Socially innovative businesses can grow organically at many levels, ages


This month, our stories are heavily tied to the idea of empowering others to make the most of themselves, in turn bettering communities of various size and need.
Since our first pieces were published in 2013, the project we call UIX Grand Rapids hasn’t had very much trouble finding social innovators to report on. Quite the opposite, in fact.

From the seeds of small business inception to multi-national corporations, West Michigan is replete with stories of socially conscious pioneering. This month, our stories are heavily tied to the idea of empowering others to make the most of themselves, in turn bettering communities of various size and need.

The month starts out with a piece on Chef Donald Ram and the Gerald R. Ford Job Corps, where students 16-24 learn a career trade, at no cost, from masters in the fields of culinary arts, carpentry, medical office support, security and more. The students are, in a way, developing what some have come to call a “hedgehog concept”— finding the commonalities between their interests, their skill set, and their marketable talents.

Following that, Kelly LeCoy will report onScott Sneller's Gazelle Sports becoming a B (Benefit) Corporation. According to www.bcorporation.net, this means the company, “By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, [Gazelle Sports] distinguishing [itself] in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.”

Later, we’ll delve into Kafi Carrasco and SpringGR, a program by the Restorers Business Partnership that’s improving assets in the Madison-Hall community through business training. The entry points for small business often involve attracting the right model of financing. First stage scaling from concept to company requires more than just money, though, and SpringGR is a training, mentoring and networking program designed to help budding entrepreneurs in Grand Rapids turn their ideas into thriving businesses.

And at the end of March, UIX will publish another story by LeCoy on Jenna Weiler and her work with Ambrose. Now in its sixth year, we will see how this small undertaking, which trains kids in the modes of drawing, design, printmaking and photography, has fostered creative entrepreneurs in the community.

As always, we will be on the lookout for new and innovative, socially-conscious pioneers. Feel free to send any story ideas our way by means of FacebookTwitterInstagram, or by emailing [email protected]

Matthew Russell is the Project Editor for UIX Grand Rapids.
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