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July 2016 - Business Spotlight "To Be Or Not To Be Social Enterprise?"

Private, Non-Profit, Social Enterprise The “Business” Elephant In The Room

Part of the mission of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) is to offer viable referrals and solutions that impacts the economic vitality and well being of local businesses, new entrepreneurs, commercial property owners, and support for those who really just want to know what it takes to start a new business in the neighborhood. That said, in the past month during consultations with businesses, several potential business owners described a desire to start a simultaneous for-profit and non-profit. All wanted in some ways to give back “socially” to the neighborhood. In this era of the “matters’ movement, we listened carefully, asked questions, and ultimately leaned first towards the support needs of the brick and mortar for-profit business. It then sparked some pretty tough Task Force discussions around sweat equity, efficacy and revenue needed to start or maintain any type of business.

It is very interesting, when society is depending more and more on the nonprofit sector to provide a social safety net, such as assisting new businesses, yet not fully acknowledging that non-profits and the new social enterprises, using the same definition, for a local business. We found this does not just apply to city contracts, several funders who support local vendors feel this way. As it relates to supporting neighborhood businesses, this has made for a challenging month.

Because of the depth of training and support systems we have in place across the organization, we are committed to giving all small businesses (some level), if not the same opportunity to participate in our Business Resource Center services. We recognize that not all will be counted for, at the end of the day. When support resources and time are in question, this becomes the elephant in the room.

In this type of uncertain environment, community development corporations (CDC) like ours, business chambers, and other nonprofit organizations who support local mom and pop businesses must continue to work tirelessly to find new sources of revenue, and avenues of support, so we can continue to grow this important work. It is a must for us to stay aligned with our mission to support all businesses. Addressing business vacancies as key assets is needed for us to produce measurable results in our business district revitalization efforts. It is especially important to support all types of business clients, who are determined to help us reduce vacancies through our vacancy site marketing campaign.