By: Josh Jacobson

“We are a social enterprise.”

When I’m asked to introduce myself and Next Stage as a part of a meeting (most often on Zoom these days), I sometimes struggle to summarize all that we do. A few years ago, we dropped “Consulting” from our name because we felt it no longer accurately described us. Does a consulting firm typically run a philanthropy-funded incubator for emerging nonprofit organizations? Does it publish unpaid community studies? Does it have a mission statement, values and guiding principles that truly guide the work it undertakes? Because this one does, and “consulting” just didn’t seem to do it justice.

I’ve taken to describing Next Stage as a social enterprise. That means profit is just one desired outcome of our work. We also have purpose and ultimately a community impact of advancing social good that we are seeking to move forward. In fact, I’d argue profitability is primarily measured to determine how much additional impact we can make, with increased revenue reinvested in our business model to allow us to serve more people and organizations.

This has been the fundamental goal of Next Stage since it was founded more than seven years ago (wow, time flies!), even as I was not entirely sure how to put words to what I wanted to build. It took years, until I had the fortune to add professionals to our team like Caylin Haldeman, Janet Ervin, Tanya Varanelli and Candice Latham that we more clearly defined our “why” and our direction forward.

In the interim, what felt at times like a lonely road has seen many more similarly-designed businesses come forward.

This month we are running a survey (click here to take it) to get feedback from next generation Charlotteans about what they want out of their workplace and consumer relationships. The data will help inform our Social Good Report that is coming out in April. To incentivize participation, we will conduct a drawing for two $250 gift cards – one to Enderly Coffee and one to Shelves Bookstore.  They are two great examples of social enterprises that have thrived in recent years.

No doubt at some point you have enjoyed a delicious cup of joe from Enderly Coffee. The company, which is owned by former teachers Becky and Tony Santoro, shows up in stores and restaurants across Charlotte. What you might not know as much about is the company’s “why.” The company exists “to strengthen our community by forging meaningful relationships,” while seeking to “encourage and inspire others to live for others.” Enderly Coffee’s core values of people, generosity, relationships and quality show up not only in their caffeinated beverages, but in the community investments and collaborations the Santoros have made on Charlotte’s West Side.

If you’ve visited Enderly Coffee’s coffeeshop on Tuckaseegee Road, it may have been to pick up your recent purchase from Shelves Bookstore. The mobile and independent bookstore’s owner, Abigail (Abby) Glen, has partnered with Enderly Coffee to serve as a distribution site for books ordered online.  The small business is committed to “educating families and celebrating the joy the reading books brings to people all over the world because we believe that reading is freedom.” Next Stage got to know Abby better this past year when we launched a book club and looked to her to help us source our first book.

On February 26, Next Stage’s Janet Ervin will host Garrett Tichy, Owner of Hygge, for our twice-monthly roundtable, What’s Next?. The topic is values-driven small businesses in Charlotte, and Hygge is another great example of a company that champions social enterprise. Hygge runs several coworking spaces in Charlotte and has been home to a number of emerging nonprofit organizations. Community is a big part of Hygge’s value proposition, and it shows up in nearly everything they do. Please tune in on February 26 to hear more about Hygge and meet some of the social enterprises that call it home.

Social enterprise is all around us. As we come back as a community from a year like no other, it would not be surprising to see another wave of entrepreneurs be inspired to align profit with purpose.