Profits & Non-Profits Working Side-By-Side
Profits & Non-Profits
More and more we are seeing “for profit” and “non-profit” organization coming together. We sat down with Evan Delahanty to learn more about the partnership his company formed with a non-profit, the success it’s brought and how he hopes to bring awareness to an undervalued resource. Evan is the founder of Peaceful Fruits, a small, “social-good” company that creates all-natural fruit strips while simultaneously providing full-wage job opportunities to individuals with disabilities through The Blick Center, a non-profit organization that provides a variety of comprehensive services and programs for individuals with developmental disabilities.
After 2 years in the Peace Corp, working with the Saramaccan people in Amazon, Evan knew he wanted to create a business that was authentic, healthy, delicious and that would stay connected to that economic empowerment mission in the Amazon. In keeping with that philosophy, he established a mission-focused company called Peaceful Fruits with the idea of making sweet, whole fruit snacks using wild acai berries as the core ingredient. All flavors are hand crafted using whole fruits that are certified organic, gluten-free and non-GMO. They contain the superfood acai, which is jam-packed with antioxidants, that grow abundantly and are ethically sourced in the Amazon Rainforest.
Evan is proud of how this startup company has organically grown. From the roots that were set in the Amazon to making the fruit snacks in his Akron, Ohio kitchen, and then meeting a special individual at a local Farmers Market that has become an intricate part of the success of his business and mission. When he met Peg and her son, AJ, who has severe down syndrome, they loved the fruit right away and they began helping Evan with packaging and labeling. Months later they introduced Evan to The Blick Center and a group of folks that wouldn’t just become employees, but a team that would define the mission of his business.
The Blick Center
The Blick Center (established in 1969, and located in Akron, Ohio), is a private, non-profit community agency that provides a variety of clinical outpatient, residential and day program services for individuals with developmental disabilities and behavioral health needs and other related conditions.
Peg was on the board and told Evan that there were 15 other people, just like AJ, that would love a job with Peaceful Fruits. This came a crucial time for Evan because after he appeared on The Shark Tank, he found himself having to fulfill $75,000 in orders, the biggest his company had seen, yet. The Blick Center quickly cornered off a space in their basement for a “Peaceful Fruits Factory”, rolled up their sleeves and got to work to fulfill the $75,000 in orders. It was an incredibly motivating time for both organizations, and that was just the beginning.
With any startup company you have to be adaptable and the speed in which you adapt can be the biggest struggle. There are new challenges everyday, like learning to be an accountant, a manager, a shipper, etc… and most learn as they go. Evan says working side by side with The Blick Center has been such a blessing.
Bonnie King, Lead Occupational Therapist with The Blick Center has been working closely with Evan to identify where Peaceful Fruits can be flexible on the business side and how The Blick Center can be flexible on the non-profit side to pool resources and ideas to create a project that is closely partnered. “Bonnie has full insight into how Peaceful Fruits runs so that she can be helping us refine and adapt the jobs that we need done to fit the special needs of the employees. Additionally, we are able to keep paying people to create the work and the wage they need and to get them involved in rewarding, fulfilling, exciting work.”
Evan calls the The Blick Center a diamond in hiding. He continued, “In many ways this partnership has been a godsend and incredibly helpful that we were able to benefit from their space, their HR, their knowledge, their folks…” Together, Bonnie and Evan developed the structure of the company; designing a process, writing it down, documenting it and managing it to develop procedures that would be clear, understandable instructions for their employees. In addition, The Blick Center trains, hires and places these employees in various positions within the company, from cooking and drying the fruit to packaging and shipping and even quality control. As an employee’s training and desire grows they have the opportunity to take on bigger tasks until they are in the kitchen with the ownership and able to say, “No, this snack isn’t good enough, I’m rejecting it” or “this one passes”. Evan says they have ownership of the process.
It Just Makes Sense
It’s easy to focus on the feel good aspects of “for profit” companies working with non-profits. It’s incredibly rewarding and useful and motivating, but Evan says it’s the other side that really surprised him. “These folks, they do a good job and we pay them a full wage and yes we have a unique and flexible team-building environment set up with Blick; allowing employees to work the amount of hours or pace they are capable of, whether that is 1 or 6 hours a day, but when they work that hour, their output is good! As a business I’m happy to pay them a full wage because they do a good job.”
Evan admits that there are definitely faster ways to scale the company than working with people with disabilities, like manufacturing the product in another country with cheaper, faster labor. However, for Peaceful Fruits, this way made more sense. To Evan, it pays to remember why they are doing it, from a business side and mission side, saying some things are worth taking your time to do right.
“We are doing this because it makes sense as a business, and it’s important to not undersell that because we want this to be mainstream. We want people to understand the potential of this underserved population as a resource.”
Evan’s Final Message
The reality is that there really aren’t enough opportunities out there for this population and the jobs that are available aren’t always fulfilling. Any employee wants to be part of something meaningful and Peaceful Fruits wants to create an environment where these folks can be part of a dynamic team and company that is always growing and changing. An environment in which they, too, can grow within it, learning any and all aspects of the company, and taking on as much responsibility as they desire.
Evan expressed, “It’s an incredibly close partnership; it gives us access to a motivated labor pool and it gives them access to the sustainable revenue streams and the meaningful work that any non-profit needs to help them create real opportunity and real progress for their population. If you have a job that needs to get done, consider calling your local nonprofit center.”
Visit Peacefulfruits.com to purchase their organic fruit made with helping hands and learn more about their companies mission.
Visit Blickcenter.org to learn more about The Blick Center and the programs they offer in the Akron, Ohio.
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