You may know that Ben & Jerry's employs homeless youth to work in their ice cream shops, or maybe you just knew they scooped up a Cherry Garcia that makes tastebuds want to dance. Whether you knew nothing, a little or a lot about their social initiative, we're here to offer you a closer look. Juma Ventures (see profile) is the organization behind the Ben & Jerry's program, and their emphasis is on providing troubled youth with career and education opportunities. Today they have grown well beyond the ice cream shops and are employing hundreds of youth each year.
We had a chance to speak with the CEO of Juma Ventures, Marc Spencer, who shares the inspiration behind the business in the interview below, and how he keeps his own creativity fresh while working in the social impact space.
4 Questions with Marc Spencer, CEO of Juma Ventures
1. How did the idea for the business model come about?
Initially we were looking to provide homeless youth with employment to help create stability in their lives. The Ben & Jerry's ice cream retail scoop shops were ideal for employing low-skilled youth that faced significant barriers to employment. When the cost to run these businesses and provide case management services became prohibitive, we elected to create another social enterprise, a vending and concessions operation, inside of collegiate and professional sports stadiums. Today, we own and operate seven stadium-based businesses that annually employee over 300 low-income youth in three cities in California. This model is much more viable than the scoop shops and we have plans for nationally expansion.
2. How did you decide to join this sector?
I joined the nonprofit sector immediately after graduating from UCLA. I was intrigued with the social enterprise sector because of the double and triple bottom line mandates and saw great potential to put my entreprenuerial skills to use in ways that could make real societal impact.
3. How do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from the youth we serve. When I see them taking full advantage of the services, hear them speak about how the program is helping to change & improve their lives, and see them graduate from college I get inspired.
4. How do you reset yourself to be creative? Do you have any rituals?
I reset with daily meditation and reflection. I restore physically by playing sports. Emotionally I get pleasure from spending time with my wife and three children.