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Want to launch your own social enterprise? Startup veterans have learned how to do well while doing good

Social enterprise

As founder of The Mission Center, Chris Miller knows one important thing about philanthropy. “Most people don’t go into nonprofit work because they are passionate about doing accounting,” he said. That’s why The Mission Center exists. Founded in 2010 and housed in the Cortex District of St. Louis, Miller’s brainchild specializes in outsourcing back-office operations for nonprofit organizations. That’s not ...

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Blooming careers: Paraquad develops the workforce for St. Louis’ thriving restaurant scene

Austin Hallett, Bloom Café, Paraquad

Austin Hallett says his goal of becoming an executive chef began cooking after he watched “Ratatouille,” an animated film about a cartoon rat named Remy who dreams of becoming a great chef, despite the industry being “rodent-phobic.“ “When I watched ‘Ratatouille,’ I learned that, just by their skills, I’m learning the way they’re communicating and the way they’re handling the ...

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‘Different businesses, different options’: Social entrepreneurs searching for cash have choice of sources


Galen Gondolfi doesn’t work for a traditional lender. For starters, his institution is among the few who would turn away a borrower for having too perfect a credit report. “If you come in with an 800 credit score and real estate collateral, we’re going to say, ‘We’re not the program for you,’” he said. But Gondolfi’s organization, called Justine PETERSEN, ...

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Get out of jail (almost) free? Freecog reimagines method of bonding out criminal defendants

Freecog, Michael Sato

Missouri jails housed 11,000 people in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a U.S. public policy think tank oriented toward criminal justice issues. And while judges may offer the option of pretrial release to many prisoners, the cost of GPS tracking that often is required as a condition of bond ...

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Summersalt’s direct-to-customer swimwear, apparel aim to revolutionize women’s wardrobes

Summersalt, Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin, Lori Coulter

Summersalt co-founders Lori Coulter and Reshma Chattaram Chamberlin consider speed to be their biggest competitive advantage in the entrepreneurial world. Given the brisk rise and early success of their clothing company, it’s safe to say they might be onto something. Whether it’s expeditiously expanding their clothing line to include more categories or picking themselves up swiftly after an investor turns ...

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The conversation starter: Keefe Cravat founder helps men use clothing to tell their stories

Jordan D. Williams, Keefe Cravat

If life imitates art, then perhaps business can imitate art school. Jordan D. Williams first picked up the moniker “Bowtie Jordan” while he was a student at Columbia College in Chicago. “I would always wear bowties on campus,” Williams said. “In college, no one was really dressing up. They just don’t. It’s very rare, especially at an art school. I ...

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Designed to perform: Andrea Robertson’s company outfits athletes across country

Triflare, Andrea Robertson

In 2009 and 2010, Andrea Robertson won the Mrs. America competition wearing a sparkling gold dress and qualified for the USA Triathlon National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. For the three-part triathlon competitions, which include swimming, bicycling and running, she wore a men’s one-piece triathlon suit. (The top for such suits runs over the shoulders; the bottom is similar to bike ...

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St. Louis apparel company Made for Freedom combats human trafficking

Dawn Manske

Social enterprise is hard — hard to succeed in, even hard to explain to those ensconced in dog-eat-dog capitalism. Just ask Dawn Manske. In 2011, she launched Made for Freedom in the city of St. Louis. It’s an online apparel company that sells jewelry, bags, shirts, pants and more, all produced by women — mostly overseas — who have escaped ...

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Missouri companies match fashion startups with tech, resources to bring designs to life

John Elmuccio, Jennifer Lapka, Jon Lewis

Fashion icon Ralph Lauren once noted that he didn’t design clothes. “I design dreams,” he said. That may be true, but turning dreams of a new clothing startup into the tangible reality of product hanging on a shelf can be a genuine challenge — even in fashion Meccas such as New York or Los Angeles. Still, there is a small ...

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