Juma Ventures Hits a Home Run

Order an ice cream at a sporting event in a stadium in San Francisco, New Orleans, Oakland, Seattle or San Diego, and chances are you’ll become a Juma Ventures customer. Thanks to alliances with Centerplate, Aramark, and Levy Restaurants, the corporations that operate food service concessions in stadiums, Juma Ventures’ vendors are combing the stands and selling their tasty wares to hungry fans across the country. The teens who work for Juma are on a mission: not just to sell ice cream, but to develop job skills and earn money that goes into dedicated college savings accounts. Many of these youth, all of whom come from low-income communities, will be the first in their family to ever attend college.  To ensure they reach this goal, Juma Ventures starts with a job and then provides the tools and resources their student employees need to pursue higher education and break the cycle of poverty.

Today more than 500 young people are employed around the country in Juma’s ballpark operations. Since its inception in 1993 when it opened a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream shop in San Francisco, Juma has supported more than 3,000 teens that have earned over $3 million in wages to fund their college educations and successfully transition into a productive adulthood. Instrumental in their success was early and ongoing support from REDF, according to Jim Schorr, Juma Ventures’ Executive Director from 2001-07.

“The business planning and business development expertise REDF provided in Juma’s early years was crucial,” Schorr says.  Investment capital was important,  especially the early seed money that helped Juma Ventures buy its first ice cream freezers.  But REDF also provided the business acumen Juma Ventures needed to assess what type of social enterprises would accomplish their long-term goals, and helped with feasibility studies and business planning for the concession business.  As a result of the support REDF provided, Juma had the information and tools they needed to move forward in expanding the ballpark concession.  “No funder was more instrumental in Juma’s success than REDF”, says Schorr.

Equally important was REDF’s introduction to San Francisco Giants ownership that led to the opportunity to expand their Ben & Jerry’s business into the initial ballpark venture at Candlestick Park.  “Juma’s partnership with REDF was so much deeper than just the funding we received,” observes Schorr.  “REDF has created a thriving social enterprise community and made the ground more fertile for Juma and many other organizations in the Bay Area and beyond.”

Today, with plans to continue expanding into more cities and stadiums across the country, Juma operates a multi-million dollar organization that annually transitions 90%+ of its youth participants to college, and serves as a national social enterprise model and success story.