Q: How do you define social entrepreneurship? Can you give one specific example of social entrepreneurship that you have been directly involved with? What was your role in it?
“For me, social entrepreneurship is using sound business practices and innovative approaches to address social, cultural and/or environmental ills. They can be for-profit or not-for-profit, or a combination. Often a for-profit entity will fund its not-for-profit “parent.” I would say that most (if not all) social enterprises are driven by a strong sense of mission, which elicits a passionate drive for success. Success is measured differently, transformational social change. Wealth promotion is not the end, but the means.”
“For example, Paul Neuman’s “Neuman’s Own” where all profits go to various charities. A different model would be Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. Their six Goodwill Stores have created several jobs and the profit is returned to support their mission “putting people with employment challenges to work.” Goodwill’s Green Works, Inc. is a “cost-saving, labor-intensive asset recovery and industrial recycling services to socially conscious municipalities, utilities, automotive suppliers and manufacturers, as well as construction and demolition companies.” Job creation and recycling with the revenue funding education and placement programs and skills training – programs supporting its mission.” It’s definitely interesting to think of Goodwill as a type of social entrepreneurship – this isn’t the type that we at DukeEngage have familiarized ourselves with, but thinking about it, this definitely is a form of social entrepreneurship as well.
Betsy sites one of TechTown’s incubation clients as well. “Another example is RecoveryPark Farms, the for-profit urban farming venture that supports the mission of its not-for-profit, RecoveryPark. RecoveryPark has created a family of businesses to help transform vacant land and revitalize communities. RecoveryPark Farms’ intent: “By growing vibrant, healthy foods in blighted Detroit neighborhoods we can create quality jobs, accessible for people with barriers to traditional employment.””
Q: What is one struggle that you have overcome? How were you able to get through it?
“There have been a number of challenges in my life, as most of us have. My most recent was a bout with the cursed C – cancer. One year ago, blissfully entering a wonderful Michigan summer I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Well, that certainly changes things for me for the rest of the year. I was lucky in that we got it early and I had amazing care. I got through it with a sense of humor, a great support system of family, friends and colleagues, and a deep faith. Not unique, but certainly powerful. This time out was a great time to reflect on that is really important and to reprioritize matters. People come first! As I write this, it sounds like a bunch of platitudes, but it is true.” It is such a simple perspective, but it’s so true – people really do come first. And ultimately, social entrepreneurship is about putting people first, too.
Q: What brought you to Detroit? What brought you to TechTown?
“My husband, who was raised in Marine City on the St. Clair River, got a job offer in Detroit in 1978. At the time we were living in a restored William Waldorf Astor apartment building on Broadway in Manhattan – paradise for a girl raised in Connecticut who always knew she was going to live in New York” (This part I definitely understand – one of the first things Betsy and I bonded over at the Mixer was our mutual love for New York.) “I think I cried for a year – especially when I learned our building went coop. Talk about a missed opportunity. But, I truly learned to love Detroit (it was harder to love then) and the great people working so hard to cause change. I was a film/videotape producer and free-lanced. General Motors was a great client. I went to work for the UAW-GM Quality Network and eventually was hired by GM to help create the GM Global Public Policy Center. I was privileged to create and manage GM’s global HIV/AIDS information and training program. It was based on “A Closer Walk,” a film by Worldwide Documentaries (WWD). I retired in 2009 and worked with WWD on a film about human trafficking, “Not My Life.” Fun subjects, right? (BTW, Worldwide Documentaries is another great example of social entrepreneurship.) Then I was told about a small grant by the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan to explore baby boomers who were starting “encore careers” called BOOM! The New Economy. Five different non-profits had come together and needed a person to put structure to their ideas. Techtown was one of those organizations and donated space and support for my work. When the grant was completed, TechTown asked me to stay and I did.”
Q: What is one cool hobby that you have?
“I think I am fairly boring in this department. I am on 3 boards and spend a lot of time volunteering for them. I am also on the Vestry of my church and do a lot of work there as well, including a soup kitchen in Detroit. I love to design and knit. I have a vegetable garden - not very successful last year but hope springs eternal” (Betsy has told us about how she used to bring fresh tomatoes into the office every few weeks – talk about a nice office surprise!). And, I love to travel. Went to the Amazon last October and then Machu Picchu. Going to Portugal this fall. And, I LOVE being GramBee to my 2 1/2 year grandson Miller.”