Scottish Social Venture Leads World’s Big Sleep Out Fundraiser for the Homeless

For the homeless, sleeping under the stars isn’t a choice—they’ve got nowhere else to go. Now one of Scotland’s best-known social enterprises has a plan to show more privileged people—including wealthy celebrities—how that feels, while trying to raise $50 million for homelessness and refugee causes around the world.

Social Bite Café, which provides free food to the homeless and the hungry at its five restaurants in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, has organized The World’s Big Sleep Out in at least 50 towns and cities around the globe. Actors Will Smith and Helen Mirren and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin have committed to participate. To better understand the homelessness experience, at least 50,000 people will sleep outside on the night of Dec. 7, 2019, in places like Times Square in New York and Trafalgar Square in London as well as Chicago, Madrid, Belfast, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Manila and many other cities.

For college-age students with an interest in social enterprises like Social Bite, Scotland will be the destination for the Sullivan Foundation’s next study-abroad program in the summer of 2020. Running from June 4-July 4, the program will focus on leadership and social entrepreneurship. Click here for more information.


Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite’s co-founder, said anyone is welcome to join the sleep-out. “Whether you’re sleeping out at an official event or you’re hosting your own sleep-out in your back garden, for one night let’s walk in the shoes of people that we would normally walk past,” he said in a recent video promoting the event.

Founded in 2012 by Littlejohn and his partner, Alice Thompson, Social Bite Café is a chain of five sandwich shops that gave away more than 140,000 free, high-quality food and drink items last year to people in need. As part of the chain’s “pay it forward” model, other customers pay for their own meals and donate money to provide food to less fortunate guests.

Related: Get hands-on experience with social innovation in the Sullivan Foundation’s Selma Community Innovation Immersion Program in Selma, Alabama.

More than a social venture, Social Bite quickly evolved into a popular and highly competitive brand with a reputation that has spread across the UK—not to mention the Atlantic Ocean. The company has drawn attention—and donations—from actors Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney and Chris Evans. In February 2018, the UK’s Prince Harry and his wife, actress Meghan Markel, both advocates of social entrepreneurship, visited one of Social Bite’s Edinburgh locations, met the staff and toured the kitchen.

this photo shows success of Social Bite Cafe in promoting the World's Big Sleep Out to celebrities

The UK’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markel, both advocates of social entrepreneurship, toured the Social Bite Cafe kitchen and met with staff in February 2018.

Thompson and Littlejohn were inspired by Nobel Peace Prize-winning economist Professor Muhammad Yunus to launch the eatery. “Since the beginning, we had that attitude that it was not going to be a small, one-off café,” Thompson told RestoConnection. “We made sure the branding looked very corporate. We wanted Social Bite to look like a shop that could be opened somewhere else.”

From the start, Thompson and Littlejohn used their profits to operate projects that benefit the homeless—and made sure everyone knew it. “We communicated on our social mission,” Thompson told RestoConnection. “We made clear that we were giving profits away and that by coming to us, customers could contribute to something better. Our mission attracted the local press and then the national press. I think the branding and the way we dealt with the press helped us (in) competing with high-end brands.”

this photo shows popularity of Social Bite Cafe with celebrities

George Clooney visited Social Bite Cafe in 2015 and posed for photos with the staff.

After opening their first Social Bite Cafe location, Thomas and Littlejohn befriended a homeless man and often gave him food and drinks. They eventually hired him as a dishwasher. “Then, one day he said he had a brother that was also homeless and would like to work for us,” Thompson recalled. “We employed him as well, and then they had friends who also wanted to work … And we thought that employing homeless people should be part of our business model. From that day forward, we decided that at least ¼ of all our employees should come from a homeless background.”

Related: This social enterprise trains blind women in early detection of breast cancer.

With Chef Dean Gassabi of Maison Bleue, Social Bite also operates Vesta Bar & Kitchen in the west end of Edinburgh. It serves Scottish and French cuisine, donating 50 percent of its profits to charities and causes selected by staff members while the other half goes back to Social Bite. Another shrewdly branded social business, Vesta is known for slogans like “Feel Good Food, Feel Good Actions,” “Eat One, Treat One” and “Get Lunch, Give Lunch.”

this photo shows what the founders of Social Bite Cafe and the World's Big Sleep Out look like

Alice Thompson and Josh Littlejohn are the brains behind both Social Bite Cafe and its homeless program, the World’s Big Sleep Out.

The journey to pulling off December’s international sleep-out began in 2016. The Social Bite owners wanted to help Scottish business executives better empathize with homeless individuals. They organized the CEO Sleepout, in which 350 business leaders slept outside on a cold November night. The event raised more than £550,000 and led to another fundraiser, Sleep in the Park, in 2017. For that campaign, billed as “the world’s largest-ever sleepout,” 8,000 people slept outside at Princes Street Garden and helped raise more than £4 million. They repeated the event in 2018 with 10,000 people in four Scottish cities and brought in nearly £8 million for their quest to end homelessness.

The success of those sleep-outs led to this year’s global event. Social Bite has also developed a similar event for schoolchildren called the Wee Sleep Out. Fifty percent of the funds raised will support local charities in participating cities, while the other half will go to global charities, including the Malala Fund, UNICEF USA and the Institute of Global Homelessness. The ultimate goal is to help 1 million homeless and displaced people worldwide.

Related: The world’s top plastic polluters say they will join the fight to reduce plastic waste.

Is Insect Agriculture Key to the Future of Sustainable Farming?

In a warehouse nicknamed “the Love Shack,” somewhere near Vancouver, black soldier flies are buzzing busily about, mating and making baby bugs and more baby bugs—up to 600 eggs at a time. Left alone, the larvae will quickly mature into grown-up flies, but most will never make it that far. They’re destined for something much greater—helping to solve the problems of sustainable farming, according to Reasons to be Cheerful, the digital news publication founded by rock star/artist David Byrne.

Easy to grow and packed with protein, fat and calcium, black soldier fly (BSF) larvae actually feed on food and agricultural waste—think stale bread, rotting mangoes and squishy veggies. And the larvae, in turn, make a perfectly good meal for livestock, including pigs, chicken and aquaculture-grown fish. After they’re fattened up, the larvae’s bodies can be pressed into a fat-rich oil, while BSF bodies can be ground into a high-fat, high-protein powder meal. Even their molted skins and feces serve a good purpose—they can be processed to make fertilizer.

Feeding the world’s livestock populations is a monumental task that puts considerable strain on the environment. As Technology Networks reports, livestock gobbled down more than 1 billion metric tons of feed in 2016 worldwide. Forty-four percent of the feed was produced for poultry, 27 percent for pigs, 22 percent for cattle and 4 percent for animals grown in aquaculture.

Grains, soy and fishmeal comprise most of the diets for poultry and pigs, while cattle also get small amounts of grain and soy in their diet. Even fish, which mostly eat pellets of fishmeal, consume some soy, grains and legumes.

this infographic illustrates how insects can boost sustainable farming efforts

Black soldier flies require a fraction of the space needed to grow soybeans. (Infographic by EnviroFlight)

Technology Networks notes that 80 percent of the world’s soybean production currently goes to producing animal feed. But growing soybeans requires large tracts of land, harsh chemicals and tremendous amounts of water, resulting in vast deforestation, decreased soil fertility and serious damage to the environment and biodiversity. In other words, feeding the world’s massive populations of livestock pose a vexing problem to companies committed to sustainable farming practices.

Enter the lowly insect. Most livestock species eat bugs anyway. And bug farming requires a tiny fraction of the space needed for soy cultivation. Even better, BSFs feed on waste, thus easing the pressure on landfills. Since wild fish are used to make fishmeal, bug farming could also reduce over-fishing. And unlike most crop plants used for animal feed, insects can be cultivated year-round.

High-level cultivation of BSF larvae can produce between 1 million and 2 million pounds of protein per acre, compared to 1,500 pounds per acre by soybean growers.

As Reasons to be Cheerful reports, Bruce Jowett, director of marketing for Enterra, a Canadian operation that sells farmed fly larvae products to commercial feed companies, said, “This is the future of food. We are diverting food waste from the landfill, and black soldier fly larvae convert it into protein.”

Chickens consume 44 percent of livestock feed.

Enterra is one of a number of early-stage insect agriculture companies, most of which raise BSFs. European companies include AgriGrub in England and Protix, which operates farms in the Netherlands and China. France’s InnovaFeed has built the world’s largest insect production facility to date and produces 300 tons of insect meal per year, with plans to scale up to 10,000 tons annually.

Meanwhile, McDonald’s is exploring the use of insect agriculture for chicken feed to cut back on the need for soy protein. “That pioneering work is currently at the proof-of-concept stage,” Nicola Robinson, the sustainable supply chain manager for McDonald’s Corp., told Reuters last year. “We are encouraged by initial results and are committed to continuing to support further research.”

Reuters also notes that insect agriculture must still pass muster with government regulators, who need to make sure ground-up bugs won’t introduce new toxins into the food supply. Thomas Gremillion, director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, said the method of using insects as animal feed must be thoroughly tested before consumers will accept it. “If there was a big change in how animals are being fed, I’d want to see some extra scrutiny of whether the animals were accumulating any kinds of toxins from the insects,” he told Reuters.

5 Examples of Earned Revenue Strategies for Nonprofits

By Katie Russell, Content Strategist, Charity Charge

Traditionally, the idea of charging money (for almost anything) at a nonprofit has been a point of contention. In addition to serving communities and fighting for important causes, this is one of the core elements differentiating for-profits and nonprofits. Nonprofit = not in the pursuit of revenue. 

If you’re in the nonprofit world today, you know this is changing and that the term “earned revenue” is picking up steam in the NGO world. As today’s consumers and donors are evolving, so must nonprofits. The time has come for CFOs and Development Directors to search for ways to generate sustainable, dependable revenue and go beyond large galas and year-end fundraising pushes. Today I’m going to dive into some of my favorite earned revenue strategies and initiatives!

1: College Forward

College Forward is an Austin-based nonprofit

Photo via: College Forward

College Forward is an Austin-based nonprofit that coaches underserved, motivated students to achieve the benefits of higher education and a college degree. They do this not only through programs but through their own technology platform, CoPilot. This technology platform is a cloud-based student information system built on the platform, which they sell to partner organizations. From academic info, financial aid, and crucial student data, this earned revenue initiative brings cutting-edge technology to schools and organizations focused on helping kids get into and succeed in college. The Copilot Program now has over 40 partners (or customers) who’ve purchased the product and helped over 300,000 kids. 

The Copilot Program is an excellent example of taking something you already use, realizing its worth, and selling it to spread impact and bring wealth back into your organization.

2: Old Skool Cafe


Photo via: Old School Cafe

The Old Skool Cafe is a nonprofit based out of San Francisco, CA, founded with the goal of serving at-risk youth. On the front end, it’s an upscale comfort food restaurant with live entertainment, but on the back end, it is much more. Behind the scenes, youth in the community are getting industry training and real work experience at Old Skool Cafe. The nonprofit teaches and trains kids and young adults from the ages of 16-22 to run all forms of the restaurant business, from hosting to serving, cooking, and even performing. In addition to support from donors and community partners, the money generated from the restaurant venue is a substantial revenue stream for the nonprofit. 

To me, what is so incredible about this earned revenue initiative is how intertwined it is with the work. Old Skool’s earned revenue initiative ties the business and mission together so tightly that, arguably, one wouldn’t exist without the other! 

3: Emancipet

Emancipet Nonprofit

Photo via: Emancipet

Emancipet is a nonprofit working to provide veterinarian care to all dog owners in Houston, Austin, Philadelphia and more. Their self-supporting earned revenue stream comes from their discounted spay and neuter services. According to their website, Emanicapet generates more than $12 million a year—which gives them enough money to offer free spay and neuter services to 60 percent of clients. This revenue structure has enabled them to spay or neuter over 350,000 dogs and cats since their formation in 1999.

The thing that stands out to me about this structure is leadership’s acknowledgment and faith in their expertise. An earned revenue model like this enables you to charge those who can afford their services while providing it free to those who can’t. 

4: Welcoming America

Welcoming America

Photo via: Welcoming America

With locations nationwide, Welcoming America’s Business Line is one of the most diverse revenue streams I’ve seen yet. As an organization, Welcoming America is on a mission to lead a movement of inclusion in communities and foster the belief that all people, including immigrants, are vital to society’s success. This mission led them to establish a huge network of partners in over 500 communities, and their earned revenue models simply leverage access to this network. They’ve got several sources of revenue, including direct mail marketing, sponsored content, customized trainings, sponsor certifications, and access to their business council. All of these simply enable businesses to connect and engage in immigrant inclusion. 

What I find so great about their approach is their replication of a classic for-profit sector strategy, leveraging your connections to bring in income. This practice is commonly seen with people selling access to their database through targeted emails or sponsored content. 

Welcoming America knows their strength is connecting people of all backgrounds, and now they’re helping businesses bridge that gap (for a fee). What is your nonprofit’s strength that businesses might pay for? 

5: Texas Tribune

Texas Tribune is a nonprofit media outlet

Photo via: Texas Tribune

Texas Tribune is a nonprofit media outlet in Texas focused on engaging Texans on public policy, government, and state-wide issues. While they are largely supported by donors and corporate sponsors, they’ve established several other revenue streams to support the expansion of their media outlets. 

Similar to some of the other revenue streams we’ve discussed above, Texas Tribune charges for their expertise in political reporting, through a subscription to their newsletter. But they’ve also branched out beyond this by creating and renting out their space for events and creating their own festival.

Texas Tribune is a great example of an NGO expanding and growing with today’s culture. To ensure success, media outlets now have to go far beyond just newspapers and online journals in order to truly engage with their members. How could you actively engage your donors or supporters further and make a profit from it?

If you’re a nonprofit leader, building a scalable earned revenue stream is something to look into. This can provide stability and freedom to expand your nonprofit.

If all this sounds a little daunting, here’s a small step you can take: look into a nonprofit credit card. You can start bringing in cash-back and benefits with every purchase your organization makes!

This post, 5 Examples of Nonprofit Earned Revenue Strategies, appeared first on Charity Charge.

Katie Russell is the Demand Generation Manager at The SAFE Alliance, Content Strategist at Charity Charge, and a freelance marketing consultant. Katie is an innovative problem solver. Whether it’s campaign management, event planning, digital content strategy, or copywriting, she’s quick to find the right marketing mix. Her social and communications skills have led her to love working directly with clients, media, and creative teams. In her spare time she enjoys volleyball, guitar, hiking, and exploring new restaurants in Austin, TX! To learn more about her work or submit a marketing inquiry, please visit her website.

Social Enterprise Trains Blind Women to Detect Early Signs of Cancer

An innovative social enterprise in Germany uses visually impaired women to detect early signs of cancer through their enhanced sense of touch. Founded by gynecologist Frank Hoffman, Discovering Hands provides jobs for blind and visually impaired people and helps them turn their disability into a marketable skill that also saves lives.

Hoffman’s team trains Medical Tactile Examiners (MTEs) to carry out physical breast examinations for early detection of tumors. According to the company’s website, MTEs can “feel about 30 percent more tissue changes than doctors,” identifying tiny tumors and improving breast cancer patients’ survival rates substantially.

“Blind and partially sighted women have a special gift: a superior sense of touch,” the website states. After a nine-month training program, these MTEs “use their outstanding abilities to discover even very small changes in the breast tissue at an early stage.” The MTEs do not take the place of physicians and don’t diagnose directly; rather, they assist the doctors by lending their enhanced tactile sensitivity to the examination process.

this photo shows a medical tactile examiner learning to use braille strips to identify spots where tumors are found

Medical tactile examiners often work with braille strips to help pinpoint the location of breast cancer tumors.

According to the Global Journal, one study found that these examiners (also called Clinical Breast Examiners) “have an approximately 50 percent better rate of overall detection than doctors and an improvement of approximately 30 percent when it comes to [detecting] smaller tissue alterations in the breast.”

Use of the technique has expanded to health centers in Colombia and Mexico. In a May 2019 story, The Guardian reported on an MTE, Francia Papamija, who conducts breast examinations at the La Rivera health clinic in Cali, Columbia. Papamija started progressively losing her vision as a child due to a detached retina. Now she conducts about 10 breast examinations a day at La Rivera. “Using her fingertips, Papamija explores a woman’s breasts, underarms and neck during a 45-minute examination,” the article explains. “She is guided by five adhesive strips marked in Braille, so wherever she finds a lump she can report to the doctor its exact location. No centimeter will be ignored.” Papamija passes her findings on to the doctor, who arranges more tests.

“They [the MTEs] have this gift in their fingers,” Dr. Luis Alberto Olave, who runs the program at La Rivera, told The Guardian. “If they are trained, their disability can become a talent, a strength, and can be used for helping other people. Nodules are the first cancer symptom. The faster we find them, the faster we will have an impact on the projection of the illness, and that may mean saving lives.”

this photo shows the training process for a medical tactile examiner

A tactile examination performed by a highly trained blind or visually impaired person can better detect possible tumors.

The technique is especially useful in Colombia. The county has a lower breast cancer rate than many developed countries, “but we have a huge disadvantage,” Olave said. “We are failing on early detection.”

Leidy Garcia, a visually impaired MTE at another Cali clinic, has examined more than 2,500 patients, according to The Guardian. After the trauma of losing her sight, her job as an MTE has been empowering, she said. “This job gives me huge self-confidence,” she said. “Now I feel free, independent and useful. I can contribute to the community.”

“For people with disabilities, it’s so hard to find a job because of bias and boundaries inside companies, so this is a great opportunity based on our talent,” she added. “It’s also a good way to change the mindset of society, which usually patronizes blind people, thinking we are not able to do many things.”

Will and Jaden Smith Partner With Footwear Brand to Save the Amazon Rainforest

A new collaboration between footwear brand Allbirds and Jaden Smith’s JUST Water isn’t just for kicks—the proceeds will go to help protect the endangered Amazon rainforests.

The two social enterprises have joined forces to design new limited-edition sneakers inspired by JUST’s infused water flavors. The result: stylish new designs for Allbirds’ Tree Topper high-top sneakers and Tree Runner sneakers. The sneakers feature JUST’s signature aqua blue in various elements of the shoe, such as the laces, eyelets and soles.

Allbirds and JUST are both committed to sustainability and creating products out of natural materials. JUST’s responsibly sourced spring water comes in plant-based cartons, while Allbirds makes its sneakers with fiber material from FSC-certified eucalyptus trees. The latter also manufactures its SweetFoam soles using Brazilian sugar cane.

this shows jaden smith in action

Jaden Smith, son of actor Will Smith, is an activist and social entrepreneur.

The two companies have said they will donate 100 percent of the sneakers’ proceeds to Leonardo DiCaprio’s Earth Alliance Amazon Forest Fund. DiCaprio is also an Allbirds investor.

“There is only one Mother Earth, and it’s on us to protect her,” Will Smith, JUST cofounder and Jaden Smith’s father, told in early September. Referring to the wildfires that have ravaged the Amazon rainforests, Smith noted, “We source JUST sugarcane caps from Brazil, so this hits especially close to home. Collaborating with businesses who are creating innovative, sustainable solutions are the key to our future, and it’s important that we support these brands who give back more than they take.”

Scientists describe the Amazon, the world’s largest tropical forest, as “the planet’s lungs” because it produces 20 percent of Earth’s oxygen. Preserving the Amazon rainforest is key to combating climate change.

this photo illustrates the attractiveness of the shoes

Allbirds’ shoes are made with fiber material from FSC-certified eucalyptus trees.

Allbirds and JUST are both certified B corporations. A certified B corporation is a for-profit corporation that has been certified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization that measures a company’s social and environmental performance against the rigorous standards in the online B Impact Assessment. B Lap uses a triple bottom line framework in assessing B corporations. Triple bottom line refers to a company’s standard of social, environmental and corporate responsibility—that is, the corporation not only turns a profit but it also provides benefits to society and the environment.

“We are legally required to consider the impact of our decisions on our team, customers, suppliers, community and the environment,” Allbirds stated in a Facebook post last month. “We’ve been a B corp since the beginning, and we are proud to be a part of the global movement of people using business as a force for good.”

This 12-Year-Old Social Entrepreneur Uses Bowties to Help Shelter Animals Get Adopted

Puppies are cute, but a puppy in a bowtie? That’s irresistible, and no one understands that better than 12-year-old Darius Brown, founder of Beaux and Paws in Newark, New Jersey.

According to Points of Light, the young entrepreneur hit upon the idea for his social enterprise in 2017, as he watched TV coverage of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the devastation they wrought in Texas and Florida. Among the victims were countless dogs, cats and other animals left homeless and in dire need of adoption. As overcrowded shelters struggled to find new forever homes for the animals—and were forced to consider euthanasia—Darius turned to his trusty sewing machine for the solution. He started making handcrafted bowties specifically for shelter animals to make them more appealing in the adoption process.

this picture shows the cuteness of a dog in a bowtie

A dapper bowtie can make a homeless pet more appealing to potential adoptive families.

“My hope was that I would help the animals get noticed and be fashionable so that I could help them get adopted faster and find their safe, loving forever homes,” Darius told Points of Light.

Darius has since sewn hundreds of bowties for dogs, cats, puppies and kittens awaiting adoption in shelters—and the national media has taken notice of his hard work. He was featured on NBC’s Today Show in July. He has also appeared on CNN, the Rachael Ray Show and ABC World News Now as well as in People Magazine and the New York Post, among other media accolades.

Not many kids his age even know how to work a sewing machine, much less design and create stylish accoutrements. For Darius, learning to sew was a necessity. When he was two years old, he was diagnosed with speech delay, comprehension delay and fine motor skills delay. With help from his mother and older sister, Dazhai, he improved his fine motor skills by sewing and, over time, overcame the issues with comprehension and speech as well.

illustrates the appeal of a cat wearing a bowtie

This shelter cat got a fashion makeover from bowtie designer Darius Brown.

It helped that Dazhai was attending cosmetology school at the time and learning how to make hair ribbons for girls. “With his fine motor skills, (Darius) wasn’t able to really use his hands very well—tying a shoe was challenging,” Dazhai told Today. “My mother and I came up with the idea that if he helped us with things like prepping the ribbon or cutting it and sewing fabric together, it would help him. And it did. It worked!”

“I just feel like all this was God’s will,” his mother, Joy Brown, told Points of Light. “Him learning how to sew and his hands making the bowties, it developed his coordination, and it’s like there’s no problem, like nothing was ever wrong.”

Darius also started wearing the dapper bowties himself out in public, prompting people on the street to ask where they could buy them. He founded Beaux and Paws in 2017 and offers bowties for sale to people and their pets. Profits from those sales help him purchase materials to make more bowties for shelters, and he also donates a portion of every sale to the ASPCA. Meanwhile, his ongoing GoFundMe campaign, “Sir Darius’ PAW-some Mission,” started with a goal of $10,000 and has raised more than $19,000 so far, with donations still pouring in. Darius uses the money to visit other states and volunteer at shelters and adoption centers while outfitting homeless animals in snazzy bowties everywhere he goes.

Darius’ Instagram account has more than 52,000 followers, while his company’s Facebook page has 4,400 followers. He even received a letter from President Obama in 2018 commending him for “lifting up the lives of those around you.”

His next goal: He’d like to own a dog of his own, but pets aren’t allowed in the building where he lives. Over the long term, he wants to attend Stanford University and become a business attorney while continuing as a fashion innovator. “I want to have my own clothing line, such as blazers, vests, bowties, shirts, everything,” Darius told Points of Light. “I hope that I can expand my business into an empire.”

this photo illustrates why bowties make dogs cuter

Grade-Schoolers’ Social Enterprise Turns a Profit in 10 Weeks

A group of pint-sized social entrepreneurs in Brainerd, Minnesota, launched a sporting-goods business that turned a profit in just 10 weeks, with a local nonprofit reaping the benefit.

The kids, age 9-12, participated in a Junior Achievement program at the Brainerd Family YMCA. The 10-week program was modified to focus on social entrepreneurship, letting the kids launch a business that would fill a need or solve a problem in their community.

The result was Sports 4 Life, which rounded up new or gently used sporting equipment that had been outgrown by local kids and resold the items, reports the Brainerd Dispatch.

According to Shane Riffle, CEO of the YMCA, the kids decided to use any profit from the business to support a new sports-related community nonprofit called Instant Replay. “Their goal is to get sporting equipment into the hands of kids who can’t afford it, particularly kids just starting out in the sport,” Riffle told the Dispatch.

this photo shows excitement of the Sports 4 Life kids

Two members of the Sports 4 Life social entrepreneurship team show off the company’s first earned dollar.

To launch the social venture, the young entrepreneurs took out a loan from the Brainerd Economic Development Corp. Sports 4 Life was open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, in front of the YMCA. “They set up a tent and tables every day, so they had to figure out the logistics of actually taking the donations, storing them and setting up a storefront. They also did a lot of hands-on marketing out on the (street) corners and radio ads and a couple of newspaper ads as well,” Riffle said in the Dispatch interview.

As word spread, a local PBS station even ran a story on the company. “We wanted it to be just like a real business – there’s always the potential that it could fail, but we wanted them to experience the whole range of what it would go through,” Riffle told Lakeland PBS.

By the end of the 10-week period, the children had cleared a whopping $873.53 after paying off the startup loan and other expenses. “That’s more than a lot of our high school companies make, so you guys really did a fantastic job,” Amy Gray, a Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest manager, told the kids.

“To the best of my knowledge, nobody else in the country is doing this program with this age group of kids, so it’s been really fun, and it’s been a great partnership with the YMCA,” Gray told Lakeland PBS.


Ignite Retreat Speaker Leads Charge to Reduce Plastic Waste in Durham, N.C.

A speaker at the Sullivan Foundation’s upcoming Fall Ignite Retreat is leading the charge to cut back on single-use plastic bags in Durham, North Carolina, and some city leaders are responding positively.

Crystal Dreisbach, the executive director of Don’t Waste Durham, convinced members of Durham’s Environmental Affairs Board to support her proposed city ordinance to reduce waste by charging shoppers 10 cents apiece for most single-use bags. The ordinance would apply to both plastic and paper bags. Instead, shoppers would be encouraged to bring their own (preferably reusable) bags. Some consumers would be exempt from the fee, including those who receive SNAP or WIC benefits.

Members of the Environmental Affairs Board voted unanimously to support to the ordinance, according to media reports. There are more hoops to jump, however, before the proposal makes it to the City Council for a final vote.

A post on Don’t Waste Durham’s Facebook page hailed the Environmental Affairs Board vote as “a small but significant victory for Planet Earth … There is still much work to be done, but this draft legislation has now passed through the first checkpoint on its journey to becoming a law.

A separate comment on the post noted that the organization has been working toward this goal for seven-and-a-half years. notes that the fee would be charged at the point of purchase in grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores and delivery services. Stores would also be allowed to sell or give away reusable bags. Pharmacies would be exempt, along with hospitals and food banks, and plastic bags for carrying fruits and vegetables would not be covered by the ordinance.

Crystal Dreisbach is also the founder of Green To-Go, a social enterprise that helps reduce waste in restaurant takeout food.

Starting August 1, the state of Connecticut now places a tax of 10 cents apiece on single-use plastic bags. A full ban on plastic bags will go into effect in July 2021. According to the Hartford Courant, the bag tax will raise an estimated $30.2 million in the current fiscal year and $26.8 million in 2020-21.

Boulder, Colorado, has a 10-cent fee for plastic and paper bags, with store owners keeping four cents and six cents going to the city, NC Policy Watch reports. Portland and South Portland, Maine, charge five cents per bag, and so does Washington, D.C.

A number of states have banned single-use plastics entirely, as National Geographic reports. Vermont has a new law going into effect in July 2020 that prohibits retailers and restaurants from handing out single-use carryout bags, plastic cups and stirrers, and food containers made from expanded polystyrene. Hawaii, California, Maine and New York have all banned disposable plastic bags.

Additionally, at least 95 bills related to plastic bags have been introduced at the state level in 2019. Most would ban the bags or place some kind of fee on them. However, some are aimed at preventing local governments from enacting any kind of bag-related ordinances on their own.

Dreisbach will speak about her organization’s efforts to reduce plastic waste at the Sullivan Foundation’s Fall Ignite Retreat, to be held October 18-20 in Asheville, N.C. She’s also the social entrepreneur behind Green To-Go, a reusable takeout food container service in Durham that helps reduce waste related to restaurants.

This Houston Organization Aims to Break the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Disadvantaged Youths

Keeping more young people in school will keep them out of prison and on track for better job opportunities, and that’s the goal of Eight Million Stories, launched by Marvin Pierre in Houston.

Eight Million Stories is an alternative education program that helps young ex-offenders re-enter society, complete their GEDs and find jobs. The four-month program, which serves youths age 16 to 18, is designed “to help students build meaningful relationships in their community, access a wide range of social services, develop critical life and job skills, complete their education (GED), and secure meaningful employment,” Pierre said in a Q&A for the TNTP blog.

A longtime educator who has also worked in the investment banking industry, Pierre developed Eight Million Stories while he was a TNTP Bridge Fellow. The program is voluntary, and students must opt in and first commit to a two-week onboarding session.

According to the organization’s website, students spend half of their time taking GED classes and preparing for the GED Test. About 40 percent of their time is spent in job training programs offered through YouthBuild Texas. Here, they take occupational skills classes and can earn a stipend working for local businesses. They can also work toward earning one of four credentials: the NCCER Core Credential; the Multi-Craft Core Credential; the Customer Service and Sales Credential; and the Office Essentials Credential.

They also participate in enrichment programming to develop their leadership skills and learn by performing community service.

Eight Million Stories founder Marvin Pierre (right) with a program participant

“We believe that there are a lot of commonalities in terms of why kids end up in the juvenile justice system, whether it’s broken homes or lack of support in the school system or other factors,” Pierre told TNTP. “If you interview every kid in the system, you’ll find there’s a common thread. That’s what we’re trying to undo. If we attack those commonalities, then we can aggressively work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The program can also help young people escape poverty and reduce the country’s prison population. Above all, it gives them a chance to redefine themselves. “For young people involved in the juvenile justice system, society has written their stories for them,” Pierre noted. “We want our students to learn from their past mistakes and be in a position to rewrite their own stories.”

Frisky Felines and Job Training Make Calico Cat Café the Purrfect Social Enterprise

They have cute names like Biscuits, Gravy and Bugsy, but the frisky felines at the Calico Cat Café aren’t just part of the scenery—they’re one of several elements that make this Zillah, Washington eatery a “purrfect” social-enterprise concept.

Scheduled to open in late August, Calico Cat Café will provide job training and employment for individuals with autism and other disabilities while also helping find forever homes for rescue cats. A project of Community SEEDS (Support, Education, Empowerment, Disability Solutions), a nonprofit that serves families with adult children who have disabilities, it’s a pilot project of the SEEDS Center’s social enterprise campus, which is the first of its kind in Washington state.

The Calico Cat Cafe is also a restaurant concept guaranteed to get media attention and attract cat-loving customers. While they wait on their burgers, sandwiches, soups and sweet treats, guests can sit back and watch the rescue cats frolic and tussle in indoor and outdoor areas separated by glass walls from the dining room. They can also donate to the cause for an opportunity to play with the cats in an indoor lounge outfitted with cat books, toys and a shaded “catio.”

Once the restaurant opens, customers will have the chance to adopt the kitties that capture their hearts.

At the same time, SEEDS Center clients get training in foodservice and culinary management in the cafe. Elsewhere on the SEEDS Center’s three-acre campus, they can also learn about event management, horticulture and pet services. According to the Yakima Herald, eight of the Calico Cat Café’s 13 current employees have disabilities.

Community Seeds launched the SEEDS Center with $75,000 from Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services about a year ago. The organization also had to raise $50,000 in cash and in-kind donations for the Calico Cat Café segment of the campus.