Heart of the City
St. Louis entrepreneurial spirit shines in these inspiring enterprises for kids.
In a city where both social responsibility and entrepreneurship are highly valued areas of growth, it’s no surprise that the two realms have found plenty of common ground. 2011 marked the first ever Social Enterprise Week, hosted by The Mission Center and the St. Louis chapter of the Social Enterprise Alliance, which brought together entrepreneurs and investors for a series of workshops and seminars. Here, we take a look at three thriving social enterprises aiming to empower youths through job training and character development, while also providing useful services and products to local businesses and families.
St. Louis BWorks uses bicycles, books and computers as the cornerstones of three lifealtering programs for at-risk youths ages 8 to 15. The group’s most recent venture, St. Louis Book Works, gives kids the chance to write and illustrate their own books under the guidance of volunteer tutor-editors—all while developing literacy and creativity. Through the St. Louis Byte Works program, children develop skills in the maintenance and technical applications of desktop computers, learning the importance of responsibility and determination as they work toward earning a desktop computer of their own. Likewise, BWorks’ charter program, St. Louis Bicycle Works, teaches youngsters about bicycle safety and maintenance while giving them the opportunity to earn their own bicycle. If you’re in the market for a new pair of wheels yourself, the organization sells refurbished bikes at its shop, with proceeds benefiting all three BWorks programs. To volunteer, donate or place an order, visit bworks.org.
Recipe for Hope
At Angel Baked, sugar, baking soda and chocolate chips are the ingredients for more than just cookies. Started in a rectory kitchen by North Grand Neighborhood Services, Angel Baked empowers neighborhood youth to grow into self-starting citizens by helping to run a working bakery. Teens run the kitchen, filling orders for chocolate chip, oatmeal-raisin and sugar cookies; they also handle the marketing and sales of the cookies to local businesses. In a part of the St. Louis community where drop-out and unemployment rates are high, Angel Baked provides teens with a safe haven to build character, job skills and friendships. Their cookies are now available at more than a dozen restaurants and markets, including Local Harvest Grocery, Café Ventana, North City Farmers Market and Northwest Coffee. Individuals can also special-order gift packages for events via the Angel Baked website. To volunteer, donate or place an order, visit angelbaked.org.
Portrait of Success
Fostering creativity and developing real-world skills are top priorities for St. Louis ArtWorks in its programs for teens, which give young artists opportunities to get paid for commissioned projects for real clients. Through two different enterprises, Boomerang Press and BoomerRacks, the nonprofit pairs 14- to 19-year-old apprentices with local artists who act as mentors. They help the teens develop their talents, while teaching important skills of the trade like how to conduct client meetings and coordinate artwork installation. Boomerang Press focuses on graphic art through the creation of posters, greeting cards and signage for clients that range from private citizens to franchises like Schnucks, the St. Louis Cardinals and Grace Hill’s Whitaker Urban Evening Series. BoomerRacks specializes in bike racks crafted out of recycled materials to promote a message of green living, sustainability and art. The unique racks can be found across the city, commissioned by neighborhood associations and local businesses like Centene Corporation, Kakao Chocolate and the Moto Museum. To volunteer, donate or place an order, visit stlartworks.org.
St. Louis BWorks
St. Louis BWorks
Photo credit: Matt Strom