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.

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.”

 

Ebonie Johnson Cooper Aims to Build Bridges Between Nonprofits and People of Color

People of color are shockingly underrepresented in the offices and boardrooms of nonprofits nationwide, but that won’t continue if Ebonie Johnson Cooper has anything to say about it.

As founder of the Young, Black and Giving Back Institute (YBGB), Cooper educates the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors about the value of enlisting the African-American community in its changemaking efforts. YBGB offers “safe spaces for leaders of color to network, learn and grow together in their respective roles as donors, board members and social entrepreneurs,” according to Cooper’s personal website.

YBGB enjoys the support of corporate, philanthropic and educational giants like Wells Fargo Advisors, Johns Hopkins University and Teach for America. Cooper herself has been featured in Essence and the Washington Post and was named to Jet magazine’s 2013 “40 Under 40” list of African-American leaders.

 

Ebonie Johnson Cooper, one of Jet Magazine’s “40 Under 40” in 2013, is helping people of color establish themselves as leaders in the nonprofit sector.

Cooper works to remedy what is called the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) deficit. A 2011 report from Commongood Careers and the Level Playing Field Institute, called “The Voice of Nonprofit Talent: Perceptions of Diversity,” found that about 82 percent of nonprofit sector employees are white, while only 10 percent are African-American and 5 percent Latino. Additionally, people of color only make up about 16 percent of nonprofit leaders, 5 percent of philanthropic leaders, and 14 percent of board members.

According to Philanthropy Digest, the “Voice of Nonprofit Talent” report demonstrates that “the lack of actionable practices in hiring, professional development and leadership selection, as well as the absence of diversity among senior management, creates obstacles to recruiting and retaining diverse talent.”

More than 50 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act, only 62 percent of Americans are non-Hispanic whites, yet “Americans of color still struggle for their voice in many areas of society, namely philanthropy,” Cooper wrote for the nonprofit blog NPEngage.com in 2017. “But why or how can this be? Don’t nonprofits and foundations realize they need diverse individuals’ help to solve society’s most pressing issues?”

To address the DEI deficit, Cooper’s YBGB brings together young black professionals with a commitment to making change and equips them with the tools and resources they need for effective leadership. Her organization hosts the annual Changing the Face of Philanthropy Summit, a small-cohort gathering that convenes heads of foundations, top national fundraisers and media leaders with young black professionals engaged in community problem-solving.

In her NPEngage blog, Cooper notes that one survey found 20 percent of African-Americans agreed with the statement, “I would support more nonprofits if I was asked more often,” compared to nine percent of all donors. “In my own research,” Cooper adds, “48 percent of black millennials surveyed said nonprofits don’t do enough to engage them.”

She also notes that black Americans have always been quick to give back to the community, and “black millennials are following in the footsteps of those who have come before them.” One 2013 survey found that 92 percent of black millennials said they spent time volunteering, while 65 percent said they had donated more than $100 in one year.

She also pointed out that a Diversity in Giving report showed African-American donors “tend to give to nonprofits in smaller ways such as toy and food drives and donations at grocery store registers.” Another report found that African-Americans give 25 percent more of their income per year than whites and that nearly two-thirds of African-American households donate to nonprofits, giving $11 billion annually.

“Nonprofits should not discount the small gifts of African-American donors,” Cooper wrote. “Finding ways to meet black donors where they are and leverage all gifts, whether large or small, will begin to establish relationships necessary for longterm sustainability … Everyone is not using diversity or millennials as a tool for increased engagement and more effective results.”

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.

Campbell University: Cooking Up Social Change

Campbell University, a growing campus that has anchored Buies Creek, North Carolina, since its 1887 founding as Buies Creek Academy, didn’t have to become a Sullivan School to lead its students into lives of service. The institution’s mission is “to graduate students with exemplary academic and professional skills who are prepared for purposeful lives and meaningful service.”

But Campbell’s focus on civic responsibility converges perfectly with the Sullivan Foundation’s support of changemakers intent on improving lives and outlooks.

Campbell’s more than 6,200 students prepare to be servant leaders in disciplines from business to medicine, sports management to engineering, divinity to homeland security, to name just a few. The student body logs an average of 80,000 service hours yearly in projects such as an annual spring Inasmuch Day of Service and a Mustard Seed Community Garden that donates produce to a local food pantry.

Ready to ignite

Campbell’s longtime focus on service today aims directly at the needs of underserved communities–globally, nationally, and especially in rural areas. Intent on building on Campbell’s history with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation, the office of its president, Dr. J. Bradley Creed, issued a University-wide memo calling on all undergraduate deans to nominate their most promising changemakers to attend the October 2017 Ignite Retreat in Black Mountain, North Carolina.

Not surprisingly, Kelly Fuqua and Daphanie Doane, the president and vice-president of Campbell’s Social Entrepreneurship Club, respectively, were among the 11 Campbell Camels who attended the retreat. Both were attending Ignite for the second time. They went to Ignite the first time to define social entrepreneurship for themselves.

“Last year I attended the Ignite retreat to truly get a better understanding of what social entrepreneurship is and what it means to be a social entrepreneur,” says Doane. “It really opened my eyes into the world of social change and what I could do to better my local community.”

This time around, Fuqua and Doane went to Ignite to hone their skills at organizing, networking, fundraising, and promoting social change programs on campus. Involved in myriad projects and carrying hefty course loads, both name Campbell SOUP as their “pet project” and want to boost student participation for the next event.

Hungry for innovation

Based on a Detroit SOUP community peer-to-peer funding model launched in 2010, Doane describes Campbell SOUP as “a micro-granting dinner that provides the opportunity for local start-ups, non-profits, or anyone with an idea to win funds to support their project.” Attendees pay $5 at the door for a meal of bread, salad, soup, a drink, and a voting ballot. They listen to presenters’ five-minute pitches, then vote to fund the most deserving, winner-take-all project.

SOUP at Campbell was started in 2016 by the Social Entrepreneurship club’s then-president Diane Ford, who also attended two Ignite retreats, including one with Doane and Fuqua. After hosting successful events in November 2016 and April 2017, Ford graduated in May and handed over the reins of the club, and the SOUP, to her friends.

Attendees of the most recent SOUP came to Campbell’s Lynch Auditorium and voted Buddy Backpack of Angier the winner, providing the organization with the proceeds of the evening, matched by the Campbell Office of Spiritual Life. Buddy Backpack provides low-income elementary schoolers with nutritious food over school-year weekends and holidays, and the Campbell event is funding this for one student for more than a year.

 

Finding inspiration in service

2019 BBA/MBA candidate Fuqua is driven by a desire to see renewed hope and faith carried out in action. She volunteered with New Hanover County Teen Court all through high school, an experience that influenced her chosen career path.

“I want to pursue juvenile justice, among other things,” she says. “To change the way younger generations view legal systems, authorities, and general respect.”

Doane’s changemaking resolve was strengthened last summer working as a mentor for the Campbell Youth Theological Institute, which focused on social change. She worked with the Five N Two food pantry in Harnett County as well as the Metanoia Community in Charleston, South Carolina.

“It was amazing to see the projects they had set in place and had accomplished to better their community,” says Doane.

Before the spring Ignite retreat in Raleigh, North Carolina, Doane and Fuqua will accompany Professor Scott Kelly, Instructor of Business & Entrepreneurship, to the 19th Annual Social Enterprise Conference presented by students at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. And then there’s program planning–including a beefed-up Campbell SOUP–for the University’s 12th annual Business Week event April 2-6, 2018. Fuqua and Doane were instrumental in shaping the Social Entrepreneurship theme of the weeklong event.

How Malawi’s Pizza Is Leading the Social Enterprise Movement in the Pizzeria Segment

As part of its mission to combat food insecurity in Malawi, Africa, Malawi’s Pizza donates meals made with locally grown grains to feed hungry children.

At Malawi’s Pizza, headquartered in Provo, Utah, every pizza sold means a free nutritious meal for a hungry child in Africa.

With four locations in Utah, Texas and Virginia, Malawi’s Pizza is one of a number of social enterprises in the pizza restaurant segment. The company’s slogan, “Pizza With a Purpose,” reflects its mission to combat food insecurity, while its name refers to the geographic focus of that mission: Malawi, a small nation in southern Africa that’s considered one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world.

Chef Kent Anderson co-founded Malawi’s Pizza as a social enterprise to address food insecurity in Malawi.

Co-founded in 2010 by Blake Roney and Chef Kent Anderson, Malawi’s Pizza works with the international aid organization, Feed the Children. Every month, Malawi’s management team tallies up the number of meals sold to its customers, then donates funds to produce the same number of meals for Malawi children facing food insecurity. The meals use locally grown grains—such as maize, soybean and millet—which are milled and blended with essential vitamins and nutrients before packaging and distribution to children in need. The nutritive supplement is specifically designed for growing children’s bodies.

As of late 2017, the company had donated more than 1 million meals. Each Malawi’s franchisee also partners with a local hunger-fighting charity.

“The donations are a one-for-one exchange—for every guest we serve, we feed a child who otherwise would not eat that day,” Anderson told Fast Casual.

Kids in the tiny, impoverished African nation of Malawi deal with food insecurity every day.

Concepts like Malawi’s touch a chord with younger Americans, who also happen to love pizza. “Consumers are interested in more meaning from their dining experience,” said Dr. Ben Litalien, founder and principal of Franchise Well, which developed the model for Malawi’s. “They want transparency in the menu, cooking methods, and even in the ownership, with an emphasis on local. Malawi’s franchise is timely and naturally appeals to experience-minded consumers, with an open format and a commitment to making a difference through the meal donation program.”

5000 Pies offers culinary training to help prepare young adults for careers in the foodservice industry.

Although the concept of social entrepreneurship has deep roots in the UK and in many under-developed countries, it has only recently begun to flourish in the U.S. But a number of pizza restaurants have joined the movement, including 5000 Pies, which offers culinary training and life-skills coaching to young adults in West Long Beach, California, and Cornerstone Pizza, founded by a St. Ignatius, Montana pastor, which funnels all of its profits into the local public schools and other nonprofits.

Litalien noted that American consumers, especially millennials, are looking for “deeper meaning in all aspects of life experiences and not just a transaction. Millennials consider anything they do or buy via their smartphone a transaction, so fixed-location concepts must focus on deeper experiential environments to draw them in. Chef-inspired Malawi’s is crossing the demographic divide with meaning for millennials and gourmet meals for boomers. Franchise concepts of the future would do well to pay attention.”

This article was reprinted by permission of PMQ Pizza Magazine.

High-Fashion Brand Creates Jobs for Female Prisoners

In under-developed countries like Thailand and Peru, extreme poverty can lead women—especially young mothers—to acts of desperation, and that can lead to prison. But Danish social entrepreneur Veronica D’Souza has hit upon a way to help female inmates make a living wage behind bars—through the power of high fashion.

D’Souza and her partner, Louise van Hauen, founded Carcel, an online fashion brand featuring clothing made by female prisoners, in 2016, according to Forbes.com. Carcel’s employees are mostly young mothers from impoverished circumstances who committed crimes to feed or buy medicine for their children.

Female prisoners in under-developed countries are helping create designer clothing in the minimalist style popular in Denmark.

Carcel employees work between four and five hours a day, five days a week, and earn a salary in accordance with the national living wage set by the International Labour Organization. They make everything from sweaters and jogging pants to skirts and dresses, using fabrics made from baby alpaca wool and silk. And their designs have landed Carcel on the Zoe Report’s list of “7 Danish Fashion Brands Every It Girl Keeps Tabs On.”

D’Souza also operates the mission-driven business, Ruby Cup, which educates poor women and girls about menstrual hygiene. When her travels brought her to a women’s prison, she began to hatch her idea for Carcel.

“I was curious about why these women were incarcerated—I had no images of what the prisons would be like,” D’Souza told Forbes. “The first thing that struck me when I entered was the fact that it felt like a village. These were ordinary women who had to provide for their families and ended up committing crimes such as drug trafficking or theft.”

These female inmates – mostly non-violent women from impoverished backgrounds – are making a living wage behind bars working for Carcel.

The women whiled away the long hours with craftwork, D’Souza noted. “Prisoners are encouraged to engage in activities, but these women didn’t have anywhere to sell their products, and when they got out, they were further impoverished, which felt wasteful. The idea of turning forgotten resources into dignified jobs was born.”

Carcel’s website openly describes the company’s use of prison labor to manufacture its goods. A new line of silk clothing, the home page states, was “made by incredible women in a maximum security prison in Chiang Mai,” a region of Thailand.

The site page describing the silk line continues: “More than 2,000 women are doing time (in the prison), 80% of them for drug-related crimes. Ten sewing machines on the second floor are operated by our wonderful team of women. They’re making flawless twill dresses, heavy denim-looking jackets, hand-embroidered bucket bags and checkered blazers.”

Carcel’s apparel for women are made with high-quality silks and baby alpaca wool.

Carcel’s apparel are designed in a simple, minimalist style popular in Denmark. Every garment created by the prisoners bears a simple inside label with the name of the woman who made it.

Working for Carcel helps the female inmates take care of the loved ones they left behind, D’Souza told Forbes. “Working with a maximum-security prison means that the women have long sentences, so it’s important to focus on skills training and how this job can enable them to support their families financially from the inside.”

“When social entrepreneurship meets fashion, there’s room for pioneers,” D’Souza added. “It’s a dream for us to create a model that’s impactful socially and can be an example. Hopefully, big corporations will see that there’s a market for fashion that solves social problems.”

Ex-Offender Creates App to Keep Prisoners Connected With Their Families

When a judge sentenced Marcus Bullock to eight years in prison for carjacking, the teenager had every reason to believe his life was pretty much over. He was 15 years old, thrown into a pitiless and brutal penal system and largely cut off from the outside world. But he had one lifeline: frequent letters from his mother.

Bullock survived incarceration, thanks to those letters, and never forgot what they meant to him. Now 37, he has co-created Flikshop, an app designed to facilitate communications between the nation’s 2.1 million inmates—who are not allowed to keep smartphones, tablets or computers in prison—and the loved ones (or kindhearted strangers) who want to stay in touch with them.

Since few people write letters anymore, the vast majority of prisoners languish in their cells without hearing much from their loved ones back home. No access to mobile devices means no Facebook, no Instagram, no texts or Facetime. But Flikshop offers an ingenious solution. Subscribers can send messages and pictures to inmates for 99 cents apiece. The photos and text are printed out in the form of picture postcards and delivered to inmates via snail-mail around the U.S.

“When you are in prison, getting mail is like hitting the lottery,” Bullock told TheUndefeated.com. “It is your connection to the outside world.”

Marcus Bullock as a high-school hoops player.

Bullock has become an outspoken advocate for sentencing reform since his own release. He travels the country and speaks to audiences about his experiences in prison and his journey from ex-con to entrepreneur. The Flikshop app, meanwhile, has attracted some big-name investors, including John Legend and former NBA star Baron Davis. It also scored a $120,000 investment from Techstars, a worldwide network that provides funding and consulting support for startups ventures.

The Campaign for Youth Justice, an organization dedicated to halting the prosecution and incarceration of juvenile offenders as adults, uses Flikshop to send messages to hundreds of inmates who were sent to adult prisons as children. Marcy Mistrett, the organization’s CEO, called Flikshop “a critical, critical way for people who are incarcerated to stay connected. Connection to family and positive social networks is the single most important indicator of successful re-entry into society when people are released from prison.”