Jeremy Gregg

3-time TEDx Speaker | Social Entrepreneur | Author of "Daddy's Time Out"

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prayer of the shards

shards of glass fit together

Via CC license

May the brokenness in me
fit the brokenness in you
so both are made whole.

homeless as octameter (#poem)

How shall I, whose tears now drench this steering wheel, share love with you
whose wheelchair sputters in the dirt, beside the road on which I drive
towards my home, so far away from this strange place in which we meet,
where I embrace your hand in mine, feel how your thumb enwraps my own,
feel how your hand has no more grasp, see where your other ends in stubs,
behold your legs that stop at the knee, that ache in the space no flesh has known?
who am I that passes cash, a fistful of a day’s earned wage,
towards your chest and speeds off tearing, tearing through the night towards home
where I will sleep within a bed while you lie somewhere on the street?

Forgive me, friend, whose name I asked and dropped beside the highway where
our paths entwined for one clear glimpse, where God himself saw through your eyes.

A New Model of Social Enterprise: Master Franchising

IMG_1745-0.JPGAt the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, we just announced one of the most significant milestones in our organization’s recent history … the acquisition of a master franchise for the entire state of Texas by our for-profit subsidiary, the Communitas Auto Group.

(Read more here)

Over the next twenty years, we will develop around 20-30 automotive repair shops under the brand of The Auto-Lab Complete Car Care Centers. These shops will provide hundreds of living wage jobs (many of which will be for graduates of PEP); by 2023, we anticipate they will also grow to provide around $1 million per year in revenue to support PEP’s mission.

Those facts alone are worth celebrating. But there are two aspects of this initiative that get me even more excited… because they are far larger than just PEP.

First, this effort represents a seismic shift in the franchising world. There are fewer than 100 franchise stores that are owned by nonprofits; most are in the food services arena, like Ben & Jerry’s, Nathan’s Famous, Annie’s Pretzels, etc. And in the majority of cases, nonprofits only own a single store.

Through our subsidiary, PEP owns the rights to the entire state of Texas for The Auto-Lab. Within a few years, we will likely own more franchise stores than any other nonprofit in the country.

This will be a game-changer for nonprofits, because we will prove the value that nonprofits can bring to the franchising community as BUSINESS PARTNERS. After all, here are some of the assets that PEP brought to the table that most typical franchisees lack:

  • A robust governing board and advisory board structure that includes 50+ experienced business leaders whose expertise we can tap to guide the venture’s growth;
  • Immediate access to a qualified and motivated workforce of strong potential employees and store managers (i.e. our graduates);
  • Thousands of active relationships with potential customers in multiple cities across Texas (i.e. our volunteers and donors, not to mention our graduates and their families).

The latter is particularly valuable for franchisors. Once we open a store in Houston or Dallas, we will have thousands of people in those markets who already know about PEP and who would be willing to give our store a try. And for a new entrant to the market, that is an invaluable asset to tap.

Further, within each of those three groups above, we have not only potential customers and employees … but potential investors. And more importantly — potential franchisees.

Yes, this venture will provide jobs for our graduates and revenue for PEP.
But the broader impact will be on how we can transform the way
that the franchising community looks at nonprofits.

Thankfully, the remarkable leaders at The Auto-Lab had the vision to see what we could offer. Yet throughout this process of securing a franchise, we encountered a high degree of skepticism from other franchisors about working with a nonprofit (let alone one that worked with felons!). The success of Communitas Auto Group will force other franchisors to take notice … and, we hope, become much more open — indeed, eager! — to engage nonprofits as franchisees.

That is the first reason why I am excited.

But the second makes me even more so.

To fund this initiative, we pioneered a new financial model that we believe could serve as a template for how to finance social enterprises and earned income initiatives owned by nonprofits. Thanks to the guidance of our board and some very wise counsel from one of the preeminent Houston corporate law firms, we have built a model that allows the Communitas Auto Group (“CAG”) to harness the power of private equity while maintaining PEP’s long-term ownership of the venture.

In brief, CAG is incorporated as a for-profit company. As explained in the link at the top, CAG was capitalized with an initial investment from Mike Humphrey of Houston, Texas. Mike is now the majority owner of the venture, but PEP was granted a sizable carried interest in CAG at essentially no cost. There is a mandatory distribution to PEP of $50,000 per year from CAG, and a scheduled buy-back of the equity from the initial investors through the profits generated by the business. This will allow PEP to fully own the company within approximately ten years, if CAG grows in line with our conservative financial models.

Once that occurs, we anticipate that CAG will be contributing approximately $1MM per year in unrestricted revenues back to PEP. That is the equivalent of building a $25-30MM endowment for the organization … only this is one that creates hundreds of jobs along the way for our graduates.

All without relying on philanthropy.

THAT is what is really sexy about all of this. We are blazing a new trail in how mission investors can complement their charitable giving with strategic investments that create both market returns AND social benefits.

And when we can do that … we exponentially multiply the amount of funding that we can access. After all, just look at the world of grant-making foundations. They distribute, on average, 5% of their assets in the form of grants. But the other 95% is held in investments.

By tapping into that 95% … we effectively multiply the base of support available by a factor of 19X.

That’s no different for major donors. However generous they are, the vast majority of major donors have more money in their investment budgets than in their charitable giving budget. By tapping into those far larger pools of capital, we dramatically expand the percentage of “wallet share” that can be tapped by the social sector.

And THAT is something that our team will be very proud to leave as part of our legacy.

Onward!

What if Walt Whitman could have watched the Earth breathe?

WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; 5
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”

— Walt Whitman (1819–1892).  Leaves of Grass.  1900.

I thought of this poem when I saw the image below, a GIF made from a compilation of 12 of NASA’s Visible Earthimages, one taken each month in 2004. The GIF was posted by John Nelson, a user-experience expert for the software firm IDV Solutions. I learned of it through Upworthy‘s posting of the link here.

Walt, what would you have written if you could have seen this image?

earth breathing

The paths down which we walk within our dreams

self portrait as a shadow on a prison parking lot

self portrait as a shadow on a prison parking lot

The paths down which we walk within our dreams
have led us to this place we dare not sleep:
this place where waking is not what it seems.

Our words have traveled down the narrow streams
of halting conversation from the deep
chasms carved by weeping in our dreams.

What scribes have caught our thoughts within the reams
of parchment buried deep beneath the keep
that slumbers here where waking shows no seams

against the teaming cauldron of our schemes,
across the patchworked calculus we heap
to bind the paths down which we walk our dreams

like dogs that bark at every light that gleams
within the shadows cast around the sheep
whose dim-eyed waking is not what it seems?

None but these, who prowl upon the lams
to gauge the ripeness of the time to sweep
along the paths down which we walk in dreams
towards a waking state not what it seems.

prison ghazal (#poem)

creative commons prison

licensed via creative commons

A place from which you can’t escape is prison.
A place to which you must return is prison.

The space between the place where you were born
and everywhere you fear to go is prison.

Your shame has strapped a saddle on your back
and whipped your ass to ride you back to prison.

Their faces — all the ones you can’t forgive —
become the guards who lock you in your prison.

Pull back the shades; reveal the fragile glass
that forms the razor fence around your prison.

What taste now aches within your bitter palate?
What sweetness haunts your memory in this prison?

You see your lover standing at the gate.
You wave to her — but turn into your prison.

A big, important question asked by Salah Boukadoum

MLK a threat to justice

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – MLK

My friend Salah Boukadoum is the founder of Soap Hope, an amazing company with an even more amazing mission. In brief, they sell all-natural, organic, high-quality products … and invest 100% of their profits in microloans to impoverished women. Their model — which Salah calls the Good Returns model (click for his TEDxGrandRapids talk on the topic) — can equip any company to generate a sustainable impact on the world at no direct cost to them other than a year of interest.

But that is not why I am writing about Salah. I am writing about him because I was shocked into a stupor by a very poignant question that he asked on Facebook. I post in its entirety below… and welcome your thoughts.

Why, when a skier is lost on the mountain, do we deploy a search party using helicopters and snowmobiles to see if it’s possible to find him and save his life, but we don’t deploy anything for the child whose life is in grave danger in a village in Africa? The skier consciously made the decision to take a dangerous path, but we don’t hold that against him and give up on his life. The child made no decisions, and was just born in a place of grave danger. If we abandoned the skier on the mountain, we would be accused of being heartless and inhuman. But we abandon the child every day.

The reason boils down to who we consider to be in our community. This is the same reason we celebrate when a plant moves from Mexico to Texas, and denounce a plant moving from Texas to Mexico – the job in our community is more important than the job in “their” community. It’s the same reason that a massacre in our country is worthy of a trillion dollar global mission, but a massacre in Syria is not worthy of any action at all. Because “they” are responsible for “their” problems, and “we” are responsible for “ours.” Who counts in the “we” and who in the “they”?

If we are going to express the full potential of humanity, we will need to expand our understanding of our community to include all people, in all places. Because determining the value of a human life on where you happen to be born, or where you happen to be at this moment, is the same as determining the value of human life by rolling dice.

Robert Egger’s advice on how to give a presentation about #nonprofits

Robert Egger

Robert Egger, founder of DC Central Kitchen, founder of CForward

“Just be cool, drop f-bombs & embrace an unwavering faith in the power of #nonprofits to help rebuild the economy & you’re there.”

@RobertEgger

Land of Non — More than Charity

harper in the stream

Things aren’t always what they seem…

Tomorrow, I am giving a presentation at the Nonprofit Summit hosted by the Nonprofit Center of North Central Florida. I am giving a wide-ranging talk that I am calling “The Land of Non: More than Charity.”

(Thanks to my friend Stacy Caldwell for introducing me to this very appropriate term for the ol’ nonprofit sector. See my first blog about it here.)

My talk will cover three basic topics:

  1. YOUR ORG (“your organization”): How and why nonprofits should stop using the language of “begging” when it comes to fundraising, and focus instead on giving a solid investment pitch (i.e. more like what you see on Shark Tank than on the street corner). I’ll also talk about the difference between thinking of donors simply as sources of money rather than ambassadors in your mission.
    1. To illustrate this, I am going to use a version of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program’s “ambassador enrollment presentation” as a case study.
  2. DOT ORG (“the nonprofit sector”): How to reframe our understanding of the nonprofit sector’s role in society by discussing the size, breadth and impact of the nation’s 1.4 million charitable organizations.
  3. OUR ORG (“our sector-wide organizing efforts”): How we can all get involved in changing the dialogue used when discussing the nonprofit sector.
    1. To illustrate this, I am going to highlight the work of Robert Egger and his new lobbying organization, CForward

I have about 45 minutes to cover 45 slides. Some will take 5 seconds, some will take 5 minutes. We’ll see how this works out!

For those who attended the conference and are now finding this blog, you can download the presentation here:
Land of Non – More than Charity – by Jeremy Gregg

Finally, here are the links included in this presentation for “Suggested Reading”:

Who will win the nonprofit sector’s 10 million votes?

More powerful updates from the inimitable Robert Egger, founder of the DC Central Kitchen, and the V3 Campaign … which has been reborn as the even more awesome, and far more powerful CForward (a PAC aimed at endorsing and supporting political candidates who have a strong platform for engaging the tenth of the economy known as the nonprofit sector):

The nonprofit sector employs around 10 million people.

The sector engages another 90 million people as volunteers.

Collectively, the sector controls about 10% of the GDP. In Texas, the nonprofit sector employs more people than the oil industry.

And yet  — none of the politicians asking for our vote have ANY plan for how to engage us, our creativity, our passion, our entrepreneurial spirit . . .

Not YET, at least.

Watch this video from CForward. Then join me in donating to support their work.

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