This weekend we got to go out and experience the city, in the form of a scavenger hunt on Saturday and a tour on Sunday. Today we woke up at the crack of dawn once more, suited up, and went back to the classroom. At eleven we headed to Everyday Café on our third business visit. We took the P3 bus out of the city and into the small suburb of Homewood where we saw beautiful street art under the bus stop on our way to the destination. Before our discussion with Dr. Wallace, a leader of the Oasis Project, we enjoyed a nice meal at the café as we experienced the business first hand.
Everyday Café is an example of a social enterprise. Dr. Wallace started the conversation by asking us what the term for a company that didn’t make profit was called. Naturally, we all answered with “nonprofit” or “a not-for-profit” to which he smiled and answered that the right answer was “closed.” It was a good reminder that while a company may not be focused on profit, it is a necessity to remain functional. He explained that the primary purpose of the restaurant is to serve as a place for people in the community to come and eat, drink, use the Wi-Fi, and bond with others. They also support local farmers and train local kids with valuable job skills. They also give to the kids by teaching them subjects that they do not learn in class, primarily STEAM programs. On first consideration, the thought of a business having such a focus on social outreach seems like it would create immense complexity. However, after thinking about it more, we have been learning about how firms will have multiple goals in their complex environments, so this is just an example of that very principle. I do not currently seek out social enterprises due to the nature of my home but moving to the city is a big change. I absolutely plan to start purchasing where my dollar counts for far more than the product. Everyday Café is just one part of the Oasis Project and it is incredible what the group has accomplished. I hope to go back and continue to support them in all they do.
This afternoon we had a guest lecturer in the form of Pitt Alum Sangya Gyawali. She works for BNY Mellon and has travelled to Africa many times. Earlier this year she went to Kenya and showed us pictures of the slums. To our surprise, most of the people there had cell phones. She explained that “leap-frogging” allowed them to skip the development stages that our country went through and jump straight to mobile devices. It also turns out that the phones are often cheaper than meals, an extremely jarring fact to learn. We discussed how the technology present is helping to nullify the “birth lottery” and equalize the playing field. At the end of class, we took a short amount of time to detail a plan based on using technology to “solve” a major world issue while maintaining profitability. Obviously, we were not able to come up with the be-all-end-all answer, but we were able to think of possibilities that had never occurred to us.
In our class about managing companies and driving them to success, it was nice to take a day to explore a different definition of success. Social enterprises are changing the world one small step, one small dollar of profit, at a time. We can learn many lessons from them, whether it be how to run a company with enough profitability to maintain itself or how to help the world in which we live.