Jaden Smith Dispatches Food Truck to Serve Vegan Meals to L.A.’s Homeless

After creating a social enterprise called Just Water with his famous dad, actor/rapper Jaden Smith, the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, made a splash this week on the streets of L.A. with a pop-up restaurant that fed the homeless.

The food truck, called the I Love You Restaurant, served vegan meals in ready-made packages. The Hollywood Reporter said the packages contained bowls of carrots and kale. Smith said in an Instagram post that the truck’s appearance “is the first of many.”

“The @ILoveYouRestaurant Is A Movement That Is All About Giving People What They Deserve, Healthy, Vegan Food For Free,” Smith posted on his Instagram account.

According to USA Today, homelessness has increased by 16 percent in Los Angeles over the past year.

 

The food truck isn’t Smith’s first good deed for underserved communities. Just Water, the eco-conscious bottled-water company he founded with Will Smith, uses packaging created from almost entirely renewable resources, including sugar cane-derived “plastic.” Smith’s passion for environmentalism was sparked when he was 10 years old and found himself surfing in ocean water littered with plastic bottles, the Chicago Tribune has reported. When he later learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, he was determined to do something about it.

To help with the clean-water crisis in Flint, Michigan, Just Water collaborated with First Trinity Baptist Church to provide a mobile water filtration system earlier this year. Called the Water Box, the system filters out lead and other contaminants in water. It can produce up to 10 gallons of drinking water per minute. Residents were able to fill containers of their choice with the clean water, which was available at the church.

Social Venture Fund Invests in Second Location of Popular Deaf-Owned Pizzeria

The deaf couple behind Mozzeria, a celebrated San Francisco pizza restaurant that employs only people who are deaf, will open a second operation next year in Washington, D.C. with help from a venture fund that supports startups addressing social needs.

The new Mozzeria location will sit just seven blocks from the first deaf-run Starbucks signing store, which also provides jobs for the deaf and hard of hearing. Also nearby is Gallaudet University, a renowned school for the deaf and hard of hearing, where Mozzeria owners Melody and Russ Stein met.

The Steins opened the first Mozzeria in December 2011. The San Francisco location also operates two food trucks. When it came time to expand to a new market, the Steins secured an investment of “several million dollars” from the Communication Service for the Deaf Social Venture Fund (CSDSVF). The CSDSVF, according to its website, was created “to invest in deaf-owned businesses that will in turn reap more than financial profit.” Social enterprise businesses that receive the venture fund’s support make money while creating positive social change and providing employment for underserved populations like the deaf.

In April Mozzeria hosted a group of children from the California School for the Deaf/Fremont.

“It’s been a longtime dream to see a deaf-owned restaurant in Washington, D.C.,” Russ Stein signed in a joint interview with the Washington Post recently.

Diners at Mozzeria place their orders in sign language or by pointing or writing with pen and paper. Both of the Steins are accomplished pizzaioli. For Melody Stein in particular, success as a restaurateur feels especially sweet because she was rejected years ago when she applied to the California Culinary Academy. “[The Academy] called my mom and said we can’t accept her application because she’s deaf,” Stein, 45, signed to The Washington Post. “What if they were in the kitchen trying to yell, ‘Out of the way!’ with hot soup? They viewed me as a liability.”

People with impaired hearing often encounter such obstacles. As the Post reports, there are roughly 30 million Americans with severe hearing loss in both ears. Only 48 percent of deaf people have jobs, compared to 72 percent of the hearing population, at least in part because many employers subscribe to inaccurate stereotypes about deaf people.

“That’s why Mozzeria is so important,” Christopher Soukup, CEO of CSDSVF, told the Post. “The more we can put those success stories out there, brick by brick we can combat that perception.”

The Meatball Pizza at Mozzeria

Costa Rica Moves Closer to Plastic-Free and Carbon-Free Goals

It’s only about the size of West Virginia, but Costa Rica has become a big player in efforts to protect the global environment. The Central American country—known for its lush rainforests, cloud forests and tropical dry forests—is already a worldwide leader in renewable resources. Its next big goal: to be the first plastic-free and carbon-free nation by 2021.

Since 2014, Costa Rica has been deriving its energy from 99 percent renewable sources and has run on 100 percent renewable energy for over two months twice in the last two years, according to Intelligent Living. In June 2017, the nation of less than 5 million people set the goal of eradicating single-use plastic by 2021 and in the summer of 2018, it announced plans to become completely carbon-neutral by 2021.

Carlos Alvarado, Costa Rica’s president, announced the goals in April of this year. Outdoor Journal reports that Costa Rica has “one of the lowest ratios of greenhouse gas emissions to electrical consumption on the planet,” but adds, “The biggest challenge in the way of fully decarbonizing by 2021 is to eliminate fossil fuels from the transportation sector,” which “remains largely petrol-dependent.”

Although many consider Alvarado’s plan too ambitious, Costa Rica has made huge strides in other environmental efforts, such as doubling its forest density from 26 percent in 1984 to 52 percent in 2019. That could make going carbon-free a little easier, the Outdoor Journal says. “One goal of carbon neutrality aims to offset the use of coal, oil and gasoline combustion by a corresponding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere, such as reforestation.”

Photo by Nick Dietrich

But Alvarado and Costa Rica’s political leaders will also have to “dramatically initiate policies to promote the use of renewables in transportation, both in public and private sectors, such as offering tax incentives for its private corporations and citizens to purchase electric vehicles.”

Going plastic-free will be another big challenge. As of 2018, Costa Rica was Central America’s largest plastic importer, and much of it ends up polluting the country’s rivers, lakes and beaches. “Transforming Costa Rica into a plastic-free zone is a national strategy that will rely on voluntary action across national industries as well as at the community level,” the Outdoor Journal points out. While public institutions and agencies can be required to stop buying single-use plastic, individual consumers will have to do so voluntarily.

“The country will also need alternative biodegradable products, incentives to comply with policies, and punishments for bad actors,” the publication adds.

Costa Rica isn’t alone in its determination to get rid of single-use plastic. Ten single-use plastic items will be banned in Ireland by 2021. These include plastic straws, plates and cutlery, cotton buds, balloon sticks and cigarette filters, according to the Irish Mirror. “There is a growing sense of urgency in European society to do whatever it takes to stop plastic pollution in our oceans,” said First Vice President Frans Timmermans of the European Parliament. “The new rules … will help us to protect the health of our people and safeguard our natural environment while promoting more sustainable production and consumption.”

A joint statement from several Costa Rican officials in 2017 showed equal resolve. “Single-use plastics are a problem not only for Costa Rica but also for the whole world,” read the statement from Environment and Energy Minister Edgar Gutierrez, Health Minister Maria Esther Anchia and UNDP Costa Rica Resident Representative Alice Shackelford. “It is estimated that if the current consumption pattern continues, by 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish—measured by weight. For this reason, we began our journey to turn Costa Rica into a single-use plastic-free zone. It’s a win-win for all: Costa Rica, the people and the planet.”

Social Entrepreneur Lists 5 Competitive Advantages of a Mission-Driven Business

Entrepreneurs who believe business success and social impact are mutually exclusive have a lot to learn about business success, according to a recent article on Forbes.com by Sean Grundy, CEO of Bevi, a social enterprise focused on eliminating single-use plastic bottles.

While no one denies that “having to succeed on two fronts makes the job of a social entrepreneur even harder” than that of a regular entrepreneur, Grundy said a thriving mission-driven business has the potential to help change the entire world for the better.

“When business interests and social or environmental interests clash, business interests usually win,” Grundy writes. “Yet when businesses truly support a cause, they can drive large-scale change quickly. And there’s no time to better embed a mission into a company than at the very start, making the mission an inseparable part of that company’s business model rather than an afterthought.”

The Bevi water dispenser

Related: Why social entrepreneurship is a smarter way of doing business

In fact, Grundy believes social enterprises have some important advantages over traditional for-profit companies, including:

  1. A better crop of job candidates. “When you can offer employees the professional development of a high-growth business with the impact of a nonprofit, you’ll be amazed by the quality of candidates who apply to your startup,” Grundy says.
  2. Brand authenticity. While many profit-driven companies hire consultants to help them invent a “mission” other than making as much money as possible, social entrepreneurs know and believe in their mission from the start. And that sort of genuineness is favored by many consumers in today’s market. “Industry incumbents may copy your product or your sales process, but they’ll never be able to capture the authenticity of your brand in customers’ eyes,” Grundy notes.
  3. Thinking bigger. Building a better world isn’t a small-scale operation. “You need to go after multibillion-dollar markets and reshape the way you do business,” Grundy writes. “In short, to really achieve your vision, you need to become a unicorn.”
  4. A stronger work ethic. “When you know your product will improve the world, you feel a moral obligation to succeed, even when the odds are stacked against you,” Grundy points out. “When you’re a mission-driven company in a sea of profit-driven competitors, you have to just keep swimming. Great investors recognize that mission-driven entrepreneurs are less likely to give up, and some even build this into their investment theses.”
  5. Far-ranging impact. Your social venture’s success will inspire other mission-driven entrepreneurs and “show them a path to success,” Grundy concludes. “If you fail, you may still lay the groundwork for a competitor to achieve your vision (which would be disappointing, but better than nothing). If you succeed, you’ll give investors more confidence that startups can, in fact, do well and do good at the same time.”

Forbes describes Grundy’s company, Bevi, as “one of the fastest-growing beverage companies in the world.” Conceived by Eliza Becton after she learned about the Pacific Garbage Patch, Bevi offers smart, eco-friendly water coolers for offices. Bevi machines allow users to mix up purified still and sparkling beverages—including both plain and flavored varieties—to create their own signature drinks with the push of a button on a touchscreen. “Our main motivation was cutting out the waste associated with plastic bottles, both from the actual manufacturing of bottles and the fact that most of them end up in landfills as well as just the trucking of full beverage bottles,” Grundy told Boston Magazine in 2015.

Bevi’s website claims the company’s beverage dispensers have “saved the waste generated by over 65 million plastic bottles.”

USD Student Entrepreneur Transforms Waste Food into Sustainable Smoothies

It’s smooth, it’s sustainable, it’s refreshing—it’s a sustainable smoothie from Re:Fresh Smoothies, a social enterprise concept that won first prize at the University of San Diego’s preliminary competition for this year’s Fowler Global Innovation Challenge.

Austin Hirsh, a USD graduate student and inventor of Re:Fresh Smoothies, went on to compete in the worldwide round of the Fowler contest on June 15, in which 44 teams of student entrepreneurs from 12 countries competed. Re:Fresh Smoothies finished in the top 10 and received the Audience Choice Award.

The Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge is a social-venture pitch competition that recognizes and rewards student-led social ventures focused on sustainable change.

Austin Hirsh has developed a product that turns rejected produce into a dried mix for healthy smoothies.

Hirsh hit upon the idea for Re:Fresh as a way to reduce food waste while promoting healthy eating. He uses imperfect and surplus produce to create instant smoothie mixes. Simply pour the dry contents of a packet into a blender with ice and water, and you’ve got a sustainable smoothie.

“What I’m trying to do is curb the food-waste issue in America,” Hirsh said in his “Shark Tank”-like pitch at the USD event. “Also, I drink a smoothie every day. And it was really annoying to have to get different ingredients from the pantry and the freezer and the fridge and have, like, six bags out. So I wanted a solution where I could get all of the ingredients in one package.”

Hoola One, a machine that removes microplastics from beaches, won the top Changemaker Award and a grand prize of $22,000 in the global competition.

Truely, a team of students from San Diego State, took second place in the worldwide Changemaker category for their idea to create a new breed of pure, plant-made plastics to replace traditional petrochemical-based plastic products.

Playing For Change Foundation Earns Prestigious Polar Music Prize

A California-based nonprofit foundation that celebrates the changemaking power of music won the prestigious Polar Music Prize last week, joining the ranks of luminaries like Paul McCartney, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, Led Zeppelin, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, and Elton John who have earned the honor.

Founded by recording engineer Mark Johnson and choreographer/actress Whitney Kroenke, the Playing for Change Foundation aims to create positive change through music education. The organization has created 15 music programs in 11 countries, offering free musical education from qualified local teachers to marginalized and at-risk youth.

Playing For Change founders Whitney Kroenke and Mark Johnson accept the Polar Music Prize along with fellow honorees Grandmaster Flash and Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Those programs include the Khlong Toey Music Program, which provides a safe and uplifting space for children in the slums of Bangkok to learn instruments like the guitar, ukulele, bass and drums; the Musica Music Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal, providing music and vocal classes for more than 40 students; and the Star School Music & Sports Program In Masaka, Rwanda, where hundreds of children from at-risk backgrounds—including orphans and children of street beggars and prostitutes—live in on-campus dormitories and receive meals, clothing, medical care and education.

After working in the studio with superstars like Notorious BIG and Paul Simon, Johnson traveled the world recording talented unknown musicians—from Zulu choirs and Moscow violinists to street blues guitarists in the U.S.—and brought them all together in a rousing music video covering Ben E. King’s classic, “Stand By Me” (below). He and Kroenke created Playing For Change in 2002 with the belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people.

The Polar Music Prize, considered the Nobel Prize of music, goes to at least two laureates each year, selected by an independent 11-member committee. The late Stig Anderson, a member of ABBA, founded the Polar Music Prize in 1989.

“When music plays, there’s no marginalized anything,” Johnson said during a workshop at last month’s Good Deals – Beyond Good Business Conference in London. “The marginality disappears when the music plays.”

In 2011, the Playing For Change Foundation launched Playing For Change Day, on which communities of musicians and music lovers from across the globe perform on stages and street corners and in schools, yoga studios and cafes to bring music into the lives of young people. Funds raised by the events help pay for free classes in dance, instruments, languages and music theory for kids. Playing For Change Day takes place this year on Sept. 21.

In accepting this year’s Polar Music Prize, Johnson and Kroenke shared the stage with Joseph Saddler, aka Grandmaster Flash, and acclaimed German violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter.

A group of children dance to music in a program offered by the Tintale Village Mother’s Society in Nepal.

GoDaddy Digital Microbusiness Initiative Expands to 26 U.S. States

A microbusiness initiative developed by the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) and GoDaddy will expand into 26 states and the District of Columbia, the organizations announced in a joint press release.

Based in Washington, D.C., AEO is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of a robust marketplace for underserved microbusinesses. GoDaddy is a leading internet domain registrar and web hosting company headquartered in Scottsdale, Ariz. Their initiative, Empower by GoDaddy, is designed to give microbusiness owners in underserved communities the tools, skills and mentorship needed to build a successful digital presence.

“AEO’s report, Reimagining Technical Assistance: Shifting the Support Landscape for Main Street, highlighted the importance of personalized solutions for the barriers that impede the growth of underserved businesses,” AEO President and CEO Connie Evans said in the press release. “Main Street is stretched thin. People are doing more with less. So to help level the online playing field, we have partnered with the best in digital marketing and community organizations on the ground to give low-wealth entrepreneurs what they need to accelerate growth and increase success.”

Related: Rollins College’s Department of Social Entrepreneurship Honors 12 Students With Awards

Through participating Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), small and microbusiness owners and entrepreneurs looking to start their own venture will have access to custom online workshops created by GoDaddy and support from GoDaddy coaches in group and webinar settings. Additional resources include mentorship and networking opportunities. Topics of the workshops include branding your domain name, evaluating your business, creating the right content, getting online and building a website, getting found using SEO, social media, e-commerce, among others.

Business owners taking part in the program will also receive customized marketing education assets; access to webinars, blogs, and videos pertaining to course curriculum; and free GoDaddy products to establish an online presence. Member organizations that have partnered with GoDaddy and AEO for the program currently reach underserved demographics in rural and urban areas, including veterans, women, people of color, immigrants, refugees, returning citizens, seniors, and members of the LGBTQ community. Program length and other components will vary by organization.

Related: Televergence Joins Sullivan Foundation as Corporate Partner for Faculty Staff Fellowship and Summit

“GoDaddy knows that inclusive entrepreneurship fuels local economies, ultimately improving lives,” said Stacy Cline, GoDaddy’s director of corporate citizenship. “We believe that anyone, anywhere should have an equal opportunity to make their entrepreneurial dreams a reality. But we also know that some people don’t have access to the right tools and support to get them going. For the last two years, we’ve worked hard to bring this program to more entrepreneurs, and we are excited to expand our impact with AEO. Empower by GoDaddy seeks to find solutions that are tailored for each community, and we are thrilled to use our knowledge and resources to help underserved entrepreneurs in a way that makes a lasting impact.”

States included in the national rollout are Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

To learn more about the program, visit www.aeoworks.org/our-work/cohorts/empower/

New Charity Charge Credit Card is Designed Specifically for Nonprofits

The first credit card specifically developed for nonprofit organizations is now available nationwide, according to Charity Charge, a public benefit corporation that uses financial technology to empower nonprofits.

The Charity Charge Nonprofit credit card requires no annual fee and offers a 1% rebate directly against the group users’ account balance. Nonprofits can acquire multiple cards with throttled spending limits for its employees, reports Fast Company.

The card “will positively impact nonprofits in your community and nationwide,” said Stephen Garten, Charity Charge’s founder and CEO. “Since August we have been in pre-launch phase, working directly with about 100 nonprofits piloting this first-of-its-kind credit card program for nonprofits. The feedback has been off the charts, and this is something the nonprofit community has desperately needed.”

As Fast Company reports, more than 1.5 million U.S. nonprofits spend $1.8 billion annually, but they’ve always been limited to a standard business credit card or debit card for their expenses.

“Typical business cards require a personal guarantor, adding an awkward layer of liability to whomever signs the paperwork,” Fast Company explained. “Some also have fees, and their reward points structure isn’t ideal for groups that really just need more funds to complete their mission. On the flip side, debit cards are problematic because they take a substantial cash balance if you’re buying things regularly. Plus many don’t have the same level of consumer protection and fraud alerts.”

Charity Charge credit cards are issued by Commerce Bank and managed through Mastercard’s payment network. Any group with at least two years of financial data can apply. The cards are offered at an annual percentage rate of 14.9%, which is several points below the national average, according to Fast Company.

“From today moving forward we are focused on serving as many nonprofits as possible,” Garten said. “I’m filled with so much positivity and optimism and on a mission to change the world.”

 

 

Why Social Entrepreneurship is a Smarter Way of Doing Business

Mission-driven businesses can make more money than traditional profit-only companies because they deliver real value to their communities, according to Henrietta Onwuegbuzie, a Lagos Business School professor and visiting senior lecturer at Yale University’s School of Management (SOM).

As Yale Insights reports, Onwuegbuzie believes social entrepreneurship marks a return to a more traditional business model. “Business, initially, was created to meet the needs of a society, but capitalism derailed that understanding,” she said. “We now believe that you set up a business to make money while nonprofits, charities and government are meant to concern themselves with impacting lives. However, business can be a tool for social transformation while remaining profitable, and we’re losing sight of this.”

In fact, companies that address social issues can have a leg up on their competitors. “Being purpose-driven, mission-driven, impact-driven helps companies grow faster and make more money,” Onwuegbuzie said.

Henrietta Onwuegbuzie

She points to highly successful corporate giants like Microsoft and Amazon as examples of businesses that have impacted society in positive ways while reaping huge profits.

The for-profit vs. nonprofit/charity dichotomy “has led to a world where businesses that could transform the world don’t because they think impact will lead to below-market returns,” said Onwuegbuzie. “On the other hand, those (nonprofits) who are impact-driven are not sustainable because they remain donor-dependent and do not have a business model to ensure their financial sustainability … Impact-driven businesses, on the other hand, are aimed at impacting lives beyond financial returns. They therefore make money while making a difference and … bridge the gap between economic growth and social development by creating shared prosperity and, consequently, a better, safer world.”

Onwuegbuzie related a story about one of her students who was strictly out to make money and doubted that his company could thrive by focusing on social impact.

“We kept going back and forth about it until he finally decided to try the idea of being value- or impact-driven,” she recalled. The man’s company, based in Nigeria, sold educational toys, including dolls, all of which were white with blue eyes and blonde hair “and did not resemble black girls.”

“It therefore occurred to him that he could produce black dolls that would not only make the black girl proud of her brown skin and curly hair but would also help them learn about the three main ethnic groups in Nigeria: Igbo, Hausa, and Yoruba,” Onwuegbuzie recounted.

The Queens of Africa line of black dolls, developed by Nigerian entrepreneur Taofick Okoya, is an example of a product that has social impact while generating profits and media buzz.

“The dolls were dressed in traditional attire for each tribe, and each one came in a box with a little booklet about the culture of each tribe. A portion of the revenues from the dolls was also intended to be used to promote education. (The business owner) identified a dilapidated school in a low-income neighborhood, which he decided to renovate with some of the proceeds from the doll sales. He required the companies he engaged in the renovations to hire local people in the area and train them as they did the work. This arrangement helped build skills in these places.

“By the time the project was completed, he was listed for a state government award. Both the novelty of African dolls with African names and the good works the entrepreneur was carrying out in the community drew attention to him. He has since been interviewed by every single national newspaper, in addition to globally known media like CNN, Forbes, CNBC, and BBC Africa. He told me, ‘For 10 years, I was making money, but not even the most rickety local newspaper cared to hear my voice. Today, I’ve got a global voice because of these dolls. They have brought me more money and fame than all my other toys.’”

Here in the U.S., Toms is an example of a company that delivers value through social impact as well as profits, Onwuegbuzie noted. “The fact that when you buy a pair of Toms shoes, another pair is given to the poor makes people prefer to buy Toms. The model has made the brand popular. People choose Toms shoes because they want to be a part of doing something good.”

Photo by Nnaemeka Ugochukwu

“With purpose-driven businesses, profit ensures business sustainability,” Onwuegbuzie added. “While most social enterprises tend to avoid profits, it is important to build sustainability into a business. Profit can be considered the reward for doing good. It also allows you to expand your business, which allows you to reach and impact more people while keeping your business sustainable. Impact-driven businesses help to bridge the gap between aggressive economic growth and lagging social development.”

Onwuegbuzie called for colleges and universities worldwide to rethink their approach to educating students about entrepreneurship. “I think business schools have a major role to play in transforming society by educating students and business leaders to be impact-driven,” she told Yale Insights. “They have to be imbued with the idea that business can be a tool for social transformation aimed at providing solutions to problems. This is also a competitive strategy, as the wider the impact of the solution, the more money the business makes, because the more relevant it is, the higher will be the demand for it.”