April 4, 2022


By: Kayla Jones, GSIC Social Impact Fellow


Yohana Solomon was born and raised in Ethiopia and came to the US in 1998 due to a civil war. She is the owner of Atlanta Underground Market and chef and owner of Kushina Catering, which specializes in authentic Ethiopian cuisine. Yohana is also co-founder of Chow Club Atlanta. She currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with her daughter.


Amanda Plumb is co-founder of Chow Club Atlanta and author of Uniq ue Eats & Eateries of Atlanta. She lives in East Atlanta with her dog, Pepper, and three chickens. 


GSIC caught up with Chow Club co-founders Yohana Solomon and Amanda Plumb. Check out how they’re building community, spreading knowledge, and celebrating culture through food! 


GSIC: Tell me about the challenge you’re focused on addressing and why it’s critical that an organization like Chow Club exists. 


Yohana: From an immigrant and refugee perspective, when you’re in a country where you don’t know anybody, you don’t know the ins and outs of the country, and most of the time, you’re escaping some dire situation back home. Most immigrants and refugees are good at feeding people – especially cooking for a large number of people. They have a skill but don’t know what to do with it. And I believe Chow Club gives an opportunity for those individuals. It’s a platform to cook, make some money, and at the same time, tell their stories. That’s one good thing we’ve managed to do – it’s a great way for the foodie community to learn about a different culture. You also get to try amazing food! 


Amanda: Yes, I agree! Even for folks who aren’t immigrants, some people enjoy cooking, but they don’t know how to market themselves or get a following on social media. So, we’re helping other small businesses, though primarily immigrants and refugees, build their brand by putting a spotlight on them for a month. Our customers want to learn about other cultures. They’re curious and want to try new foods, but maybe they don’t feel confident walking into an Ethiopian restaurant in Clarkston or don’t know what to order and where to begin. So, we take people through this journey through the food. 


We also started the dinners when Trump was in office. People were looking for ways to show solidarity and support people from other countries. You’re not only learning about new cultures, but at the dinners, you’re probably sitting with people you’ve never met before. So, you’re meeting new people, and it’s a great communal experience. Food is intrinsic to all of humanity – people love their food and tend to show their love and express themselves through food.


Yohana: Food is a universal language. And, where else can you meet, for example, a person from Liberia? We have a Liberian chef hosting our dinner next month. People may have heard stories about war and other hardships in Liberia, but people often don’t know the rich culture, the food, and the beauty of the country. Where else can you go to meet somebody from Liberia, try their food, and hear their stories? What an amazing opportunity! 

GSIC: That’s amazing. Food is definitely a quick way to the heart! How did Chow Club get started and how has it evolved over time? 


Yohana: I used to do the Atlanta Underground Market, where I had the pleasure of meeting and working with chefs from all walks of life. Amanda used to host pop-up dinners at her house. One of Amanda’s friends celebrated his birthday, and he wanted Ethiopian food. She called and asked me where to go for the best Ethiopian food, and I jokingly said, “my house,” since I catered on the side. So, she had me host the dinner at her house. It was great, people enjoyed it. 


From that time, we looked at our relationships – the vendors, the chefs, the people on our email lists – and thought why don’t we start hosting these dinners at Amanda’s house, featuring different chefs each month? That’s how we started, and it’s been a blessing since then. 


Amanda: Right. The dinners actually started in my home in East Atlanta, very organically. I don’t think we were trying to start a business, but we enjoyed hosting the dinners and kept doing them. Eventually, we decided to turn it into a business. We hosted them at my house for about a year and a half, and we outgrew it. Since the pandemic, we’ve been at Underground Atlanta and are now planning to move to a space called Uptown Atlanta. It’s a new development near the Atrium. For the most part, though, things have been pretty much the same. I think that’s the really nice thing about our model and being so small. We can test things out, try out new ideas, and see what works and what doesn’t.  


GSIC: That’s great. So you both already started talking about the power of community building – from your relationships with the chefs and your customers. Can you speak to how you built those relationships with the different stakeholders in Chow Club? 


Amanda: I think the only thing we have is our relationships. Yohana knows a lot of different chefs, and I got to meet a lot of chefs, too. And we’re always looking to expand that network. Our chefs support each other; they tend to volunteer at each other’s events, give each other tips, and get to know each other, which is important.


We have a group called our ambassadors, which are our customers that have been to five or more dinners. We’ve had some customers with us since day one – it’s something they do every month like clockwork. We always have new people that come to Chow Club, too. We’re actually going back to what we used to do, putting people at communal tables. Starting this month, we’re giving people a choice to either sit by themselves or sit communally. This way, our customers get a chance to meet new people and build connections. We’ve had people make business connections at Chow Club and others who decide to come together every month for dinner. We also use the space to promote other small businesses. We want it to be a place for everyone, where everyone wins or can benefit. 


Yohana: Right! We’ve also managed to build Chow as a place that’s more than eating good food. We managed to build a community that enjoys being at the dinners and supports each other. We have clients that would literally follow us wherever we go. 


We also source chefs from everywhere. Most of them are connected to the refugee and immigrant centers around the Clarkston area, but many are from all walks of life. For example, Amanda might go to a pop-up market, see some interesting food, and talk to the chef. I might go to Clarkston to buy some injera and meet a chef from Nigeria while there. We’re always looking for somebody that wants to tell their story, someone that wants to start catering or launch a food business. We look everywhere for our chefs. 


And once they join us, we really consider them to be a part of our family. So, if we hear of events or other opportunities, we let them know about them. It’s not like, “You’ve done a dinner for us, bye-bye.” Instead, it’s more like, “You’re a part of our group now; how else can we support you and provide you with the resources you need?”


Also, during dinners, the chefs will come and talk about their menu and the story of each course. They’re always available throughout the dinner to answer questions so our customers can learn more. It’s very interactive. 


Amanda: Absolutely. Another thing we do that helps build the community is our passport book. When people come to Chow Club, if it’s their first time, we give out a little orange passport that says, “Chow Club.” Every time they come, they get a sticker representing a different country they’ve ‘visited’ through our dinners. We want people to know that they’re officially part of Chow Club once they join us for dinner and have some ownership of that. 


GSIC: That’s wonderful. What do you think is Chow Club’s superpower, and what is a favorite moment about doing this work? 


Yohana: Our superpower is connecting people, for sure. We created this awesome community. One moment that stands out to me is during the travel ban around 2018 or so when the Syrian war took place. We met this beautiful Syrian mother and son, who were both refugees. We formed a friendship with them and could hear their fear about not feeling accepted in the United States. They didn’t know if they would fit in and had a fear that everyone hated them. As a refugee myself, I know that fear and could understand why they felt that way. 


So, we decided to host a Chow with them cooking. Many people asked how they could support the Syrian community, and we felt Chow was a great opportunity. We thought people could learn about the culture, and at the same time, the mother and son could connect with the community. I remember them being so nervous because they weren’t sure if people would like their food or like them. But the amount of support and love they received at that dinner brought tears to my eyes! It was such a beautiful moment to see people connect in that way – just as human beings. 


Amanda: Yeah, that was such a special moment! Another reason Chow is really cool is that most of the chefs we work with don’t have their own restaurants or food business. Some of them already do catering, or Chow Club might be the first time trying catering. For many of them, this is the biggest event they’ve ever done. Just seeing the pride and sense of confidence that comes with hosting the dinner and having so many people tell you that they love your food is wonderful. Chefs don’t always get that feedback when catering or even at a restaurant – customers don’t always go back and tell the chefs they enjoyed the food.


I agree with you, Yohana – that moment with the Syrian family took Chow up another level. All our chefs who make these delicious meals often learned to cook from their grandmothers and mothers. They’re proud of their food; their family knows they’re a great cook, so does their community back home. But having someone they’ve never met before, validating them, and being excited to learn about them is special. At the end of the night, we always try to convince the chefs to go out, move from table to table and talk to people. Though the chefs can feel a little awkward, the customers love it! The customers get to ask questions, and the chefs get feedback, too. As a chef, you’re like a celebrity for a night at Chow Club! 



Learn more about Chow Club at chowclubatlanta.com and follow them on Instagram @ChowClubAtl


The next dinner will be a Liberian dinner with Chef Carmenia Morgan Tyrus on May 6 and 7. Sign up to attend at https://chowclubatlanta.com/ols/products

March 31, 2022


By: LaDerrius Williams, GSIC Social Impact Fellow


GSIC x START: ME x Read 4 Unity

  • Entrepreneur: Yenny Yang
  • Venture: Read4Unity
  • Impact Focus Area(s): Literacy, Diversity
  • Business Stage (Ideation, Startup, Early, Later, Mature): Ideation/Early
  • Year Venture Established: 2020
  • Business Type: Micro-Nonprofit

Yenny Yang is committed to creating a better tomorrow for our children and the next generations to come. In 2020, the StartMe: Clarkston alum founded Read 4 Unity, a passion project devoted to the power of literacy, diversity, creativity and unity. Read 4 Unity is currently a micro-nonprofit with a mission to diversify America’s bookshelves. Yenny describes Read 4 Unity as being in its discovery stage. Yenny has yet to decide whether Read 4 Unity will transition from a non-profit to a for-profit social enterprise. She credits Emory’s Start: Me program for helping her breakdown her long-term goals into more manageable bites, creating metrics to track her impact, and helping her craft a framework and operational runway to determine whether social entrepreneurship is the proper means to serve her end: providing diverse books to children.

Read 4 Unity has 3 major ways to acquire books: wholesale, partnerships with self-published authors, and donations. Read 4 Unity utilizes wish lists on its website that allow visitors to donate books to the organization directly. Read 4 Unity also defrays the cost of books by selling tiered book bundles on its website.

Read 4 Unity has 3 major avenues to deliver their books into the hands of children: book fairs, partnerships with organizations like The Little Free Library and Georgia Southern University, and donations to teachers that query Read 4 Unity on its website.

Read4Unity’s continuing partnership with Clarkston’s Refuge Coffee has been beneficial to both organizations and has allowed Read 4 Unity to test and refine its book fair concept and its mini-libraries that it has dubbed Read 4 Unity book nooks.

Read 4 Unity has successfully leveraged existing distribution channels to provide diverse children’s books to more communities in Georgia and beyond. It has forged partnerships with The Little Free Library, Kennesaw State University, and Yenny’s alma mater Georgia Southern University to increase Read 4 Unity’s footprint without straining the organization. The Georgia Southern University office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Georgia Southern University Collegiate 100 partnered with Read 4 Unity to create and manage Read 4 Unity book nooks in and around Statesboro and Savannah. The Georgetown Law School student group in Washington D.C. has also sponsored a Read 4 Unity book fair.

The goal of Read 4 Unity is not to stand up as many libraries as possible. It would rather leverage partners like The Little Free Library, which partnered with Read 4 Unity to provide diverse books in the Atlanta market, to manage the sites where the books are distributed. Instead, it would like to focus on discovering new diverse authors and ensuring that their books make it to the hands of the children, parents, and teachers that need them.

Its moonshot goal is to put 1,000,000 diverse books into the hands of children in the next 5 years. Thus far, it has provided 5,000 diverse books to communities around the country. Read4Unity is holding a diverse book fair at Refuge Coffee’s Spring Market on April 30th.



Interested in learning more, please visit:

March 7, 2022


By: LaDerrius Williams, GSIC Social Impact Fellow


On Friday, February 18th, 2022, Georgia State University’s (GSU) Social Entrepreneurship Club and the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Career Center coordinated a “Careers in Impact-Focused Businesses” virtual networking event. Students got an opportunity to learn the skills needed for internships and full-time positions in organizations across Georgia’s social impact ecosystem.

The event opened with remarks by Dr. Garima Sharma, Director of the BIS in Social Entrepreneurship at GSU. She then led a panel that consisted of:

Atticus LeBlanc, CEO and Founder of PadSplit, an online marketplace that uses shared housing as a means of creating financial independence for users. PadSplit is an affordable housing solution that has garnered plaudits from the national media and is regarded as a model for generating affordable workforce housing in markets facing accelerating gentrification.

Nathan Stuck, Director of Culture and Strategic Impact at Ad Victoriam Solutions and Founder and Chair of B Local Georgia. Nathan also has founded a B Corp consultancy, Profitable Purpose Consulting, which has recently submitted its own B Corp certification. Nathan also chairs the B Local Engagement Committee for B Academics and teaches a course in the University of Georgia’s MBA program.

Sydney Hulebak, Impact Investment Manager, GoATL Fund. Sydney has devoted her career to empowering members of Georgia’s social impact ecosystem. In her new role as an Impact Investment Manager with the GoATL Fund, she will continue her work of accelerating lasting positive outcomes in the Atlanta metro area through impact investing by providing cost-effective loan capital to entities serving our region’s most critical needs.

Sydney, Atticus, and Nathan discussed the winding paths that led them into careers in social impact and impressed upon attendees the importance of being flexible. They talked about how social problems require interdisciplinary solutions, and encouraged students to build relationships and focus on their skill capacity: “What you can bring to the ecosystem is important, and we all need you to expand that skillset if possible.”

At the panel’s close, students were allowed to join breakout rooms to network with attendees. In addition to Sydney, Nathan, and Atticus, Avery Ebron, Head of Community Products at The Guild, and Jessica Duveen, CEO of the Lo, were present to chat with students in the breakout rooms. The results were lively conversations that provided students with clarity and contacts that would allow them to chart their paths in the social impact ecosystem.



If you would like to participate further in the social impact ecosystem in Georgia, feel free to contact GSIC at [email protected].

March 1, 2022


By: Kayla Jones, GSIC Social Impact Fellow


The Oikos Institute for Social Impact helps congregations strategically respond to the disorienting effects of gentrification, disproportionate unemployment, and changing local demographics by harnessing the power of their assets. Oikos’ goal is for faith communities to maintain their agency in the use of their assets for mission, increase their vitality, and embrace their role as an agent of impact in the community.

GSIC caught up with Rev. Dr. Sidney S. Williams, Jr., Oikos Institute’s Co-Founder and Board Chair, to discuss their new report which highlights the organization’s progress since its 2020 launch.


Why did you decide to focus on this specific challenge within congregations, and why do we need to make progress now?

Though I didn’t really think of it in this way when I first began, I now see this work as a racial equity issue. Historically, the Black church has been more than a religious institution. It’s been a social, cultural, political, historical institution that carries the sacred memories of its community. It was a place of community organizing, social mobilization and mobility. It carries so much more than religious value, than perhaps a mainline white Protestant church.

When layering on the reality of gentrification, and the increasing wealth gap in many of our urban communities, the only assets many Black communities own, of any substance, is the church. And so, when that goes away because of gentrification and dispossession, it’s not just the church that disappears, it’s a sacred member of the community that gets erased, too. We need to put the same level of energy – like the energy to preserve the legacy of HBCUs – into preserving other cultural institutions within Black communities, too.


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. How might stakeholders within faith communities and those across the ecosystem best support Oikos as it grows as a social enterprise? 

Oikos is at an interesting point of intersection. We’ve talked to some people raised in these religious communities, those who grew up in church and found themselves frustrated at the lack of impact congregations are making. I think the challenge for this sector is being able to think and reimagine leadership in ways that transcend traditional norms.

On the other hand, the challenge for those who may have no religious background or no particular articulated faith is to see the social impact and value of these congregations, even if they don’t necessarily share those religious values. In order to see the value of their impact, it is important to come into the local communities and see who is doing the work, rather than assuming no one is doing it.

For example, when thinking about missionaries who came to Indigenous cultures, they brought capital, and resources, but they also negated those existing structures. They dismantled existing structures, they displaced people – whole communities. So, impact investors, if not checked, and if not, self-aware, may be employing colonial models in urban communities when bringing in resources, but ignoring the cultural assets already intact.

I think the work of impact investing is to raise funds, and create rubrics for investment, but to also know the culture and community. Then, finding ways to co-invest with the community, rather than dispossess, or displace those who are already investing, and had been investing in the community.


Can you speak about being a social entrepreneur in a space that does not follow the same path as traditional start-ups?

I’ve seen a lot of mobilization within the impact investing space amongst both men and women of color. But the financial markets are still heavily asset-based, credit-based and cash-flow based. So, for start-up entrepreneurs trying to make a social impact, it can be a difficult start unless you’re rich or maybe have a trust fund.

So, the question becomes, “What are the anchor institutions that have the assets and the networks already in place?” As I mentioned before, congregations, beyond religious value, have a physical asset in the community. They have built-in social networks. Beyond religious value, there’s inherent social and physical capital that are usually under-deployed or under-utilized.

Often, when impact investors think of investing in other markets, their rubrics for investing tend to exclude religious organizations simply because of the nature of the organization. But to do that is to ignore the greatest asset that many urban communities have, which are churches.

The rubrics often exclude many of the social entrepreneurs in our communities who desire to make a social impact. I discovered through my journey that many congregational leaders are social entrepreneurs, and they don’t know the language of impact investing and social entrepreneurship, but they’re doing the work. So, we need impact investors to open up their lens to see the assets within faith communities. Addressing systemic inequities and ensuring that people are committed to the work of access will enable us to replicate the work and allow more communities to be transformed.


In its first full year of operation, the Oikos Institute has made significant progress:

  • Launched a learning cohort in Atlanta of 12 Black congregations in partnership with the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) and MIT Co-Lab, funded by a 5- year, $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment in 2020.
  • Secured a $100K grant from the Trinity Church Wall Street’s Leadership Development program and launched a learning cohort in Washington D.C. metro with 7 African American congregations.
  • Confirmed $1.5 million for pre-development loan capital for Oikos’ learning cohort participants from the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF), supported by a $500K loan-loss reserve from Trinity Church Wall Street.
  • Raised $100K in operating funds for the Oikos Institute through a matching grant challenge from the Joshua Mailman Foundation and Jennifer Steans.

Some of Oikos Institute’s 2022 goals include launching the 12-congregation interfaith learning cohort in Chicago with Chicago Theological Seminary and raising multi-year operational grants to provide baseline support for their work. See their 2021 Annual Report here.



Contact [email protected] to partner and donate at www.oikosinstitute.org.

February 7, 2022


By: LaDerrius Williams, GSIC Social Impact Fellow


Self-described as “Atlanta’s home for good trouble,” the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI) is an integral part of Georgia’s social impact ecosystem and was an early addition to GSIC’s Ecosystem Map. Founded in 2014, CCI serves the ecosystem as an investor, an intermediary, and an enabler. As an investor, its priorities include food, access to finance, health, and employment generation. Its investment vehicles include grants, loans, and debt. It also seeks to link investors and stakeholders. Finally, as an enabler, CCI incubates enterprises. It provides networking opportunities, mentoring, training, and technical assistance.

GSIC was fortunate enough to grab some time with CCI’s Senior Director of Community Innovation Sagdrina Brown Jalal. During our conversation, she recapped the organization’s efforts over the past year, gave advice for future applicants to their CCI fellowship program, and discussed what she’s learned during her time with CCI as both a fellow and in a leadership role.

“2021 was a year of listening and being responsive.”

When we spoke, Jalal reflected on CCI’s mission and priorities during 2021. “We focused on making sure that our organizational values were clearly defined and that we were accountable for those values internally and in the programming we provide for leaders and organizations. We also did an internal audit that changed how we communicated and engaged in the work. 2021 was a year of listening and being responsive,” said Jalal.

CCI has a host of programs. The Civic Innovation Fellowship is one of their signatures. Jalal’s previous experience as a fellow provides her with a unique perspective and the ability to provide sage advice to potential applicants. “Show up as your authentic self,” Jalal recommends.

Social entrepreneurs can experience a myriad of challenges including access to funding and other forms of institutional support. It’s important for these entrepreneurs to remember that who they are is a key part of the value proposition they can make to potential investors, and to be mindful of the systemic inequities in philanthropy and social innovation. This principle is also core to the application process CCI has designed for its fellowship. Jalal notes that the organization is intentional in not repeating these challenges for entrepreneurs.

“In our application process, we have had to ensure that we were not recreating the barriers that we are trying to remove,” said Jalal. She also doesn’t want aspiring fellows to become discouraged if they aren’t accepted after their first time applying. “Sometimes acceptance is all about timing. Keep doing what you are doing and keep applying.” Jalal also shares that there can be an unexpected benefit to not being accepted into a cohort initially, as it gives innovators the opportunity to be “part of the community in other ways, observe the fellows, and their evolutions, and truly assess if the program is right for them.”

Now, Jalal has combined her experiences as a graduate of the CCI Fellowship, and her ongoing roles serving Atlanta’s communities, to inform her vision as CCI’s Senior Director of Community Innovation. In her work she is helping to mold new and existing social innovators and contributing to CCI’s efforts to tell the stories of the community and its innovators using research and data in more exciting ways.

The applications for CCI’s 2022 Fellowship are now closed, but Jalal encourages those interested in the program to begin preparing their applications now for the next cohort. During our conversation, Jalal shares the story of Wande Okunoren-Meadows, Co-Director and Early Childhood Program Administrator of Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park. The center provides early childhood education with a focus on children’s “emotional, social and educational” needs. “What Wande’s done with Little One’s Learning Center is inspiring. She came in and really owned the space she cultivated as a subject matter expert and was still willing to accept feedback from the CCI. She is clearly a committed part of our community. She represents CCI,” said Jalal.



For more information on the Center for Civic Innovation please visit https://www.civicatlanta.org/.

GSIC is always looking to highlight the work of the social impact ecosystem of Georgia. To be profiled please contact us at [email protected]

February 7, 2022


By: Kayla Jones, GSIC Social Impact Fellow


Ashani O’Mard served as the Executive Director for the Atlanta Affordable Housing Fund (AAHF) since January 2020. AAHF is a social impact fund designed to aggregate capital to invest in affordable housing projects, with the goal of driving deeper, longer-term affordability. O’Mard recently transitioned into a Senior Vice President role with the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership where she will drive their multi-family development work.


How did you start working in affordable housing, and what about this work motivates you?

I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, and spent my childhood there. During high school, I earned a Skillman Foundation scholarship to attend an independent, boarding school, Cranbrook Kingswood. Cranbrook was located approximately 30 minutes north of the city of Detroit in an affluent suburb, Bloomfield Hills. During the 30-minute drive up from church back to Cranbrook on Sundays, I’d notice the change in scenery and streetscape. From broken glass and abandoned buildings to manicured lawns and coffee shops, it really sparked a curiosity in me as a high school student, specifically about how one street could have such stark differences.

I was never ashamed of my community; it was my normal and I didn’t know anything different. But what became disappointing was to know the disparities that existed because of my community, because of my zip code. By attending Cranbrook, I had a glimpse of how people can live when they have a different set of resources.

This experience really became the soundtrack to my deeply rooted passion from the work that I do today. While I initially planned to study engineering during college (perhaps because I’m from Detroit and wanted to work for one of the Big Three), I never shook that curiosity.  All of my electives in college were related to the urban environment. These classes reaffirmed my desire to understand what tools were needed to revitalize urban communities, and to find opportunities to celebrate them.

Throughout my career, I have focused on understanding “the why,” and “how” to impact and drive change which enables people to have an opportunity to thrive. Everyone deserves access to quality education, quality housing, and a chance to raise their family in a way that can build wealth for the next generation.

In my next role, I’m rejoining an organization that I worked for prior to launching AAHF, called the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP). It’s a regional nonprofit that has been around for over 30 years. ANDP works as a nonprofit developer, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and is engaged in a lot of advocacy work to drive public policy and systems change. In my new role, I’ll work with the team to ramp up their multi-family development efforts while forging new partnerships with private developers to help scale their production.

AAHF recently worked on a project with Tenth Street Ventures, ARRC Capital Partners, and The American South Real Estate Fund to rehab a property at 1200 Mobile Street in Hunter Hills. Hunter Hills historically was one of the few planned Black communities of its time – what does it mean for AAHF to be apart of this revitalization and restoration of an area that may have been forgotten?

With the Hunter Hills property, an emerging developer was referred to AAHF by Invest Atlanta about two years ago. The property was a vacant, 20-unit building (adjacent to the BeltLine and neighbor to Grove Park) that had sat vacant for many years. The developer proposed to rehab the building and convert it into 40 fully furnished, studio apartments.

The development team has done a great job in partnering with local civic leaders while also engaging partners like City of Refuge and Trees Atlanta.  They are also working with Partners for Home  to leverage funds that help support formerly unhoused individuals. Since the units come pre-furnished, there aren’t as many upfront costs for people to take into account when moving. 100% of the renovated property units will serve persons earning up to 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). They have been very engaged in what it means to create a sense of community, and what it means to partner with stakeholders in the community as well.

What advice do you have for young Black social impact leaders or entrepreneurs who are working to make an impact in their respective communities?

Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions and really peel back the layers to understand critical issues and root causes. Get engaged. There are several resources, including the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum that I love to refer people to. I encourage people to attend those forums because they provide a great way to understand the dynamics of the affordable housing landscape in Atlanta.

I think it’s unfortunate that we (as a region) haven’t historically prioritized affordable housing. We’ve got a lot of people talking about it, but we really need more hands at the table to get it done, and to help scale the work, too. Ultimately, if we don’t prioritize housing affordability, we put our economic competitiveness in jeopardy.

I would also encourage young people to not be afraid to take those hard classes. I stumbled upon a degree in urban studies because it was something I was passionate about, but I didn’t realize it at the time. Take advantage of fellowships, like PPIA (Public Policy and International Affairs fellowship program) which provide a platform for young people to learn more outside of the traditional classroom environment. We definitely need more ideas and innovation in the public policy space.

I’m happy to have folks reach out to me as well. It’s an important part of the leadership process to usher in a new generation of tech, talent and ideas.



The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative is committed to connecting social entrepreneurs, CDFIs, investors, and the greater community through storytelling and events. If you or your organization would like to be profiled by or get involved with GSIC please email us at [email protected].

Contact Ashani O’Mard at [email protected]

January 4, 2022


By: LaDerrius Williams, GSIC Social Impact Fellow


On December 8th, 2021, the United States Department of the Treasury announced the recipients of $180.3M from its Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund). These 2021 fiscal year awards are intended to help community development financial institutions expand their lending and investment activities in the communities they serve. 2021 saw the CDFI Fund disperse funds to 265 CDFIs nationally, ten in the state of Georgia. These CDFIs are Albany Community Together (Albany), Camilla Bancshares (Camilla), Carver Financial Corporation (Savannah), Columbus Housing Initiative (Columbus), Community Housing Capital Inc (Decatur), Community Redevelopment Loan & Investment Fund (Atlanta), Habitat for Humanity of Georgia (Columbus), NewTown Loans (Macon), South Georgia Bank Holding Company (Tifton), Southeast First National Bank (Summerville). All told, these CDFIs received $4.7M from the CDFI Fund.

The CDFI Fund has many grant and loan programs. The programs that were relevant in the state of Georgia were Base Financial Assistance (BASE-FA), Persistent Poverty Counties Financial Assistance (PPC-FA), Disability Financial Assistance (DF-FA), and Technical Financial Assistance (TA). BASE-FA awards require matching funds from non-federal sources. They are intended to be used by organizations for lending capital, loan loss reserves, capital reserves, financial services, development of services, and expanding operations, serving new target populations, and geographic expansion. Base-FA made up most of the funding distributed to Georgia CDFIs in 2021.

2021 saw the CDFI Fund diversify its funding in Georgia geographically. In 2020, Atlanta-metro based organizations made up 40% of the CDFIs that received funding. In 2021, that number dropped to 20%. South Georgia Bank Holding Company and Carver Financial Corporation were standouts. Carver led the way in funding with awards totaling $976,530. It was the lone organization to receive Disability Financial Assistance (D-FA). 2022 will present Georgia’s CDFIs with new opportunities and challenges.



The Georgia Social Impact Collaborative is committed to connecting social entrepreneurs, CDFIs, investors, and the greater community through storytelling and events. If you or your organization would like to be profiled by or get involved with GSIC please email us at [email protected].

December 6, 2021


By: Kayla Jones, GSIC Social Impact Fellow


Q&A: The following is a Q&A with Kayla Jones, a Social Impact Fellow for the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative (GSIC) and GoATL Fund, and Brian Goebel, a GSIC board member and Managing Director of the GBS Business and Society Institute.


Kayla (GSIC): Brian, can you tell us a bit about your role as the Managing Director of Goizueta’s Business and Society Institute?

Brian (GBS):  The ‘Business and Society Institute’ is a new name and elevated commitment. We got a gift from the Goizueta Foundation that allowed us to move from a center to an institute and build on the work we’ve been doing for ten years. The Business and Society Institute, in a nutshell, is a research center within Emory’s Goizueta Business School that works to address complex challenges confronting businesses, people, and the planet.

We look at that in two ways – one being through academic discovery and the other being purposeful action. It is critically important to ask questions and deep dive into answering those questions. Historic academic research hasn’t dug deeply into business and society – why things are the way they are, some of the existing barriers, and the solutions to the current problems. The purposeful action component of our work is a twofold process where we take the research, see the opportunity and challenge, and apply a program to it.

For example, we looked at issues of inequity when it comes to small business support in places that are lower income in the United States. That’s where our microbusiness development program, Start: Me, comes in. We decided to take on the challenge by delivering a 14-week program that helps entrepreneurs get established and build wealth. Since 2013, we’ve had over 300 businesses go through the program. It’s been powerful to see those businesses start with a small idea – with someone running their business nights and weekends – to seeing their goods on a shelf at a major retailer. We’re proud to be a part of the work and be a supportive resource for entrepreneurs.

We also saw that issue with the way markets work around coffee. People ask, “Why do you guys work in specialty coffee?” It’s because coffee is one of the biggest commodities globally, and a lot of people underestimate how big coffee is. But the structure of the market, with transparency issues and the impact of colonialism, has led to farmers being under-supported and unfairly paid. So, we’re looking to solve that issue with data, transparency and pushing the industry to be better. We look at how we can help women growers who have been historically shut out from some of the biggest business opportunities to build wealth for themselves and their families. Like Start Me, we run a program called Grounds for Empowerment that helps farmers develop their business skills in addition to their farming skills.

Lastly, we support amazing students. Business school students today are not only looking for traditional experiences. They want to learn about accounting and marketing, but they also want to know how they can be positive, principled leaders, and solve these problems around equity and climate, for example. They are interested in creating strong democracy in business, too. So, we teach many classes and offer unique experiences for students to prepare them to move forward to address many of the complex challenges we’re facing.


Kayla (GSIC): Spring 2022 will offer the most social impact classes ever at GBS. Can you speak to the journey it took to get from starting as a center to becoming an institute offering a robust curriculum for students?

Brian (GBS): It’s exciting to know that the social enterprise center at Goizueta was built off one class in the spring of 2009, with about 22 people in it. Today, we offer a robust slate of courses, engaging 300 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels. It’s quite the change in 10 years, and I think it shows a huge amount of interest in social impact.

Impact investing continues to be an area we’ve had a lot of classes in, and we will continue to offer them. It’s also been exciting to have professors like Erika Hall join our Institute in the last year. She does amazing research on discrimination, bias, and how that impacts individuals and organizations. She’ll be teaching a new class called Bias in the Workplace in the spring, which we’re excited to offer for the first time.

In addition to some of our impact investing classes, we also offer experiential courses. Our Grounds for Empowerment directed study allows our students to support growers in Latin America. Students help build business plans, marketing strategies and think through the small seed investments that can help their businesses most. Additionally, we have a class called Philanthropy Lab, which I co-teach with Tene Taylor from the Kendeda Fund, a tremendously talented professional practitioner in the world of philanthropy. Together, we teach people how to leverage philanthropy to make a difference and close equity gaps in the city of Atlanta.

Next, B-Corps Lab is a directed study where students work with B-Local Georgia and for-profit companies that want to pursue B-Corp certification. We help them with their initial assessment and roadmap to becoming a B-corp.

We offer some of these classes as part of the new diversity, equity, and inclusion concentration at GBS. Collectively, I think these experiences help people become principled leaders with proximity and insight to problems they’ll be able to positively contribute to once they graduate.


Kayla (GSIC): You were recently on a panel with the Emory Business Ethics and Emory Impact Investing Group which focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR). Can you talk about why more corporations are looking at their impact on society and choosing to operate differently than they have in the past?

Brian (GBS): Yes, sure. It was great to be with panelists like Dr. Tjuan Dogan, CSR lead at Coursera, a benefit corporation that provides education and technology resources, and one of our Start:Me entrepreneurs Mary Ellen Sheehan, founder of Royal Thanaka, an ethically-sourced health and beauty brand inspired by ancient Burmese beauty rituals.

The panel was around ESG, or environmental, social, and governance, and how its movement in the business community has progressed, specifically over the last 12 to 24 months. ESG fits right into the business school because it’s about how your business operates with intention – how is it reporting and holding itself to account? How is your company not only committed to making a profit, but how is your company committed to its employees, vendors, the community around it, and the environment?

These are ‘hot topics’ and are covered in different ways in the business school and business world. Some of it is connected to accounting, marketing, storytelling, and much of it is related to supply chain and operations. I think ESG is a place where many of those dots are being connected. Business leaders are expected to know about it and implement strategies around it. Our conversation focused on where we are in the ESG movement and some things that companies need to do better to be authentic in their commitment to environment, social and governance.


Kayla (GSIC): So, for someone that is new to social impact work, what’s something that you would want them to know, or something you’ve learned throughout your career that might inspire people to get involved?

Brian (GBS): A couple of the things I always talk about is not letting perfect get in the way of good. Leaning toward taking purposeful action is important, and so is being a changemaker wherever you sit. There’s a false narrative that says you can only make a difference by being at a nonprofit or if 100% of your job is connected to direct social or environmental impact. The reality is that we all play change-making roles. We all have influence. We use the word “just” a lot and might say, “I’m just an entry-level employee,” or “I’m just a middle manager.” The word “just” needs to be flipped so that each person has influence in their own space to inspire, ask questions, and influence change. I encourage people to act where they can and create change where possible.

I also encourage people to get proximate to understanding what problems people face. Many people have good intentions and want to jump in to help, but a tremendous first step of being an effective and responsible changemaker is really understanding. Understanding the issues and challenges by getting proximate to those living through those challenges. Being a good listener and open to building relationships with people that are probably outside of some of the traditional relationships that you’ve developed through where you’ve grown up or went to school. Openness, learning, understanding history and the complexity of challenges, and acting on them in ways you can. These are some things that come to mind for me when I speak with students and others who want to get more actively involved in making an impact.


December 4, 2021


By: LaDerrius Williams, GSIC Social Impact Fellow


Women and diverse-led companies are reshaping the small business landscape. In the United States, 17 percent of Black women are in the process of starting a new business, according to recent research from Harvard Business Review. That statistic is compared to just 15 percent of white men and 10 percent of white women who are currently starting a business. Despite this, only three percent of Black women are running mature businesses. That significant drop-off speaks to the resource challenges Black women founders face in launching and maintaining successful companies. 

These challenges have been compounded further for Black women-owned businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate impact on women in the workforce and the industries where Black-women businesses typically thrive including retail, restaurants, etc. 

Atlanta based entrepreneur Njeri Warfield is hoping to change the landscape for women and diverse-led companies while providing more opportunities in the commercial real estate industry. Her development firm SkyRise Property Group seeks to partner with nontraditional, diverse-led investors, public entities, and corporations on commercial development projects with a specific focus on reimagining land and industrial spaces throughout metro Atlanta. Warfield’s greater mission is to help Black women, and people of color, discover a path to financial wellness through commercial investment while simultaneously bringing amenities to historically under-resourced communities.

“There are so many of these underutilized spaces already in existence in communities that need more amenities and resources,” said Warfield. “SkyRise Property Group is committed to providing the destination for opportunity. With a keen eye for up-and-coming communities in the metro area, we develop commercial spaces designed to provide resources for working professionals across a host of business industries.” 

One example of this mission in action is the Jonesboro Office Suites building, which Warfield developed and opened earlier this year  to provide critical office space for entrepreneurs in the local area who needed to expand beyond the footprint of their home office, but were conscious about affordability. The 6,000 sq ft space offers a variety of suite options ranging from 128 – 1200 sq ft. Offices range in price from $425 – $1500.

“The business owners of the Jonesboro Office Suites are entrepreneurs who have been working hard to get their companies off the ground and are at an inflection point in their growth,” said Warfield. “They represent a range of industries from insurance to mental health services, to media companies and more. Nearly 80 percent of the companies located here are Black women-owned or diverse-led.”

SkyRise aims to remove barriers for first-time and nontraditional investors to the commercial real estate industry through several key steps:

  • Each relationship is developed individually and each investor is walked through a presentation to explain the investment process and what types of investments SkyRise focuses on. 
  • To get prepared for their first project, SkyRise holds several one-on-one meetings with potential investors to walk them through the investment process, project types, partnership opportunities (minimum investments, maximum investments and legal representations), financial structures and potential returns. 
  • When a project is identified, each investor attends an informational webinar about the project, how the asset will be purchased, how the project is positioned in the market to be profitable, and what types of investors the deal can allow. The informational session also includes anticipated returns through the life of the project (typically 3-5 years). If the investor chooses to move forward with the project, then are invited to subscribe to the investment and are connected to SkyRise’s legal team to confirm their eligibility. 
  • SkyRise makes a concerted effort to understand each person’s investment goals, timelines, and sources for funding. Not all projects will lend themselves to lower initial investments, so SkyRise makes sure each investor understands their legal investment limits and the certification process. 

Along with these efforts, Warfield and SkyRise Property Group plan to create more workspaces in addition to the Jonesboro Office Suites, including a business incubator to serve as an education and networking resource for the local community. The business incubator would provide entrepreneurs with a series of year-long training courses and mentorship on the full business cycle — from “How to incorporate an entity and create a marketing plan” to “Developing an exit strategy (i.e. selling the business or a succession plan).” SkyRise would partner with the local government for the business incubator to create a pipeline with local high schools and colleges to provide similar training to students to bolster entrepreneurship and small business development in the local economy. 

This facility will also serve as a networking hub for new and growing businesses. Both tenants of the space and interested business owners will be able to participate in the incubator programs and have the opportunity to attend networking events held inside the facility hosted by business entities and associations.  




To connect with the SkyRise team or for further information, please email [email protected].




November 12, 2021


By: Donte Miller, Executive Director