends of Sedgley Woods. Members of the group participate in social gatherings, as well as tournaments to raise money for course upkeep and projects. DiSciascio’s passion for his neighborhood park has made him well-known within the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department and helped him become a community leader within the municipal system.

But even residents with less time than volunteer group members regularly visit parks, rec centers, and libraries. George Matysik, executive director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance (PPA), sees these spaces as important channels for public service delivery—and not just for sports teams and afterschool activities. The alliance is working on revamping rec centers so that programming better serves the broader community. “Libraries are more than just books, and rec centers are more than just basketballs,” he says. One form of outreach involves block-walking to invite neighbors to free community dinners, where 20-60 residents usually turn out. When Matysik speaks with them, he’s careful to ask what the community needs, not what the rec center needs. The former gets answers like “ESL classes” or “job training programs”; the latter yields “sports equipment”—what people think rec centers are “supposed” to have. With this feedback in hand, PPA has set up more community meetings and elections for advisory council positions. This has created an effective outreach pipeline for diverse community members to build up sustained engagement with their rec centers and put their ideas into practice—without the time commitment of a formalized volunteer position.

2. Combine Creative Financing with Better Public Service Delivery

Social sector leaders can support and influence projects within City Hall, not just outside it. As a 2017 Knight Cities Challenge winner, for example, PHL Participatory Design Lab used its philanthropic dollars to place design fellows within a variety of Philadelphia’s city departments, with the aim of working with city agencies and recipients of public services to improve service delivery. One fellow worked with the Office of Homeless Services (OHS), which serves 20,000 people each year, to help define what “person-centered”—vs. traditional top-down service delivery—looks like in practice. One of the findings from interviews with OHS users was that not being allowed to bring in their own food into the centers, which it established as a health and safety precaution, was demoralizing. OHS is now working to make changes to this system.

Philadelphia has also found a way to fund resident-based projects through a controversial soda tax, which taxes sweetened drinks at 1.5 cents per ounce. The project’s funding model—a seven-year, $500 million investment—involves city government capital funds ($48 million); state, federal, and philanthropic grants ($152 million); and bonds. Alongside this, the Philadelphia-based William Penn Foundation has pledged $100 million to neighborhoods for Rebuild, a public-private effort that includes $3.28 million in new funding for the Fairmount Park Conservancy to support a citywide, civic engagement strategy. The strategy’s focus will be giving residents the ability to shape activities in Philadelphia’s public spaces. The Knight Foundation is also supporting Rebuild by making investments throughout the city. While the soda tax faced a variety of legal challenges, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ultimately upheld it, and the money will support public services like education and repairing public sites through the Rebuild initiative.

3. Bring In New Voices—in a Structured, Careful, Thorough Way

Rebuild will seek to revitalize public spaces, empower communities, and promote economic opportunity. Given its massive scope, it will be especially important to involve community voices in the process. Rebuild, the city, and nonprofits see the project as an opportunity to create new interest around public spaces. Because not all prospective sites will receive financing, they’re not only using the moment to build future civic engagement infrastructure, but also supporting existing volunteer groups to make them stronger, more equal, and more inclusive.

Volunteer groups often reflect larger-scale, city-wide inequality. Higher-income residents are more likely to have free time for community organizing and fundraising. In addition, members of decades-old groups may not adapt to a neighborhood’s changing needs, or conversely, volunteer groups in gentrifying neighborhoods may reflect only a small demographic. To combat problems like these, the Fairmont Park Conservancy carried out organizational surveys to gauge its strengths and weaknesses, and required that advisory councils that weren’t following the mandatory election cycle hold new elections. Such efforts will help ensure that collaborative efforts to amplify residents’ voices will be more equitable.

Philanthropic work in Philadelphia also speaks to the opportunity for national and community foundations to work together. Some of the projects on the ground in Philadelphia are connected to the national Reimagining the Civic Commons Project, which includes a $40 million donor collaborative with $20 million from national foundations and $20 million in local matching funds. These funds are focused on rebuilding five cities: Akron, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Memphis, Tennessee; and Philadelphia. New models of local and national philanthropy, combined with creative financing like soda taxes or municipal bonds, demonstrate creative approaches to addressing the budget deficits municipalities face without sacrificing innovative policy approaches.

While some of these suggestions may seem small in scale, they nevertheless offer concrete examples of how social sector leaders can help bring together the expertise of residents and city government for healthier and more-vibrant communities—and how large-scale philanthropic work can best support those efforts.

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New Tool Could Help Objectively Evaluate Impact of Social Enterprises on Local Communities

As more corporations seek to quantify the social benefits they bring to local communities, Deloitte, one of the leading accounting firms and the largest professional services network in the world, has developed the Social Impact Measurement Model (SIMM) to provide some hard, accurate numbers.

SIMM is a machine-learning tool designed to forecast the impact of a large corporate investment—such as the opening of a new office or headquarters—on a community. It works with more than 140 social measures, including education, housing, family and migration, income and employment, and transportation.

Companies like Amazon and Toyota often accept multimillion-dollar tax incentives to relocate to or open a new factory, facility or office in a given county. Beyond the creation of new jobs, it’s difficult to quantify the corporation’s social impact in terms of factors like alleviating poverty, improving local schools or boosting public health.

“Our Social Impact Measurement Model accurately predicts what could result from a large capital investment—or what may or may not happen in its absence,” Deloitte says in a press release. “This machine-learning model estimates the social impact of investments at the U.S. county level for the four years following the investment, analyzing 142 social measures ranging from child poverty and reading proficiency to carpooling and population migration. The SIMM helps people better understand what a specific investment’s impact might be as well as why certain locations would see greater or lesser improvements than others. This can support more informed decision-making by companies, community leaders and policymakers—and enable greater coordination among them to help further the public good.”

Deloitte’s SIMM can also help investors objectively determine the value that a new social enterprise can bring to a community, said Janet Foutty, chair and CEO of Deloitte Consulting LLP, according to AZ Business Magazine. “With the rise of the social enterprise—those organizations looking beyond revenue and profit to understand their impact on society—many of our clients are raising the profile of purpose-driven outcomes,” she said. “(SIMM) enables our clients to understand if their investments will pay social dividends, providing value to companies, communities and local governments.”

Sweet and Healthy: Peaceful Fruits Provides Jobs for Adults With Disabilities in Akron, Ohio

The one key ingredient missing from many so-called “fruit snacks” is, well, actual fruit. One notable exception: Peaceful Fruits, a social enterprise in Akron, Ohio, that provides jobs for local adults with disabilities and supports sustainable growers in the Amazon region.

As Forbes.com reports, Peaceful Fruits’ founder Evan Delahanty says his company offers “the most natural and highest-quality fruit snack on the market.” Described as “organic fruit strips,” they’re made with nothing but real, honest-to-goodness fruit—no sugar, corn syrup or maldodextrin—plus, in some cases, an added splash of lemon or orange juice.

“We take whole organic fruit, blend it up, and then slow-dry it overnight to make a real, authentic fruit snack,” Delahanty told Forbes.

The company sources some of its fruit from sustainable harvesters in the Amazon rainforest, including an antioxidant-rich berry called acai. Delahanty discovered acai while serving with the Peace Corps in the Amazon region. Many of the snack flavors feature a combination of fruits like strawberry and peach with an acai drizzle.

Peaceful Fruits snacks come in a variety of flavors.

To produce the snacks, Peaceful Fruits partners with the Blick Center, an Akron nonprofit, as well as Hattie Larlham, another local nonprofit that serves children and adults with disabilities. Peaceful Fruits uses Hattie Larlham’s shared commercial kitchen space and pays 29 of their adult clients to process, package and ship the product. The company has sold more than 300,000 fruit snacks since 2014.

Delahanty got a major PR boost from an appearance on “Shark Tank.” Although Peaceful Fruits wasn’t chosen by the judges, he told a local TV station that the company received more than 1,000 online orders within minutes after the show aired.

The company was also named an eBay “Everyday Hero” in 2018.

“We’re talking about directly impacting people’s lives,” Delahanty told Forbes. “We’ve had the privilege of creating work opportunities—jobs that (pay) at least minimum wage—for these people. They are a core part of our production process. They get a paycheck, a T-shirt and are part of a team.”

In the eBay video, Kim Smith, one of the Peaceful Fruits employees, said working for the company “gives me a sense of pride and happiness … This job … has helped me learn that I am capable of anything.”

 

Crowdfunding Platform Brings Together Social Entrepreneurs and “Regular Folks” as Investors

A new crowdfunding platform aims to help social entrepreneurs—especially women and people of color—raise funds and give investors the chance to “put their money where their heart is.”

Crowdfund Mainstreet, co-founded by attorneys Michelle Thimesch and Jenny Kassan, is a Regulation Crowdfunding (or Reg CF) platform made possible under Title III of the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act passed in 2012. The law made it easier for anyone to invest in small businesses through crowdfunding. The law allows entrepreneurs to raise up to $1,070,000 a year in crowdfunding capital.

Thimesch and Kassan have a history of providing legal services to social entrepreneurs. Kassan specializes in helping issuers craft their offerings for maximum results. “We believe that customizing and crafting offerings based on your company, rather than picking something off the shelf, is one of the things that will distinguish the issuers on our platforms,” Thimesch said in an interview with Devin Thorpe, host of the Your Mark on the World podcast.

She said entrepreneurs should go into the crowdfunding process with a comprehensive understanding of their business models. “The more you understand about that, the better equipped you will be to actually craft an offering that makes sense,” she said. “Many entrepreneurs do not understand they have that option because they’re used to the VC world where the investors hand you the term sheet. You are actually in a position to craft your own offering.”

In a video on the Crowdfund Mainstreet website, Kassan said crowdfunding can be a boon to traditionally marginalized entrepreneurs. “Our financial system is really not designed to serve probably 99.9 percent of businesses,” she said. “If you are a woman or a person of color, your chances of getting financing from a bank or a professional investor are even less.”

Women and people of color have traditionally had a harder time raising money for new businesses. Crowdfunding could change that.

Through crowdfunding, this new and more diverse generation of entrepreneurs can create businesses that will make a real difference. “When Title III of the JOBS Act passed, I knew it was a game-changing law,” Thimesch said. “I knew that, in its highest, most exalted state, this piece of legislation could actually serve to revitalize communities and shift money from Wall Street to Main Street, which is what needs to happen to make big economic change in our country.”

Thimesch said Crowfund Mainstreet is designed for “America’s unsung entrepreneurial heroes and the people who want to invest their savings in the kinds of companies that are doing things they want to see in the world.”

Crowdfunding for social entrepreneurship also means you don’t have to be rich to invest in a startup, Kassan said. In fact, many people are already investors and don’t realize it. “When most people think about … an investor … they will often picture, maybe, the people on ‘Shark Tank.’ But the truth is, 99.7 percent of investors in our country are just regular folks. They don’t even think about themselves as investors. They would never call themselves investors. But they are investors. They have mutual funds. They have retirement accounts. These are the investors we want to see on Crowdfund Mainstreet. These are the investors who are able to really put their money where their heart is.”

And the Crowdfund Mainstreet entrepreneurs want to do the same, Themish said. “They’ve gone into business not just for the opportunity to achieve financial security for themselves and their employees but [because] they want something more. They want to leave something behind, a legacy—anything from fixing what’s wrong in a particular industry or revitalizing a local community or propping up those that do not have access to the resources they need for upward mobility. Regulation crowdfunding has the ability to be a revitalization tool.”

Unlocked, a Nashville Jewelry Company, Opens Doors for Homeless Women

A social enterprise called Unlocked is opening new doors of opportunity for homeless people: designing and making beautiful jewelry for sale online and in local boutiques.

Vanderbilt graduate Corbin Hooker co-founded Unlocked to help the homeless escape the cycle of poverty and develop marketable skills. He initially ran the social enterprise out of his bedroom until a space came open at Community Care Fellowship (CCF), a Nashville nonprofit that serves the homeless.

“I wanted to employ some of the people that I’d been meeting and talking to,” Hooker told Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 reporter Kristen Skovira. “Everybody sees this issue. Everybody in Nashville is aware of this. So we’re trying to give other people an opportunity to help.”

Employees at Unlocked make beautiful necklaces that can be purchased in Nashville boutique shops and online at the Unlocked website.

The Unlocked website spotlights five formerly homeless women who design and handmake the jewelry, including necklaces, bracelets and earrings. The women sign their names on each product, which comes with a card that features the maker’s photograph and bio. One of the artisans, Gwen, is a single mom who served as a foster parent to various children before adopting and raising three girls on her own. Once the girls were grown and moved out, Gwen had to flee an abusive boyfriend and ended up living on the streets for more than eight years before joining the Unlocked team.

Learn about the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming spring events for social entrepreneurs and changemakers.

Working in Unlocked’s Transformational Program, Gwen and other women earn wages and live in transitional housing provided by CCF, where they pay rent and utilities in proportion to their wages. The longer they work for Unlocked, the more they earn until they can secure permanent housing.

The Athena is one of many handcrafted artisan necklaces on sale at the Unlocked website.

Employees can also take Dave Ramsey’s 9-week Financial Peace University course to learn how to manage and save money and meet regularly with a CCF career counselor to identify their job skills and career aspirations, build a resume and develop job interview skills.

CCF Executive Director Ryan Lasuer said Unlocked is a perfect fit for his organization’s mission. “Each one of our homeless guests—or formerly homeless guests—get an opportunity to have that pride about making something—and making something beautiful,” he told Newschannel 5.

Related: High-fashion social enterprise brand creates jobs for female prisoners.