Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Erin Croom
  • Venture Name: Small Bites Adventure Club
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Health & Wellness, Food
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Startup
  • Year Venture Established: 2018
  • Business Type: For-Profit Social Enterprise
  • Headquarters: Atlanta, 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.

“Nine out of ten U.S. children aren’t eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Many children go days without eating a single vegetable. This is critical because we know that young children with poor eating habits are on the road to continued poor nutrition into adulthood, making them susceptible to health-related diseases (e.g. obesity, heart disease, hypertension, cancer).

Teaching children about healthy eating should be fun, effective and easy for educators– and that is what Small Bites Adventure Club is focused on doing.

The mission of Small Bites Adventure Club is to help children discover, love and eat their vegetables. Our product, Taste Test Box, is a subscription farm-to-table cooking kit delivered directly to school classrooms and after school programs. The Taste Test Boxes include all of the fresh, pre-measured fresh ingredients and step-by-step picture instructions for students to create and try a healthy, delicious recipe. The ingredients are sourced from local, sustainable farmers.

We ship kits to after school clubs, preschool programs, summer camps and K-12th grade schools. We’ve reached over 8,000 students in the last year in Georgia – that’s over 30,000 bites of fruits and veggies!”

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 draw a lot of support from three key communities: the farm to school community, the public health community and the social impact community.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve been obsessed with the field of farm to school – getting kids to develop a healthy relationship with good food and the farmers that grow it. I wrote my graduate thesis on it, and spent a decade working with Georgia Organics to establish the state’s farm to school programming. Through this work, I have gotten to know the local food, nutrition and agricultural players in business, school districts,  academic institutions, government agencies, schools and nonprofits. It’s a very tight-knit and supportive community, and I know someone in every state doing great work.

In 2017, I worked out my idea to develop the Taste Test Box kit through a fellowship with Center for Civic Innovation. I wanted to figure out how to leverage technology and the meal kit industry to make it easier for teachers to lead hands-on cooking and nutrition education with their students — and support local farmers.  

Last year, I gave a pitch on the Taste Test Box concept and received our first order that very night. PeachDish was immediately signed on as our fulfillment partner, and we were off to the races!  

Since then, I’ve sent kits to almost everyone that I have ever worked with (teachers, farmers, school nutrition and public health and nonprofit leaders) to get their feedback, and we have made several good adjustments.

Also, I am always looking to the brilliant folks at CDC, academic institutions, and other public health agencies who are figuring out how to move the needle on child nutrition and physical health. It’s very important to me that our product be an effective tool to ultimately increase student preference and consumption of fruits and veggies.

Earlier this year, I participated in the James Beard Association Owning It workshop and pitch. It was incredibly rewarding to spend time with other women food business owners.”

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.

“A lot of people are surprised that we are a for-profit company, since we have what seems to be a non-profit mission: helping children discover, love and eat their fruits and vegetables. I believe that there is and should be space for companies to address critical public health issues, and the social impact community makes this possible.

There are many companies out there that are marketing stuff to supposedly make us healthy or lose weight. The wellness industry is a $4.2 trillion industry – and most of it has nothing to do with actual health. (Gwyneth Paltrow will sell you a $66 egg, if you don’t believe me).  

When I saw that, I wanted to create a company that addressed a real public health problem while selling a product that focused on a real solution. On top of that, this work allows us to support and promote some amazing local farmers.”

Interested in learning more about Small Bites Adventure Club, please visit:

  • Instagram: @smallbitesclub
  • Facebook: @smallbitesclub
  • Website: www.smallbites.club (check back in the fall for website launch)
  • LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/erin-croom-0a50736/ 

Profile Summary:

  • Entrepreneur Name: Terri-Nichelle Bradley
  • Venture Name: Brown Toy Box
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Education, Black Children, STE(A)M, Cultural Representation
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Startup
  • Year Venture Established: 2018
  • Business Type: For-Profit Social Enterprise
  • Headquarters: Atlanta, 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.

“The projected net worth for Blacks in 2053 is $0. That is not for you and for me but that is for the children we are creating solutions for today. Brown Toy Box produces STEAM-themed subscription boxes, children’s products and in-class experiences all designed to not only change the way Black children see themselves and what is possible for their futures, but to also disrupt, dismantle and destroy that abysmal forecast.

We are working to create a new narrative through early exposure, positive cultural representation, and access. We are using all the data we have around the science of play to counteract a systemic social crisis.”

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.

“My journey has been a long one with a lot of significant challenges. Creating this business has been and continues to be an uphill battle, but I know that if it were easy everyone would do it. In fact, when I first launched as a direct-to-consumer subscription box, I knew I was only reaching a portion of my market- affluent Black moms who understood the importance of preparing their children to explore STEM. The problem was, when I created this business, I knew that I wanted to touch high-potential children born into in high-poverty communities. Until I figured out a way to do this, spiritually the work felt a bit disconnected. So, it really wasn’t until we expanded our business model from solely being direct-to-consumer to also working with corporate partners to get our products into the hands of young scholars in Title 1 schools that we started seeing real traction and I felt like I was really working in my mission.

One of the things that makes Atlanta so special is that once I was clear on what Brown Toy Box was going to be and how we were going to implement our solution, it feels as though Atlanta just rallied behind me in a lot of ways. I was selected as a Center for Civic Innovation Fellow, then a Civic Innovation resident funded by The Sara Blakely Foundation, and finally, I was chosen to be a part of the City of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. Because my work is so centered in improving the lives and futures of Black children, I am excited to be selected as one of the companies asked to join the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Founding 100, which starts this month. Emory has also been supportive in many ways. Just last month, I received a small but meaningful investment from Emory Impact Investment Group. The school’s social impact students worked with me to create an impact measurement tool, because one of the most important aspects of my work’s success is to collect data and quantify impact.”

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.

“What is interesting about the social impact space is people still assume that if you are running a mission-driven business that you should be nonprofit. I have always been clear that while I support and respect so many nonprofits both locally and nationally, I didn’t want to structure my business that way. My focus is growing a sustainable and impactful business with capacity to create jobs while procuring from black and brown makers, toy designers, and self-published authors for our boxes. The more we can grow and scale, the more impact we can make. Therefore, for me, the work that folks like Conscious Capitalism, Center for Civic Innovation and others are doing around amplifying the work of for-profit social enterprises is important.

The elephant in the room is that as a Black female founder and CEO it is still difficult to gain access to the room. Luckily for me, I have worked hard to build my network, but I am very clear that I still don’t have access to all the rooms that need to hear about the work and impact of the work we are doing with Brown Toy Box. I, along with others on the front lines actually doing the work, still need to be endorsed by Atlanta’s kingmakers and that is a very small and exclusive group of who’s who. That needs to change and there needs to be more space at the table- to be clearer- more Black business social impact business leaders need to have unfiltered access to the room. I think this will do a lot to open pathways to funding, more significant corporate sponsorships, and deeper understanding.

The current conversation around innovation in Georgia is squarely centered on tech. The truth is that the social impact space is not only driving innovation in key areas such as education, sustainability, health, food justice and public health, but it is the impact and outcomes from this work that will ultimately make communities more livable, attractive to prospective companies, and will play a major role in the economic development of our state.”

Interested in learning more about Brown Toy Box, please visit:

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.

We seek to close capital gaps in metro Atlanta on two levels: 1) Strategically investing capital through the GoATL Fund; and 2) Ecosystem development through the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative

The GoATL Fund was established as the Community Foundation’s first immersion into the impact investing space. The fund provides cost-effective loan capital to address critical needs in the community, from healthy, safe housing for every family to new schools for 21st century learners and more equitable access to living-wage careers. GoATL is based on the idea that strategically invested capital can achieve both a positive social impact and a financial return. Our investments focus on the same five Impact Areas that the Foundation supports through grants and other services: Arts, Community Development, Education, Nonprofit Effectiveness, and Well-being. These five areas cover a diverse array of impacts, but our investments all seek to minimize the opportunity gap. That gap could be in Education, the quality of schooling available in one zip code versus another; GoATL invests in opportunities to close that gap. It could be in access to healthy food, so GoATL would invest in creative solutions to increase the availability of healthy food in areas with limited access. Wherever a gap exists, we’re determined to find creative solutions to minimize, if not close, it.

The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) was established to connect and educate stakeholders in order to advance impact investing in Georgia. As a founding member and investor in GSIC, we seek to provide opportunities for social entrepreneurs, enablers, intermediaries, and investors to connect. We develop programs to learn about progressive financing mechanisms. Ultimately, we hope to expand and cultivate the pipeline of investable opportunities for all types of investors and accelerate the deployment of capital from private sector, philanthropic and public sources.

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 2015-16, while working with a team at Points of Light to grow their Civic Accelerator, a social venture accelerator, we developed an impact fund to make seed-level debt and equity investments in graduates from around the US. As I learned more about the practice, it became very apparent that the market for impact investing in Georgia was way behind and much less developed than other regions of the country. While attending the Social Capital Markets (SOCAP) conference in 2016 with others from Atlanta, we began to talk about ways to foster a more robust impact capital market in our home state. So, with a group of about a dozen others that recognized the same issue, we established the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative to help build the ecosystem for impacting investing in Georgia (more below).

Soon after, in late 2016, I began working with the leadership team of the Community Foundation on their hopes to start Atlanta’s first impact fund that would connect Foundation assets and donors with place-based investments. After joining the Foundation in January 2017, I began researching the field by reaching out to other fund managers and impact investors from around the country about their experiences and investment philosophies. As plans developed, the GoATL Fund concept took shape and soon after, with a $10 million allocation from the Foundation, we established GoATL as a diversified debt fund to make strategic investments to sustain and scale social solutions in metro Atlanta. The Fund made its first investment to Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership in early 2018, and as of year-end, we had deployed just over $3M to support diverse impacts, such as affordable housing, education, job creation and the arts. With demand growing throughout the region for flexibly, cost-effective impact capital, our GoATL team expects to deploy much the remaining $10 million in 2019.

In all of these endeavors, having the assistance and advice of colleagues, mentors and other business and philanthropic professionals has been absolutely critical. At any level, whether supporting social ventures, building an impact fund or developing an ecosystem, the contributions of many dedicated friends and associates has not only been invaluable to the process but highly rewarding personally.

GSIC and the Map

Back to supporting the ecosystem, 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’s dozen founders, advisors and over 30 investment partners have engaged hundreds of other investors, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and individuals 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?

We find that a number of organizations – foundations, banks and corporate philanthropy, governments, and private investors – are either making an occasional impact investment or considering one. However, these instances are fragmented and few have a strategy or sustained initiative to deploy impact capital. We believe investors and investees of all types, and those entities that support them, need greater coordination, connection and education about how and when to use impact capital. So, if we can build a more sophisticated and cohesive ecosystem around impact investing, more investors will be willing to provide the capital necessary for social ventures to thrive. The Map seeks to provide some degree of sophistication; it is essentially a platform to connect and educate stakeholders in the market, to benefit outcomes through investing in promising social entrepreneurs and nonprofits. But the Map is just a tool; we need leaders and innovators to step up and put capital to risk for better outcomes.  The GoATL Fund is an example of putting capital to work for social impact, yet it’s only a drop in the bucket compared to demand in our market for patient, impact-minded capital.

Interested in learning more about GSIC or GoATL, please visit:

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: