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Business with a cause

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Posted: Friday, April 13, 2012 8:12 am | Updated: 1:43 pm, Thu Jul 5, 2012.

Urban Legend’s Pizzaworks serves more than a great slice of pizza. The Gilbert restaurant also serves the local community by creating the town’s newest hangout and simultaneously funding a youth center.

It’s an example of how non-profit organizations enduring a continued fallout from the recession are finding financial support in an unlikely place — for-profit businesses.

“There has always been socially-minded entrepreneurship,” said Dan O’Neill, lecturer and program chair at Arizona State University’s College of Technology and Innovation. “There are many types of flavors.”

Those flavors of social entrepreneurship usually have a few things in common, O’Neill said. Normally, they help further a mission or offer a one-for-one business model.

In the last few years, emerging national businesses such as Toms Shoes and Krochet Kids, Inc. have joined the ranks of well-known companies, such as Goodwill, when it comes to giving back to society.

On a more local note, businesses such as Gilbert’s Urban Legend Pizzaworks, Sozo Coffeehouse in Chandler, and Yazamo and G3Box, both out of ASU, are looking to make an impact on the local, national and global scale — and they’re doing it in their own unique style.

Urban Legends Pizzaworks, located at 894 E. Warner Road, uses a vehicle much like Goodwill, a charity that supports people through workforce development programs by selling second-hand items.

Urban Legends, which opened in fall 2011, is working to support Paradigm Ministries, Inc., a non-profit that plans to build a youth center for local students.

They hope to help kids with issues such as depression, self-image and tutoring by providing them with a safe, fun environment, said Chad Jensen, Urban Legend’s founder.

What better way to further that mission than to create such an environment in a high school hangout?

“What’s the easiest way to connect people? Put food out,” Jenson said.

The restaurant mixes great food (Yelp has it rated at five stars as of Tuesday), decorations inspired by the nearby Gilbert High School, open mic night, great customer service, inexpensive prices and many specials ($4.99 for 12 wings on Wednesday).

For Jensen, it’s about more than food. It’s about giving back to the community he grew up in and recreating that small town vibe it used to have.

“You’re a name, not a number, here,” said Jensen, who grew up around the corner and graduated from Gilbert in 1993. “It’s people first, food second.”

But for Jensen, the product is still very important.

“I know people are going to buy pizza, so I just hope they do it here,” Jensen said. “We’re trying to redirect your shopping experience and get you do buy it here.”

While Jensen offers “pizza with a purpose,” Scott Morgan of Sozo Coffeehouse, located at 1982 N. Alma School Road in Chandler, sells “coffee with a cause.”

Part of Sozo’s profits go toward supporting both local and global charities such as the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley; Laveen Elementary; Kiva, which funds microloans to people who live in poverty; Nothing But Nets, which provides mosquito nets to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs; and other charities.

“Our goal is to serve a great product, but also to be a blessing,” said Morgan, who is also a pastor for the Missio Dei Church that meets at Sozo. “We’re here to make our community better … We know the needs of our own backyard.”

And as a business that has been open for just over a year, not all of the donations can be made in cash. Instead, they donate goods and services, such as baskets to silent auctions and pots of coffee to teachers, Morgan said.

“There are some weeks where we can give more than others,” he said. “It’s a challenge with a new business. But we like to think we’re not locked down to donate to one group or amount. It’s spontaneous generosity on a weekly basis.”

And while many of this upcoming, young generation have been labeled “Generation Me” by the media, not all people agree with that term.

“We’ve been watching the trend for the last decade or so, and we’ve seen an emerging of what I like to call ‘Generation G,’” O’Neill said.

The “G” stands for generous, and giving is a generational thing, O’Neill said.

Morgan agreed.

“Through social media, we’ve been exposed to more need,” he said. “I like to think, ‘Enough for me, more for others.’ And through awareness groups, people are making the connection between wealth and poverty.”

“A lot of it has emanated out of 9/11,” O’Neill said. “I think a lot of people woke up and asked, ‘Why do they hate us so much?’”

This generation of upcoming entrepreneurs was coming of age in the post-9/11 world and they see a more socially-tied world, O’Neill said.

“They’re trying to fix some of those problems and create a more just world,” O’Neill said.

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