Sometimes It’s A Grind

Cannon Flowers and Serena Connelly are my kind of entrepreneurs. Cannon and Serena wanted to learn – and to demonstrate – how business tools can be used to make a positive impact on society. But they didn’t just talk about social entrepreneurship. They didn’t just convene summits, put on high-profile seminars or publish whitepapers. No – they started an It’s A Grind coffee shop franchise in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas.

As many of you know, It’s a Grind was no ordinary coffee shop. It was a social enterprise, founded on principles of respect for employees and seeking to meet basic human needs (including a living wage and health insurance for hourly employees). It was a social experiment.

Today we learned that after three years, the Deep Ellum It’s A Grind will be closing because it has not achieved financial sustainability.

Many in the Dallas social entrepreneurship community are expressing sadness about the closing of It’s A Grind. However it’s important for us to focus not on the end of this project, but rather on the successes and lessons that have come from it.

The closing of It’s A Grind says absolutely nothing about the use of entrepreneurship to change our world for the better. It only says that the coffee shop business is a tough competitive environment, like all small businesses in America. All you need to do is listen to Cannon talk for a few minutes about the It’s A Grind experience to realize that the project has provided a deep set of learnings to its founders, employees, and supporters.

Here’s one such lesson: one of the wonderful things about working in a socially conscious business is that every day is full of meaning. Sure, every job is a grind sometimes – but in a socially conscious business each participant is working to change the world for the better, even if what they happen to be doing at the moment is making coffee or washing dishes. So if you are searching for meaningful work, you might join such a business – or start one.

I hope Cannon and Serena will each take their hard-won lessons from this experience and make fresh attempts at new models for improving our society. I hope they will share their learnings with us in writing and in person. Most importantly, I hope others in our community will take inspiration from Cannon and Serena – to stop just talking about social entrepreneurship, and go do it. Yes, some days it’s a grind and sometimes projects must be ended – that’s the reality of a startup. But without taking the risk, there is no chance of success, and there is no progress. If all we do is talk about it, we fail before we even begin.

So hats off to Cannon Flowers and Serena Connelly for working hard, taking big risks, and providing leadership to social entrepreneurs in Dallas. Now let’s show them some respect by picking ourselves up and getting to work!

————
Salah Boukadoum
Co-Founder, Soap Hope
Where 100% of profits lift women from poverty

About Salah Boukadoum
I am co-founder of Soap Hope, a social venture that sells natural, healthful products online, then invests 100% of profits into anti-poverty programs for women worldwide. My business model is called Good Returns: every dollar that a company distributes to shareholders first spends one year volunteering to solve a world problem, in the form of an interest-free loan to a sustainable social enterprise. Ideas: salahsblog.com TED Talk: salahstalk.com Venture: soaphope.com

3 Responses to Sometimes It’s A Grind

  1. Rhonda says:

    This is indeed very sad news. It’s A Grind is my very favorite coffee shop and gathering place. I have been known to take the train from the Plano area to enjoy many of its offerings. I have purchased and given the discount coupons to friends who live or work in the area in an effort to show support and spread the word about how wonderful this place of business is. I believe that if we truly believe in local, community oriented businesses, it is our responsibility to supoport them in all ways – especially putting our dollars where our mouths so often are.

    It’s a shame that for whatever reasons, this business in the heart of a mediical district and upscale apartment communities couldn’t make it for longer than three years. Now what happens to the owners dreams and the employees that they hired to give another and better chance at life? Here’s to the employment rate going up for these people.

    I’m glad to have known the place.

    Like

  2. jeremygregg says:

    Great thoughts, Salah. I truly see this as a day of celebration — and in twenty years, we’ll look back and realize that they were just ahead of their time!

    Jeremy Gregg
    http://www.jeremygregg.com

    Like

  3. Anthony Pace says:

    Salah,
    I agree with you comments. There are important learnings from Its a Grind experience that can be build on. I am immensely appreciative to Serena and Cannon for their support of providing livable wages and benefits jobs. It is my hope others will take heart from their experience and move forward.
    IAG was an incredible place and Deep Ellum won’t be the same now.
    Anthony

    Like

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