|Nonprofit's aim: Solve community problems with bottom line|
|Published Thursday, February 23, 2012 7:03 am|
Charlotte entrepreneurs are getting a hand blending good citizenship with profits.
|Charles Thomas is executive director of Queen City Forward, a non-profit launching its first year of programming for social entrepreneurs.|
Queen City Forward, an Uptown-based non-profit, launches its first year of programming for social entrepreneurs on Feb. 23 with a reception at Packard Place, 222 S. Church St. Suite 100.
QCF is a hub for entrepreneurs and innovators looking to solve social problems such as pollution, poverty or hunger.
“We’re looking for what we call high growth, high-impact enterprises or businesses,” said executive director Charles Thomas, who was hired in October. “One of the things we’re looking for is the model that you’re putting forward to help the community solve a social issue. Is it what we call scalable? Can we grow it? Can we expand it to move from working with one site to working with multiple sites to potentially having a national or international impact.”
QCF’s goal is to help non-profit or for-profit business members boost their bottom line while tackling social issues. Examples of such social enterprises include Goodwill Industries, a job skills development program and Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream, a for-profit franchise with a reputation for social activism.
The first wave of seven QCF participants include Second Helping, a food cart business that helps female ex-offenders learn job skills; One Moment, an online education program for children with serious illnesses or injuries, and Urban Equity Advisors, which retrofits commercial buildings.
“We’re looking to work with entrepreneurs who have a growth mindset,” Thomas said. “They don’t necessarily want to be a mom and pop shop, although there’s nothing wrong with that, but they have a desire to grow.”
Queen City Forward members receive evaluation, consultation and mentoring from peers and business experts. Members will have an opportunity to pitch their ideas and receive feedback from QCF’s network of funders, entrepreneurs and business developers.
“We connect these high-impact, high-growth entrepreneurs to resources they need to grow,” Thomas said. “We know they have challenges finding space, finding the talent and finding capital.”
QCF emerged from the Charlotte Chamber’s 2010 retreat when Bull City Forward co-founder Christopher Gergen described Durham’s approach to supporting social entrepreneurship. Mayor Anthony Foxx gathered city, corporate and non-profit leaders for a roundtable on social entrepreneurship last year and invited Gergen to establish a Charlotte program. Duke Energy, Foundation For The Carolinas, Fifth Third Bank and private donors provided initial funding.
“Cultivating and creating the right conditions for social entrepreneurs and social enterprises to thrive is a key element to the economic and community development strategy of Charlotte,” said Foxx, chairman of QCF’s Leadership Team. “Queen City Forward provides the resources needed for social entrepreneurs to grow to the next level.”
Queen City Forward has a network of strategic partners, including Packard Place, Business Innovation and Growth Council, Social Venture Partners, city of Charlotte, Ben Craig Center, universities and the Charlotte Chamber and the Arts & Science Council.
“By harnessing the power of collaborative leadership and collective vision, we can accelerate an intentional and action-oriented approach for building, enabling, measuring, and advocating for a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem that will help drive a vibrant and sustainable future for Charlotte for years to come,” Gergen said.
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