Posts in Entrepreneurship
A Thank You letter

There were times this year when I wondered if I was a bit nuts.  Not exactly opera-in-the-jungle Fitzcarraldo nuts—but as close as I’d been in a while.  I was sending my second kid off to private college.  At the same time, I was deferring nearly every other paycheck just to keep a non-profit afloat. 

I figured if I were nuts, I must be in good company.   My board of directors—an amazingly accomplished, committed, fun, and generous group of people—must be nuts too.  And the customers buying nearly 100K worth of granola.  Not to mention the grass roots support—individual donors like you—who were giving so generously.

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We Don't Live in Amarillo

The other day, I spoke with Erneste Ntahondereye, one of the pillars of the 200-plus strong Burundian refugee community that has made Providence home. Erneste complained about all the Burundians moving to Amarillo, Texas, to work in the meat-packing factories. He’d gone to visit recently and was appalled. Parents were working, but refugee children were staying home or dropping out of school. There were minimal social services. He thumped his skull. “Their heads,” he said, “empty, empty!”

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Interview Part 3: Sweat, Elephants, and an Acrostic Poem

I grew up in a war.  I also trained as a fiction writer.   What both experiences have in common is they nourish an impulse to park the mind in a different place than the body and live with some inner distance or disconnect.  With war it’s basic survival.  Fiction writers just feel compelled to apprehend or explore or comprehend experience—which leaves some part of their brains observing at a distance.  Great for being reflective.  Not so great for being in-the-moment. 

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Moving right along (Interview continued)

One reason I’ve been drawn to building a social venture is because it invites us past the 6:30 news.  If you feel concerned about refugees, then you can do something concrete.  It might be as small as buying a granola bar, but it’s something that connects you personally.  And something positive.  I can enjoy eating something made by someone who enjoyed making it, in part because it was a step towards greater belonging in a new community.  And the connections come along the way. That’s why farmers’ markets work so well for us.  Or home deliveries.

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Building an airborne vehicle mid-flight

I’ve heard start-up entrepreneurs describe their job as trying to build an airplane while it’s in flight.   Yeah, that feels about right too.  Maybe airborne vehicle.  Capable of crashing.  It would have been nice to design and build this thing on the ground first—but that would have taken the backing of a well-funded non-profit.  Or a functioning business could have shifted its mission from primarily making money to primarily training.  But these two sectors [small business manufacturing and non-profit adult ed agency] don’t typically cross paths.  They don’t think alike.  So they don’t tend to fund big initiatives that might be outside their primary mission.  Yet the only way I could imagine us being effective in our mission [to jumpstart refugees into the job market] was at their intersection.  So we’re a hybrid and we’re building and we’re in flight.

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Ten reasons why PGP should fail (and why we don't intend to).

Every time you buy a bag of granola you are making an impact.  Every time you stop by a farmer's market and chat with one of our employees you are extending hospitality and helping teach English.  The donations, the encouragement, the tweets, the referrals, the advice, the gifts (like free table space at the Holiday Market), the access to resources (like Amos House), the Facebook mentions, the articles (and reporters who seek us out) and blog posts, big and small.  We've wanted to grow and move forward in a way that keeps us connected to the people who make it possible.  Talk about "watching out"!  Your involvement is watching out for us.

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