Cleveland: The new hub for social entrepreneurship.

By Logan Fahey, General Manager of Bloom Bakery  LoganFaheyLoganFahey [251159]

As the national spotlight continues to shine on Cleveland with the Cavs’ big win, the impending Republican National Convention  and the billions of dollars being invested in the area, now is a great time to showcase the “social enterprise” trend that is also growing in Cleveland. Social enterprise refers to the concept of using a business to help solve prevalent social and economic issues such as homelessness, poverty, and mass incarceration.
This trend is particularly relevant with the Republican National Convention in town. The promotion of a free market economy, fueled by the private sector, is a core tenet of the Republican Party. I agree that this principle is key to a successful economy, and social enterprise can play an important part in providing opportunities for more people to share in that success.
It is imperative that we recognize the power and influence of capitalism  and ask ourselves how we can leverage this force to solve some of the social issues we are battling as a nation. I made this connection a few years ago when I was working with recently incarcerated youths in Akron, Ohio. I thought to myself, instead of trying to convince existing businesses to hire these young men and women, why don’t we create the jobs ourselves? This idea inspired me to start exploring the world of social enterprise (before I even knew what the phrase “social enterprise” meant.)
Over the past couple of years, I have had the honor of working with a small group of nonprofits to create social enterprises, including Bloom Artisan Bakery & Café. Bloom Bakery is a for-profit corporation structured to fill a need in the market (high end artisan baked goods and café products), while hiring people with barriers to employment,  such as a criminal record.
I’m continually amazed by the collaborative focus and community efforts involved in making these kinds of ventures successful. From Luther Metropolitan Ministries, which owns a metal working shop and commercial kitchen that hires the homeless, to Edwins, a five-star French restaurant serving amazing meals while helping people with criminal records, a hub of social entrepreneurs and social enterprises is emerging in the Cleveland community.
While nonprofits and government agencies are often tasked with finding solutions to our communities’ societal ills, we need to broaden our perspective and utilize the power of the free market to bolster this initiative. Untapped resources like private equity can help serve this purpose and create ventures that fill market needs and social needs in tandem. Cleveland is off to an incredible start with over a dozen social enterprises and counting, but we must keep the momentum going.