Profile Summary:

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

“Emory Impact Investing Group was founded in 2014 to provide microloans to local entrepreneurs who lack access to capital.

Formally known as the ‘Microbusiness gap,’ research shows that there is ~30% drop in number of microbusinesses per capita from low- to high-poverty neighborhoods in the United States. To unlock the full economic potential of the Atlanta community, EIIG aims to close the microbusiness gap in traditionally high-poverty areas by increasing the number of successful small businesses. We direct our efforts in pursuit of this goal by providing early-stage financing, knowledge, and networks necessary for the sustainable growth of businesses.”

Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

“Dr. Peter Roberts and the Social Entrepresize @ Goizueta at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School have done extensive research on entrepreneurship in the metro-Atlanta area. His findings have revealed the presence of a microbusiness gap between low- and high-poverty neighborhoods. Dr. Roberts identified high-poverty neighborhoods within Atlanta that lack small businesses, but are economically capable of supporting them. This belies a large problem: a lack of initial capital and network resources for entrepreneurs in Atlanta that need them most. EIIG was created to be a part of the solution to this problem, providing microloans to local entrepreneurs who offer macro benefits and direct social impact to their local community.”

GSIC and the Map

The mission of the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) is to accelerate the growth of impact investing in Georgia. Over the past 18 months, GSIC and its partners have engaged hundreds of investors, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and others who care about scaling social impact through leveraging creative capital. The result of this work is the Map, an interactive resource designed to educate and connect stakeholders interested in impact investing. For more info, see www.GaSocialImpact.com and the Summary Report from phase 1 of the Map.

From your perspective, why do we need to develop Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem and how can the Map help with that?

“The entrepreneurial spirit is at the core of the Georgia community, from high-growth tech to a thriving small business network. When working with social entrepreneurs, matching needs to support resources is crucial for driving impact. Integrating all impact investing stakeholders into one platform is the next step towards building a leading model for economic empowerment, implementable in other states across the nation. Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem will allow organizations and individuals to start sharing best practices, monitoring and evaluating impact, and ultimately, provide an enabling environment for businesses to thrive within Georgia.”     

Interested in learning more about the Emory Impact Investing Group, please visit:

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Greg Block, Founder and Chairman
  • Venture Name: First Step Staffing
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Homeless, Workforce Development, Disability Services
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Later
  • Year Venture Established: 2007
  • Business Type: Nonprofit Social Enterprise
  • Headquarters: Atlanta, GA

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

First Step Staffing is a nonprofit staffing agency whose mission is to fight homelessness and poverty. Founded in 2007, First Step’s focusing on securing sustainable income for individuals transitioning out of homelessness, including veterans, re-entering citizens, and others with significant barriers to employment. “There were a lot of work readiness programs…but there weren’t really jobs at the end of them. So we decided to start First Step Staffing to create that pipeline,” said Greg Block, who founded the nonprofit in 2007. What makes First Step different than traditional for-profit staffing agencies is that they give priority to those who may have some kind of “barriers for employment,” said Dave Shaffer, CEO.

Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

In January 2018, First Step Staffing announced its expansion into Philadelphia through its acquisition of the Philadelphia-based division of On Time Staffing—a for-profit staffing company founded 18 years ago specializing in warehouse, packaging, and manufacturing jobs—which will now become part of First Step’s nonprofit operations. In the first 12 months of operation in Philadelphia, First Step expects to employ 500 homeless men and women and grow to serve more than 1,000 by year three.

The Philadelphia acquisition was funded by philanthropic dollars, including a significant grant from The Barra Foundation, support from the City of Philadelphia, investments by a consortium of socially-minded members of Investors’ Circle, and a senior acquisition loan from four Community Development Financial Institutions (“CDFIs”), including Nonprofit Finance Fund (“NFF”), Reinvestment Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation.

The expansion into Philadelphia came two years after First Step completed its first successful acquisition of a for-profit staffing company in Atlanta. That acquisition helped the organization more than double the reach of its offering in home-town Atlanta, where First Step now places over 1,000 men and women per day into the workforce.

Interested in learning more about First Step Staffing, please visit:

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Brian Cayce, Vice President, Investments
  • Venture Name: Gray Ghost Ventures (GGV)
  • Impact Focus Area(s): International Development, Technology, Financial Services
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Early
  • Year Venture Established: 2003
  • Business Type: For-Profit Investor (Impact Venture Fund)
  • Headquarters: Atlanta, GA

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

Gray Ghost Ventures is a pioneer of the global impact investing movement and continues to be innovative in furthering its expansion. As one of the earliest private investors in microfinance, GGV seeks to eliminate poverty and strengthen communities through catalytic, early-stage investments in the developing world by focusing on enabling technology, financial services, and other products and services concentrated on enhancing the quality of life for large, underserved populations in emerging markets.

GGV’s Vice President of Investments, Brian Cayce, estimates that there were as few as two to three other firms in the country practicing what we now identify as impact investing in 2003. Gray Ghost now has over $125 million in several funds under its belt, but the team has maintained its focus and mission.

Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

Brian’s background was uniquely suited for impact investing in developing countries — though not an investment professional at the time, he had served overseas in multiple capacities, as a Peace Corps volunteer (based in Turkmenistan), a non-profit employee, a business consultant, and a technology executive. He knew firsthand the challenges that entrepreneurs in emerging markets faced with getting their product funded and a company built to scale.

In the early 2000s, Brian was working for a private investor who wanted to move beyond helping entrepreneurs in emerging markets through microfinance, into a true equity play to invest in for-profits in those markets. Gray Ghost Ventures started in 2003 as one of the very first mission-driven tech investing firms — focusing on early-stage companies that improve the lives of underserved populations through tech.

GSIC and the Map

The mission of the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) is to accelerate the growth of impact investing in Georgia. Over the past 18 months, GSIC and its partners have engaged hundreds of investors, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and others who care about scaling social impact through leveraging creative capital. The result of this work is the Map, an interactive resource designed to educate and connect stakeholders interested in impact investing. For more info, see www.GaSocialImpact.com and the Summary Report from phase 1 of the Map.

From your perspective, why do we need to develop Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem and how can the Map help with that?

“From our earliest days at Gray Ghost Ventures we were always intentional about building connections in the nascent impact investment industry.  It was our belief that our chances of success would be greater if others were involved and we were working collaboratively. While we were competitive with one another, there was such a small group of practitioners at that time that we all benefitted from the open collaboration and cooperation, as well.  

In many ways, the social impact scene in Georgia is in a similar state: it is young and enthusiastic and many of the participants know each other well and support each other.  However, impact investing grew to the scale of today through momentum over the years as new participants entered the space and there was an industry that was welcoming to them.  Georgia’s social impact scene could do the same, and that is why Georgia Social Impact Ecosystem Map is such an important tool for our community. Hopefully, the Map will serve as a landing spot which will allow social innovators and investors to connect, get familiar with the good work of one another, and find ways to build social value together.”

Interested in learning more about Brian Cayce and Gray Ghost Ventures, please visit:

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Grace Fricks, President & CEO
  • Venture Name: Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE)
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Small Business Capital with Coaching and Connections, Job Creation, Asset/Wealth Building, Services Provided in English and Spanish
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Later
  • Year Venture Established: 1997
  • Business Type: Nonprofit Investor (Community Development Financial Institution)
  • Headquarters: Cleveland, Georgia with an office in downtown Atlanta and the ACE Women’s Business Center in Norcross, Georgia

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

“Small business ownership, like home ownership, is an asset and an avenue to create wealth for the business owners and their families. Small businesses also create needed jobs and improve the quality of life in their communities. For many, entrepreneurship is the only viable path to creating wealth. Recent statistics show that Caucasian families have thirteen times more wealth than African American families. When comparing Caucasian and African American business owners, this disparity reduces to a factor of three. This is similarly true for women and Hispanic business owners.  

Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE) has been building businesses, jobs, and communities for eighteen years. As a nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), ACE provides loans and business development support to help Georgia entrepreneurs create and grow sustainable businesses that generate jobs and strengthen communities. We are the only Georgia-based CDFI serving Atlanta and North Georgia focusing on small business development. We understand that providing people with capital, business coaching, and community connections gives them the resources needed to create their own success, break the cycle of poverty, and support their families.

Small business funding remains hard to obtain, particularly for women, people of color, and low-income persons. Many lenders view these borrowers as inherently risky and the small business loans they need as less profitable than larger loans. Having the ability to be innovative, creative, and flexible in structuring the terms of our loans, ACE is often the only point of access to the financing these underserved business owners need.

In addition to capital, ACE provides grant-funded business advisory services many entrepreneurs need to be successful business owners, income producers, and job creators. ACE leverages the best resources in the community to provide clients with the tools, skills, knowledge, mentoring, and confidence to create successful businesses. Clients have access to individual coaching, classes, and networking opportunities. We take a hands-on, customized approach that has a direct impact on our clients’ ability to build strong businesses and repay their loans.”

Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

“The experiences of operating a social enterprise like ACE are similar to the journey of a typical small business. Just like the clients ACE serves, we have walked the same path and continue the same journey they do, giving us firsthand experience regarding what they are experiencing and what their needs are – for capital investment, business advisory services and support. Like a small business, we had to identify what our value proposition was, the strategic and financial plan to be successful, and our target market. ACE began serving just four rural North Georgia counties where there was a demonstrated demand for access to capital identified by Georgia’s technical college system. Critical partners in meeting this need included local banks, the local Rotary Club, SBDC, local newspapers, the technical college that provided entrepreneurial education classes, and retired entrepreneurs. Demand grew as social service and economic development organizations and others in surrounding counties learned about small businesses starting and growing as a result of our work. These organizations then sought us expand into their counties to serve businesses there. The Appalachian Regional Commission, USDA, and a regional foundation in North Carolina with a mission to move people and places out of poverty, along with other partners, supported ACE to expand our work.

Crisis, Great Recession, Pivot:

The Great Recession was a defining moment for ACE as the demand for our services in metro Atlanta became clear. Instead of “hunkering down” and waiting for the recession to blow over, possibly taking ACE with it, we aggressively sought SBA and Treasury funds, national and regional bank support, and support from foundations to expand into the metro area. We leveraged our unrestricted net assets (retained earnings) to hire skilled financial staff (former bankers) to move into the Atlanta market. This successful strategy allowed us to survive the recession and establish ourselves in the Atlanta market.

From a founder’s dream with $50,000 to a true community-owned financial institution:

With $50,000, ACE began making our first loans in 2000. Since then, ACE has helped more than 850 businesses obtain in excess of $53 million in capital and create more than 7,300 jobs. We’ve been able to accomplish this with a 97% repayment rate.  

Today’s critical partners in the ecosystem, in addition to investors, are the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Yo Soy Mujer, the Latin American Association, Atlanta Business League, Urban League of Atlanta, Emory University Start:ME program, Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative, Pittsburgh Yards (NPU-V), Greater Women’s Business Council, City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI), Invest Atlanta, DeKalb County Government, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council, SCORE, SBDCs, and many other private business consultants, CPAs, and attorneys.

The ecosystem for Georgia’s small business development is ACE’s ecosystem. We bring access to capital and financial business development assistance, and partner with others with appropriate expertise to ensure our clients have access to the services needed. Our clients benefit from the synergy of our being a part of this ecosystem.”

GSIC and the Map

The mission of the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) is to accelerate the growth of impact investing in Georgia. Over the past 18 months, GSIC and its partners have engaged hundreds of investors, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and others who care about scaling social impact through leveraging creative capital. The result of this work is the Map, an interactive resource designed to educate and connect stakeholders interested in impact investing. For more info, see www.GaSocialImpact.com and the Summary Report from phase 1 of the Map.

From your perspective, why do we need to develop Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem and how can the Map help with that?

“Organizations with investment needs will benefit from having a coordinated system to make these needs known to the ecosystem at large. The map is important in making it possible for investors to identify social impact areas they are interested in, whether that is based on geography, gender or racial/ethnic lens, type of investment (housing, small business ownership, environmental, etc.). The map can also help social entrepreneurs and other providers of services to connect and collaborate on achieving common goals. With multiple partners in an ecosystem, addressing a common, systemic challenge/social issue, the synergy can reduce the silo effect and create greater results.”  

Interested in learning more about Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs, please visit:

ATLANTA – October 4, 2018 – I attended and thoroughly enjoyed the October 4th Georgia Social Impact Collaborative workshop on Impact Capital for Nonprofits & Social Enterprise: Aligning Creative Capital with Mission. Not only did I learn a great deal from the Nonprofit Finance Fund about potential strategies for attracting investors, there was a great deal of value in speaking with our peer group of other high-performing nonprofits to learn from their experience.

It is not often that I attend a meeting or workshop and learn something new that can have such far-reaching potential to bring exponential increases in the way we can leverage resources to expand our mission to put people to work. As a group, we explored how different forms of capital can drive greater impact and more efficiently reach Georgians.

I will definitely be adding our agency to the Georgia Social Impact Map and have action items to follow-up on immediately pursuing the possibilities of using New Markets Tax Credits to fuel our organization’s growth through the region.

We already knew about Social Impact Bonds (SIBs), but it was helpful to see the most recent data and learn how the model has evolved. We’ll take what we’ve learned and continue to explore how to implement a SIB here in North Georgia.

Many thanks to Mark Crosswell and his colleagues at the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative, Antony Bugg-Levine and Beth Doreian at the Nonprofit Finance Fund, and all the bright, hard-working people who convened this high-value event.

# # #

Jenny Taylor is the Vice President of Career Services for Goodwill of North Georgia, a nonprofit leader in putting people to work. Learn more about Goodwill of North Georgia at https://gasocialimpact.com/ecosystem/goodwill-of-north-georgia/.

The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) provides resources to connect, educate and inspire stakeholders for the purpose of accelerating the development of Georgia’s impact investing ecosystem. Recently, GSIC announced the launch of the Georgia Social Impact Map (the “Map”), an interactive platform designed to connect and educate stakeholders interested in accelerating impact investing for social outcomes. Intended as a resource for communities around the state, the Map connects new forms of capital to sustaining and scaling solutions to social challenges. GSIC also provides workshops and programming for training specific groups of stakeholders on ways to leverage impact investing to achieve their impact goals, such as the workshop described below, which was attended by 30 leaders of some of GA’s top social enterprises and nonprofits.

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Judith Winfrey
  • Venture Name: PeachDish
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Agriculture; Environment; Food Products/Organics; Green Consumer Products
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Early
  • Year Venture Established: 2014
  • Business Type: For Profit Social Enterprise

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

“Supporting the small scale farmer is the ‘why’ at the center of all that we do.  Farmers make our food healthier, they create local economic impact, and are environmental stewards on the community’s behalf. 

Small farmers, like many other small businesses, don’t have the time and expertise to sell their goods online.  At PeachDish, we connect customers to the finest growers and ingredients and help small-scale farmers join the digital economy.

Food is one of the last frontiers  of e-commerce.  The way that people buy food is changing, it is really important that we stake out ground small, local farmers and help them connect with consumers in this new marketplace.  Farmers don’t have time to figure this all out and we are happy to help solve this problem.”     

Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

“For me personally, a milestone moment early on was pitching in New York for potential investment by the 1776 Fund.  I was invited by Center for Civic Innovation in 2015 to take part in a regional competition which they hosted in Atlanta. We won and then got the chance to pitch at the finals in New York.  We didn’t receive investment, but it helped me strengthen my presentation skills and refine our message.  I came to PeachDish not as the founder, but as an operations person. Being at 1776 immersed me for the first time in the world of entrepreneurship.   

The first person in the support ecosystem I need to give credit is my husband Joe Reynolds who is also an entrepreneur and small farmer at Love is Love Farm at Gaia Gardens.  So he is my number one advisor on this journey. 

I also have a pretty robust informal board of advisors for whom I am grateful including Bill Bolling who founded the Atlanta Community Foodbank and Doug Callahan who is a long time entrepreneur.  Ellen Macht at Food Well Alliance is always there for me when I have a question or need advice. All are important sounding boards.  I also belong to the Women Presidents’ Organization which is peer-to-peer group for women leading companies in the Atlanta area which meets often and provides a place to talk about successes and challenges.  

Of course there is a special kind of problem set for food businesses. Suzi Sheffield from Beautiful Briny Sea, Mary Moore from Cook’s Warehouse, Dale DeSena from Taste of Atlanta, and Leslie Zinn from Arden’s Garden have been critical connections.   It’s nice to have someone to call that understands unique food business issues.”  

Why Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem Matters

Being an entrepreneur is hard and it’s even more challenging when you are a social entrepreneur as your business model and / or structure doesn’t follow the same path as traditional start-ups. 

“Network connections matter.  It’s always valuable to get someone else’s perspective- someone that doesn’t have your past experience and potential bias.  Also, the more expanded your network is the more access you get to ideas and solutions. The first time I had to move a warehouse, this network and its know-how made it easier.  Being connected to people who have had different experiences and can share diverse ideas can help you both solve problems faster and sometimes even reframe things so you don’t even see them as problems anymore.

In terms of what ecosystem needs here in Georgia, I would like to see greater access to capital to those that want to do more than just have a successful business, but also a social impact. For our business, we would like to see more investors interested in business-to-customer (B2C) businesses that not only have financial returns but other impacts. 

Additionally, more robust food manufacturing technical assistance is needed. There are a lot of promising food-based businesses in Georgia that operate under cottage food license or in shared commercial kitchen that need support to scale and grow.” 

Interested in learning more about Judith and PeachDish, please visit:

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Jason Martin
  • Venture Name: Community Guilds [STE(A)M Truck Program]
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Education, Community Development, Work force development, Professional Development, Capacity Building
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Later
  • Year Venture Established: 2013
  • Business Type: Nonprofit Social Enterprise

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

“Our mission is to close opportunity gaps and eliminate inequities by transforming teaching and learning through an experiential maker approach. 

 We do two things well:  

  1. We give kids an opportunity to get their hands dirty and make things.
  2. We empower teachers to continue this work once we drive away. 

We are best known for our STE(A)M Truck Program which deploys a growing fleet of mobile makerspaces filled with real tools and local experts and parks it where kids, and their teachers, can tackle real problems, design solutions and build things together.

We exist because zip codes too often determine access to opportunity.  We target youth most unrepresented in STEM careers and focus on 21st skills needed to thrive in the real world.  Our work begins to ensure equity and opportunity regardless of where you live or the school you attend.  Ultimately, we aim to end generational cycles of poverty as the City of Atlanta is one of the least upwardly mobile cities in the United States.  We believe that inequality means lost opportunity for all.”

Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

“I started by asking a question… How can we eliminate inequity and catalyze transformation by leveraging the assets and expertise that exist within communities? Defining ‘how’ has evolved over time from our original apprenticeship program to the mobile makerspaces we use today.

This work was shaped and formed by many but first and foremost I think of Matt Candler at 4.0 Schools, as a true catalyst.   Early on they helped me prototype ideas while investing seed money to help me test out new possibilities.  Originally, I did not think of myself as an entrepreneur, but 4.0 Schools allowed me to reinvent myself and offered an opportunity to think outside the box.   

With a more refined idea in place, the Points of Light Civic Accelerator helped me dig deeper into the business model.  I was then selected as a finalist for Teach for America’s Social Innovation Award which offered fantastic coaching as we attempted to navigate systemic educational reform.   We then opened our first office within the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) here in Atlanta.  CCI allowed us to set up shop, do our work, meet like-minded social entrepreneurs, and develop deeper roots across the city.      

Leadership Atlanta also played a significant role in my journey as I was a part of the 2016 class. The peers in my class were critical relationships– one classmate now serves as our board chair and others have helped our program grow including Dean Erika James at the Goizueta Business School who helped us connect to the Goizueta Impact Investors for an early stage loan. 

An important part of our journey came from the legal support of the Probono Partnership of Atlanta. They helped us with our board governance, contracts, risk management, and more. Our assigned volunteer attorneys became advocates for us in important ways

As a nonprofit, we have had several game changing investments over the years.  The first came through the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation who understood the potential of the maker movement to “light children’s imagination on fire”.  With a background as an educator, I was able to tap into support from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement (GOSA) for an innovation grant that helped us build out a robust evaluation framework and showed that our work has measurable impact. Lastly, the Goizueta Foundation offered a significant, multi-year grant to bolster our internal infrastructure during our second year of operations, without which we would not have been able to grow.”   

Why Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem Matters

Being an entrepreneur is hard and it’s even more challenging when you are a social entrepreneur as your business model and / or structure doesn’t follow the same path as traditional start-ups. 

“I would like to see more places created for nonprofit social impact entrepreneurs to gather together as peers to learn from one another.  We may not always call it an ecosystem, but you would be hard pressed to find a successful business that didn’t have a strong support system surrounding it.  I think codifying what that support looks and making it easier to navigate is important and benefits us all.

From a funding standpoint, finding investments beyond the smaller seed grants for nonprofits can be challenging. I would like to see more “go big” investment opportunities for organizations that are at a later stage.

Lastly, the privilege that I have should also not be dismissed.  If I was young, poor, a woman, or a person of color, with a different educational background, my journey would have had much different challenges. As we build Georgia’s ecosystem we need to prioritize equity and opportunity for a diverse set of entrepreneurs.”         

Interested in learning more about Jason and Community Guilds, please visit:

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Jasmine Crowe
  • Venture Name: Goodr
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Sustainability, Waste Reduction, Hunger Prevention
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Early
  • Year Venture Established: 2017
  • Business Type: For-Profit Social Enterprise

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

“For me it started with hunger.  I had been working to feed those in our community experiencing homelessness.  I was working hard each week to gather food, cook, and serve long lines of individuals on the street- I thought there had to be a better way and that led me to do research on food waste.  I was blown away by how much perfectly good food is going to waste, while I was struggling to feed people that were hungry.  I saw two problems that were solutions to one another. 

I could have been a nonprofit, but I chose to be a for-profit with a paid staff to better meet the needs and reporting expectations that companies have in terms of recovering food waste.  We track every item that we collect specific to each item picked up- which nonprofit it goes to, the weight, along with environmental statistics.  It is critical that we succeed because we can help business reduce their waste but also help communities in greater numbers.”      

Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

“Through Goodie Nation’s pitch competition which I entered, we were able to be introduced and have formed a relationship with the Atlanta Airport.

We are just getting started with Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) as of July as part of the SPANX CCI Innovation Fellow program.  There helping me look at ways that we can better share our model to those in the social impact community. The program comes with an investment along with self-care stipends. 

I am a member of ATDC.  Jackie Chu, one of the Catalysts there has been very helpful as someone I can run ideas by.” 

Why Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem Matters

Being an entrepreneur is hard and it’s even more challenging when you are a social entrepreneur as your business model and / or structure doesn’t follow the same path as traditional start-ups. 

“Funding is obviously a big thing. A number of our customers can’t afford our services and we would like to serve them, but at the same time need to ensure we can pay our employees a good, living wage.  It would be great if there were more foundations focused on reducing food waste that would be willing to fund us to serve organizations that can’t afford services for example a hospital or university.

There have definitely been a number of supporters here in Atlanta particularly individuals.  We haven’t connected with a large number of big companies as of yet. UPS recently reached out and wanted to do a working ideation session in the first quarter of next year – so I am hopeful. 

Being an African American female founder is tough. It’s really tough in the South. If we are building a social impact ecosystem around entrepreneurs in Atlanta where the population is 55% black, there has to be a conversation about how we better support people of color. Had I been of a different race, I probably would have had a lot more success in Atlanta than I had. 

Lastly, I would like to see the government and city officials do more to support social entrepreneurs. I would like to see a social impact fund set up at the State or city level to help entrepreneurs attend trainings and do other things- I think that is a big opportunity.”     

Interested in learning more about Jasmine and Goodr, please visit:

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Jeffrey Martin
  • Venture Name: honorCode
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Education, Employment Generation
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Early
  • Year Venture Established: 2015
  • Business Type: Nonprofit Social Enterprise

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

“The social change we are trying to impact is to make sure that all of the new businesses here in Atlanta source talent from our city instead of outsourcing it from other places. When you look at our major growing industries like film (which is $9.5B annually), fintech, IOT, and others, we have a booming technology sector.  But if you look at Georgia schools, a little less than 5% are teaching some form of computer science. 

Here in Atlanta we are focused on our most vulnerable population- black and brown students- and more specifically black students that identify as queer or gender non-conforming.  At honorCode we are working to ensure that these vulnerable populations can have a way of making a living for themselves at the end of the day.

It’s critical that we make progress on this issue because we talk about our city’s proud civil rights history, but if you look at recent trends the black folks are being pushed out of many neighborhoods they used to reside in.  We can’t keep doing this thing where we are planning for the future, when we haven’t turned to build new capacity around the things that are not working today like our models around post-secondary education attainment, workforce development, and career pipeline.  Atlanta will not ever be the city it says it is without us taking action.”       

Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

“It’s hard for me to talk about my experience because it is a bit of unicorn journey growing up in East Lake, attending Paideia, going on to Brown and Wharton, Teach for America, and Goldman Sachs. A lot of folks won’t have the same access points because of those networks and that narrative.

Looking back, honorCode grew out of a concept paper that I wrote and sent to Carol Naughton who is the President of the Purpose Built Communities.  She knew me since I was 10 years old as I grew up in East Lake and went to Drew Charter School. Because of Carol’s feedback, which ripped my concept paper apart, honorCode changed from a model of creating and running its own school and instead became focused on providing teacher training and education to better deliver computer science across existing schools. 

Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) also played a role as I was introduced to their Fellowship program through the Penn Social Impact House Fellowship. Those networks were connected through Echoing Green which helped me to meet CCI’s founder Rohit Malhotra. So my college network has been important as well. 

I was part of CCI’s inaugural Civic Innovation Fellows class back in 2016. CCI for me was very important for relationship development as I was connected to Val Porter who connected me to leaders of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta which led to find my executive coach Kim Anderson formerly of Families First and now with Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI). The CCI experience expedited that important relationship building.        

Additionally winning Forbes Change the World Entrepreneurship Competition catapulted us into a space where others took notice including Points of Light’s Civic Accelerator (CivicX) which we recently completed. CivicX provided a platform for us to market our work as we won an award for greatest impact.  We are hopeful that the CivicX exposure will lead to investment funding in the coming year.”

 

Why Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem Matters

Being an entrepreneur is hard and it’s even more challenging when you are a social entrepreneur as your business model and / or structure doesn’t follow the same path as traditional start-ups. 

“When we look at investment, very few of those dollars go to women and people of color. I have a very quintessential meritocracy path; however, because we are in the state of Georgia instead of California which doesn’t have as strong of an impact investing ecosystem, dollars have been slow to fund scalable ideas.

I would like to see our Investor and philanthropic community do some customer discover work as part of this ecosystem building effort.  We can benefit from taking some ideas from the design thinking space to create true alternative investment approaches that can get to civic entrepreneurs faster.  By investment, it’s not just about dollars, but connections to expertise to do various things like developing better program evaluation to prove our results and models.”

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Profile Summary:

The Issue

Social entrepreneurship is about solving problems. Tell us about the challenge you are focused on addressing and why it is critical that we make progress.

“If you drive around Macon, you can’t help but notice that there is a lot of blight.  It’s a code term for houses that are beyond repair. They will never be remodeled and revitalized.  A $9M fund has been created to tear these homes down, which has created an increase in the number of materials heading to our landfill which is already 95% filled. The biggest cost of demolition is waste removal.  Working with a sister company of ours that does demolition, Georgia Artisan partners to reclaim wood to produce home furnishings. 

The other part of our work is the employees that we have which we source from a partnership with the local technical school and workforce development authority.  Our main goal is to make money, but at the same time attack some of the social issues here in Macon.

We also work with nonprofits and local city government to create benches and signs for pop-up parks.  We contribute items that are place-makers for downtown Macon.

On days that I don’t make money, the personal and professional growth of my employees and the pride of the community we help grow are what I take home at the end of the day.”

 Your Journey

Entrepreneurship is a journey that requires connections and support from a wide array of stakeholders across the ecosystem to help successfully identify, start, and grow a social enterprise.

“It was never one thing, but I would say the most significant experience for our businesses was going through the Velocity Accelerator in Macon which was founded by J.R. McNair. J.R. was able to find a sponsorship for me and one other company to go through the Velocity program. 

When I came in to the program we were doing 1-2 orders a month.  Truly more of a hobby level.  Over the 10 week process, we changed our name to Georgia Artisan, updated our branding, pulled together a full business plan, and hired 2 full-time employees to help design and make more products. 

It took about six months for things to come together, thanks to good online reviews our sales picked up significantly and we have been growing ever since.  Velocity represented the transformational time—it allowed me to step back, put a plan in place for the business, and build a team. 

In terms of getting plugged in to the community, I was already involved in the local entrepreneurship network as a student at Mercer University. As part of the campus maker space, I entered a competition with a music venture idea and finished in fourth place, just outside of any investment funds, and was frustrated with the judges.  Six months later, I ran in to that same judge named Rob Betzel of Infinity Network Solutions and we had lunch.

That turned in to the best mentorship relationship that I have had. Through him I got connected to everyone in town.  Now I have four or five mentors including advisors in different areas like construction, building development, and sales and try to return that same support to others.”

Why Georgia’s Social Impact Ecosystem Matters

Being an entrepreneur is hard and it’s even more challenging when you are a social entrepreneur as your business model and / or structure doesn’t follow the same path as traditional start-ups. 

“Having a similar network like I have in Macon statewide where fellow Georgia entrepreneurs can link up with one another is at the top of my wish list.

Too often it feels like Columbus and Atlanta are further away than Boston.

My network within a 30 mile radius is strong.  Linking with other networks across the state would be beneficial.”

Interested in learning more about Andrew and Georgia Artisan, please visit: