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Social Enterprise Spotlights

Resilience During Coronavirus: Updates from the Employment Social Enterprise Field

The economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is severely impacting small businesses and their employees across the country. And social enterprise businesses are no exception.

The entrepreneurial leaders of social enterprises are dedicated to addressing the hardships and uncertainty that are a fact of life for those they serve. And they are demonstrating their creativity, commitment, and business savvy during this time.

From going digital to shifting product production, see how our inspiring partners are adapting in this crisis to ensure their employees continue to have the jobs and support they need to build a better life. (If you’d like to support our partners, purchase products from them directly by visiting our social enterprise gift guide.)

The Empowerment Plan

The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit-based sewing factory that hires women who have experienced homelessness, shifted from manufacturing coats that transform into sleeping bags to sewing personal protective equipment (PPE). They are now producing thousands of isolation gowns for healthcare workers in Michigan, with workers receiving their full salaries plus a daily stipend.

Osborne Social Ventures

Based in New York City, Osborne Social Ventures operates a janitorial social enterprise employing individuals who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Now, they are serving on the frontlines at the request of the City of New York by providing COVID-prevention sanitation and janitorial work.

Valeo Vocation

Valeo Vocation operates a staffing employment social enterprise serving a variety of clients in the Seattle area. They quickly developed new contracts with public health agencies, homeless shelters, and meal delivery programs to keep their participants working while meeting the immediate needs of their community.


Cara Connects, a social enterprise of Chicago-based portfolio partner Cara, is connecting its job seekers to hospitals and other health care facilities to provide deep cleaning services and administrative support. In addition to providing hazard pay for these roles, Cara has also augmented their services to continue supporting all participants in their job search through virtual coaching via phone, email, IM, and text.

Mile High Workshop

While the Denver-based sew shop is usually busy making home goods and other consumer products, portfolio partner Mile High Workshop has quickly pivoted to begin sewing face masks for first responders and nursing home staff. And they’re not just making masks – in mid-March, MHW donated thousands of unused masks from their woodshop to the local community.


Portfolio partner Farestart has quickly stepped up to serve their Seattle community and keep employees working in their kitchen. Despite having to temporarily close their restaurant and catering business, the social enterprise provided over 34,000 meals in the past two weeks and are scaling up to deliver 15,000 meals each day to shelters and isolation facilities.

Kitchens for Good

Participants at REDF Impact Investing Fund borrower Kitchens for Good remain hard- at-work preparing meals for their local community. The culinary social enterprise is preparing to scale up to deliver 7,000 meals each week for San Diegans in need.


Manhattan-based gym CONBODY has quickly built out an online platform to continue offering their popular bodyweight classes to those staying home. These virtual classes are ensuring that the social enterprise can continue to employ their trainers, all of whom have recently returned home from incarceration.

The Town KitchenImage

After the Bay Area announced the country’s first shelter-in-place guidance, restaurants across the region were forced to close or pivot. Catering company The Town Kitchen quickly chose to adjust their business offerings to remain open. After just one week, they launched Town Kitchen Provisions, which delivers household essentials, family meals, and non-perishable food to Bay Area households. Read CEO Eric Quick’s reflections on the pivot – and his tips for other leaders.

Farming Hope

The event space where Farming Hope operates a kitchen and job training program closed when San Francisco announced its shelter-in-place guidance on March 17. Within two weeks, the social enterprise had secured a contract to produce 1,500 bag lunches for local homeless shelters each week, allowing their apprentices to keep working.

Chrysalis & Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO)

Across California, thousands of employees of REDF partner social enterprises Chrysalis and Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) work with Caltrans to keep roadways clean and safe. When COVID-19 made that impossible, we banded together with these social enterprises to negotiate with Caltrans and the State of California so their workers could keep their jobs and paychecks while participating in virtual training. They will return to the crew with new skills making them even more valuable employees.


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