In one of my Innovation and Entrepreneurship classes last semester, we talked a lot about brands with purpose. While examining companies like Toms and Warby Parker, we often discussed the current trend of individuals supporting companies that make them feel good. For example, sitting at the Detroit Food Academy table at Wayne State market, many people glanced at the jams, popsicles, and granola bars and kept walking. However, when I would engage with the potential costumers and explain that the Slows Jams, Detroit Pop Shop Popsicles, and Mitten Bites were made by Detroit students who were being empowered as young entrepreneurs, they were much more inclined to purchase. Social entrepreneurs bring purpose to business.
Before coming to Detroit, my Grammy kept asking me what I would be actually doing at the non-profit I was assigned to for the summer. After convincing her that my time at Detroit Food Academy would not involve working at a food bank or teaching cooking classes, I gave her the same small spiel I gave everyone else who asked. More or less: “DFA is a non-profit organization that uses food as a tool to empower youth and teach them leadership and entrepreneurial skills.”
At our first day at DFA, my work partner and I learned that DFA was in desperate need of high-quality photos to promote their programs. So, the next day, John and I traveled to the advance class ready to take pictures.
But when we walked into advanced kitchen, I saw first hard the impact of DFA. As soon as students started cooking, there seemed to be an energy shift in the room. I started talking to students about their dishes, listening carefully as they explained what cuts they were making and what ingredients they were mixing together. I think some of the students thought it was self-explanatory, but to the girl who just hard-boiled eggs for the first-time last week (aka me), I was mesmerized by every step.
This past Saturday, I attended Tastefest, which was a culmination of the hard work of the advanced students from thought year. They each made a dish from a different country and even learned about the culture of each place. Traveling from table to table, the students were beaming with pride of their hard work. They exuded confidence. They were ready to take on a new challenge. To me, this is what social entrepreneurship is all about. Detroit Food Academy combats one of Detroit’s biggest problems, unmotivated youth, and gives them the skill set to turn them into leaders.
Social entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be about creating the next million dollar idea that’s going to change the world, it can be something as simple as giving students confidence.
And maybe, these kids will be the ones who change the world.