After spending most of my professional life in the secure setting of an institution of higher learning, I have become a social entrepreneur. According to Google, a social entrepreneur is “a person who establishes an enterprise with the aim of solving social problems or effecting social change.” For the past ten years, I have been facilitating The Journey Home program in the local county jail and a store front in downtown Easton PA. This work was subsidized in a way by my professional life at the local college. As a professional at the college, I was paid a salary, provided with a health care policy, and access to many resources. The college even supported The Journey Home by providing resources for supplies and paying the monthly rent on the store front. But that professional life limited the amount of time I could spend on developing more programs and designs for the work with the women. Enter Retirement! So last June (2017) I retired from my career in higher education and become a social entrepreneur. In order to support the work with the women in the jail, I established The Journey Home, LLC. I had considered (a process for another post) becoming a 501c3 but decided against it. With the help of the local Easton Main Street Initiative and a wonderful mentor from SCORE, I have worked through many of the steps to establish the business. I registered the name with the state of Pennsylvania and am in the process of getting a local city business license. What I have found to be the most important factor in navigating this process is relationships and networking. Of course, many business blogs and books are written about this but it is very different when you experience it first hand. The checklist is a bit overwhelming without the help and kindness of the folks along the way, I believe the level of frustration would have been quite high. Here is one example. I am a member of the City of Easton Planning Commission. People for many different reasons come before us when they are establishing a new business or a new location. One of the most interesting is The Silk, Mark Mulligan a local developer came to the commission a few years ago with his most amazing dream of developing a local silk mill. His dream has come to fruition as The Silk. Each time a new business is established or moves into his site, the business owner comes before us. It is awesome. We get to meet the most amazing creative people. The one, connected to my journey, was a small insurance office. The owners described their clientele and I was immediately drawn to them. As one of the items on my to do list was to obtain an insurance policy, I asked for their business card. Now, I must confess here that I am not the typical business type person. Rather, I am a visionary and artist. So thinking about all of these details gives me a headache! Actually, I get a headache just thinking about thinking about it. In steps Mish Ganssle, VP at RMG Insurance. I emailed her and we met at the Easton Public Market one morning for coffee. Did I mention relationships as one of the most important factors in this process? Well, here at that small table in the market was a web of relationships and networking. Mish named as her clients some of my most admired people in the Easton area. One was someone who was doing similar work. My headache dissipated while we chatted about our common threads. Well, needless to say, I now have an insurance policy. And many other items on my to do list have been checked off because of the kindness of folks like Mish and the amazing community of people who are part of my network in Easton PA.
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