This interview features Genieve Martin who will be presenting at the 2016 Elevating Impact Summit along with Dave’s Killer Bread CEO, John Tucker in an intimate interview with PSU Assistant Professor Rachel Cunliffe. Tickets for the Summit are available here.
Before we met Genevieve Tucker in person, she was a student in our online Certificate in Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation at PSU. She was an intrapreneur, beginning to develop a new social venture inside an existing company. We were excited to work with her on it.
Over the course of the next year, Genevieve skillfully applied the social innovation skills and tools from the certificate to her real life professional challenge. By the time we went to visit her work, at the Dave’s Killer Bread Breadquarters, Genevieve was already launching the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation. We sat down with her to hear her story.
Impact Entrepreneurs: What’s your history with Dave’s Killer Bread?
Genevieve Martin: I was hired five and a half years ago by Dave’s Killer Bread to start the Killer Café. At the time, the headquarters and production facilities just had this tiny little break room, so my job was to make it into a place where every employee would receive free, nutritious meals, snacks and beverages . My previous experience was in managing front and back of house operations with food service ventures, so this all seemed within reach.
But my job grew quickly. One of my new responsibilities included running the small company store and its donations, which were from a percentage of store profits and product. The donations were given as unofficial, no-strings-attached gifts and at that point the criteria for giving was that the recipient was an organization near and dear to the family’s heart. Everything we donated was coming directly off the shelves of the store.
While we loved giving the stuff away, we were losing a potential chunk of profit in the process. Being a little more “corporate America” minded, I thought, let’s create some structure here. This part was easy! We hired someone to help with requests and outreach, and then, two years ago came up with a formal grant program to decide who we gave to, and why. We provided donations to a variety of organizations from yoga programs, to youth programs, to conservation. They didn’t exactly relate to second chance employment, but at least we had a giving structure in place.
IE: Then what happened that put you in the second chance employment space?
GT: So it’s a kind of sad story. First, I should point out that we’ve always hired people with criminal backgrounds. But two years ago we lost a couple of internal leaders to recidivism and drug use in quick succession. They had both started at Dave’s as hourly workers and had worked their way up to managing departments with more than 35 people. John Tucker, our new CEO surprised us. Instead of saying, “let’s stop doing this,” John said, “what are we not doing?” I knew then that this guy was serious.
From there we piloted a few programs, including a peer mentoring program and a leadership skills series to see what might work best. Finally we just started collecting and sharing a bunch of resources where we could point people who were struggling. With that one, we started to see a change. People saw that we weren’t just a place to punch in and punch out.
Another outcome from the pilots was that we realized we need to understand the reentry landscape better. We knew it was important to hire people with criminal backgrounds, and we were really proud of doing that, but it kind of ended there. So I proposed we host an event where we would bring together government and nonprofit, and any business partner that was interested in talking about the state of reentry. My goal was 50 people and we ended up with 86. It was standing room only at the Westin, and everyone was leaning in. Halfway through that event John came up to me and said, “You need to hire another you.” I said, “Really? Are you officially telling me I can do that?” He said, “Yes, let’s talk next week.” Three months later ‘dI hired our now full-time foundation Program Manager and was in a position to propose and execute next steps. Which was…. amazing…and really scary.
The conference revealed that what is missing from the landscape are employers willing to accept people with criminal backgrounds and openly discuss it. We chose to create a corporate foundation because it would allow us to leverage additional funding streams, rather than keep it in house. It also built in the added commitment that this work is so important that it can stand on its own. .
IE: Can you say the Mission of Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation?
GT: To expand employment opportunities for people with criminal backgrounds.
IE: What were your big questions now that it was your job to start a corporate giving foundation?
(Laughs)… Well, for me this was another “holy !#$%^& moment” where I had to grapple with what I was doing here. John Tucker’s confidence in me was encouraging but I needed some more credibility for myself, for external partnerships, and honestly, for internal people to take me seriously. So I started researching nonprofit and leadership management programs. To be honest, academics wasn’t my strong suit growing up and I was hesitant to jump into a laborious program, fearing that I’d be setting myself up for failure.
After researching non-profit leadership courses, degrees and certifications I stumbled upon the Business of Social Innovation Certificate at PSU.. I thought this sounds pretty amazing and I immediately emailed for info. After talking to Abby at PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs I was pretty sure it was what I should be doing, so I took it to John. He was so supportive and offered to move around budgets to cover the cost. It’s a very strange and wonderful feeling to have someone you’ve known a short time see that this is what you are supposed to be doing and make it possible.
IE: What have been the most relevant tools you’ve acquired through the certificate program that will help you accelerate this initiative at DKB?
The Human Centered Design piece, which was something I hadn’t heard about before, was huge, especially in the beginning. We still use the Business Model Canvas, and I have been using the empathy model from the Business Model Generation book as we put together our corporate goals. We’ve actually been using the Business Model Canvas for each department. Next year the café will do one as an assessment, and the same with the store. That resource was huge. It constantly pops up for me.
The customer development interviews, while they seem so simple and straightforward, were massively helpful and new to us. For example, one of our big pieces of work was writing the Second Chance Playbook. We had all these expert pieces of it, and were really struggling to get all the right content in there. Meanwhile, we’re doing the customer development interviews with really fantastic HR professionals who are excited about the work we’re doing, but who tell us basically that they’re not going to have time to read a book. I stopped in my tracks. Of course they don’t! That was my idea to write a book, and I don’t even have time to read one. See all those books on my wall? Those are my you-should-read-these-sometime books, and of course I never do. So that’s completely changed one of our programs. It’s currently in production to be an online set of modules with downloadable content, a program that HR professionals can use as their time permits..
It was uncomfortable to do the customer interviews at first. I’m an introvert by nature and not a salesperson, so at first it was hard to approach people asking them to talk to me as a representative of Dave’s Killer Bread. But then I realized I had this great advantage in that I could say it was for a class project and when I did that, everyone responded very positively. It was so much easier. I recommend every student leverage that.
IE: What kind of influence do you think Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation will have?
GT: I think there’s potential for it to change the way people are employed, but there’s a long way to go before we see that. The wonderful thing about this work is that it’s ripe right now. There’s a national movement, more people are seeking information, and it’s a great opportunity for us to share what we know. Now it comes down to how we play it out. We have a new acquisition that has a ton of potential for how far we reach, both with our product and our message. The only thing that will get in our way at this point is ourselves!
Thanks to Portland State’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions, we recently had the honor of co-hosting Van Jones for a student seminar, dinner and keynote at Portland State University. With experience as a serial social entrepreneur, social justice leader, NY Times best-selling author, CNN commentator and former Green Jobs advisor to President Obama, he has positively impacted millions of lives and changed social and political systems through his work.
In his student seminar, Van Jones addressed the intimate group as a friend. “You all seem kind of weird,” he said. “I feel right at home.” Jones responded to questions and quandaries that ranged from fundraising advice to pedagogical theory, the whole time speaking from the heart. It was an inspiring afternoon with a lot of laughs and even a few tears.Here are the top 5 social entrepreneurship tips we got from his talk:
- Do Something: Making a difference is harder than you think, but not as complicated as it seems. The way to make a difference is to do something. If you want to do something big, start small. If you start too big you will get paralyzed by it. For example: If you want to revolutionize education, start by teaching five kids something you know how to do.
- Salute Setbacks: Once you start doing something, if you do it long enough you will make a lot of mistakes. Everyone does, but you only ever hear about the successes. You will learn the most from the stuff that doesn’t work. Successes are important, but setbacks build character. Keep doing it over and over and you start to get results, staff and money. The next time around it will be easier.
- Get Out of the PC Thing: You can never be politically correct (PC) enough. No matter how much you are doing, people will attack you for what you don’t do. Focus on doing. If you try to do everything and help everybody, you will get paralyzed.
- Don’t Impress Yourself out of a Mentor. Competition is not the biggest motivator for people. Our strongest impulse is to nurture. Sometimes when seeking help, social entrepreneurs impress themselves out of a mentor. If you make yourself sound too successful or prepared, your potential mentor may not think you need their help. Share your successes, but also be willing to share your struggles. When someone helps you, they will want to keep helping you…for life.
- Know What Funders Want: You will need money. Other people have it. You need to know what they are looking for so they will give it to you. Funders are trying to identify three things: 1. That the problem is worth their time; 2. That your solution is plausible; 3. That you are the best person/team/organization to solve it.
Final thought: Our education system has taught us to be deconstructionists. We have become experts at breaking things apart and criticizing everything and everyone. We have forgotten how to bring people together to create and initiate solutions. We have to change this. Social entrepreneurship done correctly is about reconstructing, but we have to be willing to let all kinds of people in, find common ground and build together.
Do some of these ideas sound familiar? Helpful? What are your top 5 social entrepreneurship tips?
Check out more photos from our visit with Van Jones on our Facebook page: http://www.Facebook.com/PSUImpactEntrepreneurs
Check out Van Jones’ keynote from later that evening.