I can’t wait to share this nonprofit venture success story of Evergreen Lodge, a well-reviewed Yosemite guest lodge founded and financed to support its youth development social mission. I heard this incredible case study from REDF (a social venture fund) president Kristen Burns at the Philanthropy’s Sweet Spot forum.
Here are the details:
- The story begins with Juma Ventures, a San Francisco-based youth development organization. Juma did a lot of stretching in 2001, including partnering with three young entrepreneurs who were REDF Fellows who aimed to blend financial and social goals in a business venture.
- The Fellows — Lee Zimmerman, Brian Anderluh,and Dan Braun — developed their business concept and plan as entrepreneurs-in-residence at Juma Ventures in 2000-01, then launched this venture — a tourist lodge at Yosemite National Park that creates employment and training opportunities for disadvantaged youth from the Bay Area.
- The youth program, which runs entirely behind the scenes, is financed entirely from Lodge profits.
- Juma partners with Evergreen Lodge by providing support and lends expertise with the youth program, and is also a minority investor.
- The youth program is central to the business model of the Evergreen, and the owners and staff are proud to report "double bottom line" profits with business and social successes.
- On the business side, the Lodge is "highly recommended" by Fodor’s California 2006, and is described by Frommer’s California as "the classic Yosemite experience," and has started to return capitol to its investors.
- And the youth employees are showing successful transitions into adulthood.
Now that’s a social venture success. So often phrases such as "enterprise" and "social venture" remain abstractions. This Evergreen Lodge story brought them to life for me.