Lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of business. All businesses want to make money to support the things that are important to them, but for a growing number, profit is not the only motivator. There can be double, triple, quadruple bottom lines: profit, improving the environment, meeting human needs … you name it.

The Providence Granola Project started as an experiment to explore what might help refugees enter the job market. Building a small business seemed like a logical place to start. But what a revelation it has been to discover how nearly every aspect of a small business—from capital to product—can serve a higher purpose.

Repurposing the key components of a small business

Repurposing the key components of a small business

We’ve started calling this intention to repurpose every component of a small business our Big Idea.

Hiring, for example. We screen all our new hires, not to find the most qualified but rather, the least prepared people for the job. Are they refugees? Are they struggling to speak a word of English? Do they lack first language literacy? Are they culturally illiterate about US workplace expectations and behavior? Have they never heard of granola?

Perfect. Send them along!

Our customers. Our faithful customers--like so many of you--don't just like buying amazing granola. You share our goal and our mission. You are partners. That's one reason so many are signing up for our Granola of the Month Team plan in order to help us with a steady, predictable income so we can plan ahead and accomplish our mission.

For investors who provide capital, their return on investment isn't financial, it's social. They get to make a profound impact in people's lives.

The actual work that our employees do is repurposed as hands-on education. Making granola is transformed into an experiential classroom, which happens to be the most effective setting for adults to learn. And training at the Providence Granola Project leads to first US jobs in the local economy.

And our product isn't just many wonderful varieties of granola, (like this blogger’s favorite, muesli), as well as bars and spiced nuts. Selling a consumer products gives PGP an ideal tool to raise the awareness of our entire community. As fans share their enthusiasm with friends and send gifts to relatives at holidays, thousands of people are introduced to the importance of refugee resettlement.

Finally, there’s the model that shapes the way we grow our business. Because nonprofits are supported and funded by the public, we’re taking care to design every aspect of what we’re doing as non-proprietary—available to be shared, adapted and replicated to benefit as many people as possible.

We tried to capture this desire to repurpose the key components of a small business in an infographic in our (very first) Annual Report. If you haven’t see it yet, there’s a copy for you here to explore. We hope every one of you can join us in being part of this Big Idea.

Caroline Ellis of SuzannesMomsBlog contributed this post.

Written by Keith Cooper

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