Cristiana’s Story

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During the Motivation Show, Helping Hand Rewards founder Michael Arkes had the opportunity to give a presentation on the benefits of corporate social responsibility for business growth. As part of that presentation, a program participant from Bright Endeavors named Cristiana was able to get up and talk about how her experience with Bright Endeavors (an HHR partner) helped her turn her life around.

The video below is part of that story. Part presentation and part interview. It’s definitely worth taking five minutes out of your day for!

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A New Video From TEK (and other YouTube Additions)

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Over at the Helping Hand Rewards YouTube channel, we’ve had a few recent additions!

In the last week we have added another participant testimonial story from The Enterprising Kitchen (shown above). In addition to the new story, we have also tagged several other videos from our partner organizations on our channel’s home page. There is a really good one for the Women’s Bean Project that you should definitely check out.

Click here to see our channel and what’s new!

Socially Responsible Incentives: How HHR Began

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Who would’ve known that a dinner conversation with friends would spark a new initiative in the incentives industry?

Back in 2003, Michael Arkes and his wife went out to dinner with friends Lauri Alpern and her husband. Lauri had just started her job co-directing a Chicago-based social enterprise The Enterprising Kitchen (TEK). Lauri explained the social purpose of TEK and how they helped homeless, at-risk or recently incarcerated women with employment by making soap products. She said they sold a lot of product but really weren’t making any money. Michael offered to help teach her how to replicate their sales success but do it in such a way to make money.

Over the next two and a half years, with Michael’s help and expertise, TEK increased how much they made by almost $500,000, which increased the number of people they were able to help from 28 to 78. It was a great start but Arkes knew more needed to be done in regards to marketing.

“We were only selling to people that we knew, which I realized wasn’t sustainable. They needed to start marketing to potential prospects to sell more.”

However, being a small non-profit, there wasn’t any marketing spending being done for the sheer fact there wasn’t any extra money to do it. That’s where his new idea for Helping Hand Rewards came into play.

“I decided to start Helping Hand Rewards,” said Arkes. “ I could spend the money on marketing and business development. The idea was that the enterprises could pay me a commission on sales that we generated through Helping Hand Rewards.”

With that in mind, Arkes set out to find other social enterprise partners. His thought was that if he could do this for TEK, he would be able to help other enterprises as well. Also, having a wider assortment of products to offer under the HHR banner would appeal to a larger prospect base. Through hearing about social entrepreneurs in periodicals to referrals from the Social Venture Network, eight additional lines were ultimately added to the Helping Hand Rewards product mix over the last couple of years. Arkes now says the focus has shifted away from adding more groups and more onto growing sales of the enterprises Helping Hand Rewards works with.

It’s amazing how one casual dinner conversation could spawn an entrepreneurial interest that is helping better others’ lives everyday!

Greyston Bakery featured on Business Week

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Many of our social enterprises made a name for themselves before we even began to partner with them. Greyston Bakery is a prime example of this, quoted in a Business Week story as being “one of the prime examples of social entrepreneurship.” The bakery is most well-known for making fudge brownies that go into Ben and Jerry’s ice creams.

The story focuses on the social mission of the bakery while the CEO enforces the fact that it is still a business and needs to make profits. Greyston Bakery is one example of a social enterprise that helps better lives of those less fortunate but still make money at the same time. They pride themselves as being a model for other businesses on how they could use business to make a difference.

To see the clip, click on this link here. It’s pretty short and shows a few short success stories of people who received employment from Greyston Bakery.

Learn more about Greyston and our other social enterprise partners at helpinghandrewards.org

Women’s Bean Project: Newshour Spotlight

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It’s always cool to see one of our social enterprise partners get publicity outside of our blogosphere. Women’s Bean Project recently received some of the spotlight from PBS show Newshour. The story follows a woman named Rosie Robinson and how the Women’s Bean Project helped her get out of the prison/poverty cycle and become more self sufficient. The clip also dives into the history of Women’s Bean Project and how it got to be where it is today.  

Check out the video clip by clicking on this link.

What do you all think?

**About Women’s Bean: Women’s Bean Project is a social enterprise that offers a transitional job in gourmet food manufacturing designed to provide immediate income, arrange support services to overcome barriers to employment, and teach the job readiness skills needed to get and keep a job. Women’s Bean Project has helped hundreds of women develop the work and interpersonal skills and address the basic needs required for moving up the path toward personal and economic self sufficiency.