A Summer of Growth – Mauricio Xavier Avila Maldonado, 2017 Farber Intern

As a Farber Intern I worked with the Mile High Workshop in Denver. The Mile High Workshop (MHW) is part of REDF’s national portfolio of social enterprises. MHW has five business lines: contract sewing, packaging and fulfillment, woodworking, laser engraving, and ceramics. It is a business dedicated to helping people who otherwise would have a hard time getting into the workforce (i.e., people who have been incarcerated, homeless, are recovering from drug addiction, with mental health challenges). Even with a tight labor market, many employers are still hesitant to hire people striving to overcome these challenges. This is where MHW comes in. MHW provides a paying job, and the training their employees need to succeed.

An Amazing Experience
Running a social enterprise is even more challenging than running a regular business. The social enterprise has to provide training for people with limited work experience in both hard (e.g., how to operate a sewing machine) and soft skills (e.g., how to show up on time). In addition, the workforce of a social enterprise turns over regularly—in the case of MHW every nine months. Can you imagine running a business and having to replace your entire staff every nine months? On top of those challenges, social enterprises have to be profitable—just like any other company.

That’s why Farber Interns get such amazing experience. The skills and perspectives we bring to our summer internships and the work we do is put into practice immediately.

During the 10 weeks, I helped MHW improve the productivity of their sewing shop, and develop and implement a process for business development that will allow them to grow their revenue streams.

Working with Andy, the director of MHW, gave me a new level of insight on the challenges and solutions to run a business, the importance of talent, and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. Andy is 1000% committed to ensuring that MHW’s succeeds and he cares deeply about the people involved. He runs the business with so much passion that it is contagious. I ate tacos on the sidewalks of Denver with MHW participants. I heard their life stories. I learned how MHW is helping them rebuild their lives. I learned how to run a social enterprise business. And just as importantly, I learned when you are working on something you believe in, it’s easy to stay motivated. I am really not a morning person, but during my summer internship, I was actually excited to wake up at 5:45 so I could get to MHW and work on things that would have a positive impact in people’s lives.

Inspired to Grow
When I accepted REDF’s offer, I could not imagine the huge adventure that was ahead. I acquired skills that will be useful to me in running a business. By working so closely with Andy I got a new level of insight on the challenges and solutions to run a business, the importance of talent, and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. I developed special connections that made the people at REDF and MWH feel like family. This summer inspired me to grow.

Originally from Ecuador, Mauricio Xavier Avila Maldonado is an MBA candidate at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, where has consulted for non-profits as part of the Kellogg Impact Consulting Club. Prior to enrolling at Northwestern, Maruico worked as a consultant for McKinsey and Company. Mauricio graduated from Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico with a B.A. in Marketing. While there he also worked as a marketing intern for McCain Foods, and led the Student’s Marketing Club.

This is part of our Farber Blog Series.