Archive for the ‘Social Enterprise’ Category

You Don’t Have to Look Far to Find it


A major perk of working at My Street Grocery is the amazing people and organizations we get to interact with every day.  There’s a lot of good in this world and you really don’t even have to look far to find it.

Last week we participated in a panel discussion at the Sixth Annual International Conference on Business and Sustainability at Portland State University.  We sat next to Amanda West from EcoZoom and Amber Baker from The Village Market.  EcoZoom is a growing and mission-driven company that makes clean cook stoves accessible and affordable in developing countries.  The Village Market is a healthy corner store in North Portland that provides quality, fresh, healthy, affordable groceries.  The Market is community governed and provides jobs for youth and adults.

Earlier this week, we enjoyed time with Greg Dees who has spent the past three decades studying, teaching and practicing social entrepreneurship.  He also chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council for Social Innovation.  His work in this area has inspired the start of businesses with social missions all over the world.  As a part of this we also met with a several groups of investors who are committed to investing in and supporting organizations that promote positive social and environmental impact.

At this week’s Convergence Partnership Conference in Salem, we worked side-by-side with other stakeholders working to promote the vision of a healthier, more equitable, sustainable and economically robust food system.  We exchanged ideas and developed valuable relationships with representatives from the Northwest Health Foundation, Adelante Mujeres, Ten Rivers Food Web, Carman Ranch, Organically Grown Company, Portland State University, the Cowlitz County Health Department and many, many others.

In addition to these great people and organizations, we get to work with the dedicated staff at Central City Concern, PSU’s Social Innovation Incubator, caring property managers, and all of the great people that visit our markets looking to improve their own lives by making healthy food choices.

Thanks everyone for all the good work that you do.

Philanthropy, Innovation, and Collective Impact


This week, I had the great opportunity to participate in a panel sponsored by the Lemelson Foundation at this year’s Grantmakers Regional Conference. What was particularly exciting to me was the theme of the panel, which was how philanthropic organizations can play an active role in advancing innovation to stimulate economic growth. (That was a verbose description; in short, the discussion was about changing the way we think about — and go about — solving problems.) This is something I love to talk about, because I think it gets at the heart of why My Street Grocery is a social enterprise, and why we think that’s a great thing to be. (You can read more about our philosophy behind social enterprise in a prior blog entry.)

The discussion was invigorating and I was thrilled at the thoughtful questions and receptivity of the crowd. Many suggestions about how philanthropic organizations can support innovation to achieve their goals were brought to the table: support a non-profit working on a revenue generating project, invest in a business plan competition, fund start-up incubators, or provide alternative funding streams to for-profit social enterprises (ahem). Now that is a forward-thinking crowd.

Another brilliant concept that was presented at the conference and intertwined into this discussion was that of collective impact. (This is my new favorite social impact philosophy. After learning more about it, I figuratively formed and chaired the Collective Impact Fan Club, had banners emblazoned with “Collective Impact Forever” made to hang on my walls, and got a heart tattoo with “CI” where “Mom” traditionally would be. No offense, Mom.) In short, if we isolate our impact, we work in silos, tend to duplicate efforts, and never reach our potential. Collective impact encourages cross-sector collaboration, adaptive problem solving, and systemic change to maximize results. (YES!) This is the exact environment in which social enterprise could flourish, and it makes me very excited to know that this is a growing discussion.

I believe that the face of philanthropy is changing, and I saw it at this event. The goals to enhance the vitality of our communities are the same, but people are ready to deepen their impact, to ensure that their funding efforts are addressing diverse and pressing needs, and to be creative with how they go about their work. AND! Not only are these individuals thinking about how they can support innovation, but they are also, in fact, being innovative themselves. All of these out-of-the-box ideas I heard today make me excited for the future of the work that we all do, and I look forward to doing it together.


The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship


We’d like to introduce you to a new friend of ours: Central City Concern. If you aren’t familiar with this great organization, they are an important nonprofit in Portland with a mission to end homelessness and provide clients with the support and structure they need to achieve self-sufficiency. Actually, to call them a new friend is a bit of a misstatement; we were introduced to CCC during our time in the Social Innovation Incubator, when we were both clients. Since then, we’ve quietly mulled over thoughts of collaboration, dreaming of a more comprehensive, lasting community impact through partnership.

Fast forward about two years.

CCC reopened the conversation with us about working together just a few months ago, and in what seems like lightening speed, we’ve managed to put together a pilot program that is HAPPENING NOW! My Street Grocery’s new Central City Concern Market debuted last Monday, September 24th, from 1:30-2:30pm in the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood. Our pop-up market is located in the garage on the corner of NW Broadway and NW Couch. We opened the first market with high hopes, and we’re all thrilled with the turnout. Not only did CCC clients and staff come to buy fresh goods, but passersby also stopped to shop, expressing excitement and relief that they could get fresh produce in such a convenient location with such affordable prices. Needless to say, we are all a bit overcome with excitement about the endless possibilities this partnership may afford us. Special thanks to Adrienne Karecki, Dave Ford, Cindy Cooper, Jacen Green, and Kathy Pape for keeping the momentum alive!

The CCC Old Town/Chinatown Market will be open each Monday through the month of October from 1:30-2:30pm. You can find our market in the garage on the corner of NW Broadway and NW Couch. As always, the market is open to any and everyone looking to purchase affordable, healthful foods.

You can also read about this new collaboration in the following media:

Sustainable Business Oregon
Portland Mercury
Portland Business Journal
Impact Entrepreneurs Blog

Business…for good?


Did you know that My Street Grocery is a social enterprise? That means we are a business that exists to address a social need, which, in our case, is access to fresh, affordable, healthy food. We created our business to address this issue, and that is why we come to work every day.

Organizing ourselves as a for-profit entity was a very deliberate decision on our part. We want to earn the money that we need to provide a service to the community (rather than ask for it), and to do so in a way that benefits our company, our customers, and our community. With an economically sustainable business model, we can streamline the decision-making process, set long-term goals, and create a lasting impact.

We’re not the only ones that believe in this approach, by the way! Social enterprise is a growing field gaining momentum around the world. Some companies show their commitment to business for good by choosing to become certified B Corporations, which means they have gone through a rigorous assessment process to ensure their business practices are responsible and transparent at every level. (Ever heard of Patagonia, or Etsy? Both certified B Corporations.)

Right here in Portland, we have some amazing resources for and examples of SE. I have great friends, colleagues, and mentors who are creating positive social change in our community through the power of business. (Visit B-Line, FMYI, and Sustainable Harvest for some inspiring examples of this kind of work.) We ourselves are proud to be graduates of the Social Innovation Incubator, which creates a space for organizations like ours to grow and thrive. Through the SII, we’ve been able to tap into a community of like-minded social entrepreneurs and innovators that are changing the face of business every day. (Learn more about them here.)

So, we hope this helps to shed a little light on the idea of business for good. We believe in it to our core, and our daily challenge to ourselves is to make our actions speak louder than our words.

For more on our structure and our philosophy on social enterprise, please visit our FAQs.