BUSINESS GIVES BACK

Area companies join BBB coalition in promoting Springs’ fourth sector

By Susan Joy Paul, Cheyenne Edition

Published August 17, 2016, front page

Social impact, social enterprise, social business, social entrepreneurism and conscious capitalism — the “fourth sector” economy — are labels that have been bandied about for years, yet few can define the impact they have on a community.

Jonathan Liebert, CEO and executive director of the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, aims to answer those questions with the newly launched Colorado Coalition for Social Impact.

“More and more people want to know about the fourth-sector economy, and we need to be prepared to answer their questions and give them the education, support and resources they need to make good decisions about their businesses and have the tools and know-how to be successful,” he said. The fourth-sector economy is loosely defined as the intersection of public, private and social organizations for the benefit of society.

Liebert initially went to the Center for Nonprofit Excellence for help. “We had some conversations and realized that neither of us was really focused on this type of business — the companies we dealt with were either nonprofit or for-profit. I was kind of lamenting about the lack of information out there when it hit me that maybe the BBB should be leading the way.”

Liebert approached Aikta Marcoulier, executive director of the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center, with his idea. “I figured we could start an initiative and see if the community showed any interest,” he said. Marcoulier was all in, so the SBDC partnered with the BBB and the Colorado Coalition for Social Impact was born.

Liebert hosted the first CCSI town hall on July 3. Nearly 70 people attended, including Cheyenne Mountain resident and real estate agent Bryan Seale of Buy Sell Impact Pikes Peak Real Estate, a for-profit social business he launched in February. Seale, CEO of the operation, is also the employing broker of the agency, which employs five additional agents, but four nonprofit organizations are the actual owners and roughly one-third of six agents’ commissions go to Children’s Literacy Center, Colorado Springs Conservatory, Energy Resource Center, and REACH Pikes Peak.

Seale put some numbers on the financial impact of for-profit, social business on local nonprofit agencies. “The potential is staggering,” he said. “There are about 13,000 properties sold in El Paso and Teller counties every year generating about 140 million dollars in commissions,” he said. “I was already donating 10-15 percent of my income to charities of my choice, but by separating from my previous real estate company and structuring Buy Sell Impact as a social impact business, I can give more money — my entire net profit — to these nonprofit agencies. If just 1 percent of the 3,000 agents that service the Pikes Peak area — about 30 agents — used this model, that’s $400-500 thousand a year going to nonprofits.”

The BBB has six main goals for the CCSI. “First, we want to educate the public and build awareness around this emerging sector,” Liebert said. “You’re not likely to see the birth of a new sector of an economy again in your lifetime. This is something cool and unique that’s happening right now.”

The second goal is to “assist businesses that are interested in generating social impact,” Liebert said. “They could be a brand-new business or an existing business. How do they tweak the model and fully convert?”

The third goal is to provide new entrepreneurs with resources and training to get started and to help current entrepreneurs scale their businesses. The fourth goal is to provide a social forum for like-minded individuals to meet and share ideas about social impact business.

Liebert’s fifth goal is to strengthen businesses in the community that are making a positive social impact on the community. “We want to make social impact business a household name and recognize local businesses that are already doing it to bring more people to their doors,” he said. Finally, Liebert hopes to attract more people to start these types of businesses. “You can mix the mission and the margin together and come up with a great product where everybody wins,” he said.

The BBB is working with the Center for Nonprofit Excellence to encourage nonprofits to reach out to the BBB to find out where they fit and how they can benefit; local foundations have reached out to the BBB as well. “I didn’t expect that,” Liebert said, “but there are organizations out there that want to support these businesses but don’t know how to find them or vet them, so they want us to help them identify potential benefactors.”

CCSI has also gotten the attention of the BBB on the national level. “Colorado may be the pilot program as we define the sector,” Liebert said, “No other BBB is doing this and they are all very interested. There will be a strategic plan in September where we’ll be figuring out if other BBBs should launch a similar program and if we should develop an accreditation for each type of business. There are a lot of conversations going on around this right now.”

The BBB is building a Colorado Coalition for Social Impact website and developing a series of courses for individuals and businesses interested in learning more. There are monthly orientation meetings and quarterly town halls, and people interested can call 985-8354 or visit them on Facebook. Liebert is also interested in hearing from business professionals who would like to share their social impact expertise in formal classes for other people in the community.

Liebert said he is excited about the potential for social impact business in the Pikes Peak region. “I’ve sat down with some folks from the city and they think this is a fantastic addition to what’s going on right now in Colorado Springs,” he said. “At the town hall meeting it was cool to look out at the crowd and see the diverse number of folks. We had Millennials, seniors, nonprofits, for-profits and government entities. If we do this right, there’s something here for everybody, and everyone can benefit — the businesses, the individuals they’re serving, and the organizations they benefit. When you look at some of the new statistics out there, the majority of consumers will switch brands to one that’s associated with a cause if the price and the quality is comparable … six out of 10 millennials are interested in working in a job where they have a sense of purpose and, in some cases, they’ll give up a higher-paying job to have a job with purpose. Another survey found that for every dollar a social enterprise spends, they have a return on investment back to the community of $2.22. When you buy from these companies, not only are you buying a product or service that you need, you’re also helping to benefit part of the population that’s in need. In some cases, the money goes to job-generating social enterprises working with disenfranchised populations, getting them rehabilitated if they need it and helping to put them to work.”

For Seale, running a for-profit social enterprise is a win all around. “Buy Sell Impact’s association with the nonprofits is bringing us more customers. They know they’re going to get great service and some of the money is going to a great cause, and our agents are making more money while giving more to these social programs,” he said. “We are looking for more agents to join us at Buy Sell Impact.”

 

 

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Nonprofits benefit from real estate sales

Colorado Springs Business Journal

Published June 24, 2016, front page

A former Colorado Springs Realtor has created a way to sell houses and build community — by funneling a portion of home sales to area nonprofits.

The one-of-a-kind business model, approved by the Colorado Division of Real Estate, is designed to continue allowing brokers to make money through commissions, and homeowners aren’t charged more for buying or selling a property.

“It’s beyond intriguing,” said Realtor Bryan Seale of the idea devised by former Realtor and now CEO of the nonprofit REACH Pikes Peak, John Tighe. “Nobody else in the country is doing this that we know of.”

So how does it work? With a traditional real estate transaction, brokers for each party — the buyer and seller — receive commissions. Usually, the managing brokerage houses, like Keller-Williams or RE/MAX Properties, also receive a small amount of the profits.

Seale and Tighe, along with their colleagues, developed a plan splitting the net proceeds that would normally go to the brokerage among four local nonprofits: REACH Pikes Peak, Energy Resource Center, Children’s Literacy Center and the Colorado Springs Conservatory.

“The difference with us is that 100 percent of the net profit goes to the nonprofits,” Seale said.

To make it work, Seale’s firm, Buy Sell Impact Pikes Peak – Real Estate For Good, has no office. He and the other agents conduct business on their laptops in the field, at local coffee shops or in the homes they sell. He said he doesn’t need a brick and mortar office to conduct business.

But the new nonprofit model doesn’t mean he cuts corners.

“We are full-service,” he said. “You do not get cut-rate service. It took us a year of brainstorming to structure this so it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Birth of an idea

Tighe sold real estate in Colorado Springs until the economic downturn of 2008. He closed his firm and later began working for the Pikes Peak Community Action Agency, which became REACH Pikes Peak.

The nonprofit works to help low-income people and families become self-sufficient by meeting emergency needs and providing education through three offices in El Paso County.

“I’ve thought about this for a number of years,” Tighe said. “When I decided to try to do this … I had to get other agencies involved.”

A group of six nonprofit CEOs met weekly to develop the business plan and decide which nonprofits to support.

“As we grow, the potential is unlimited, really,” he said. “If it takes off, it could be licensed and franchised.”

Seale said the group chose the four nonprofits because of their reputations.

“Those were the four CEOs I knew really well,” he said. “They believed in me and I believed in them.

We chose to enter a pretty daring agreement together [because it’s new and untried] that is mutually beneficial to all of them.”

He estimated that the sale of a $250,000 home could result in $600 for each of the nonprofits.

Tighe would not discuss how much money the firm has given to the nonprofits since its launch this spring. He said the real estate firm will get back its initial investment this year, and the real estate brokerage will have 10 closings by the end of the month.

Donor fatigue

The new model comes at a good time for nonprofits, as fundraising has become more difficult, said Linda Weise, founding CEO of the Colorado Springs Conservatory.

“Everyone is experiencing donor fatigue,” Weise said. The business model is a creative way to increase income while building community, she continued.

“We have a real opportunity for businesses to think differently about nonprofits,” she said. “If there’s a creative way in working together, who wouldn’t sign on for something that would elevate community?

Good begets good.”

Howard Brooks of the Energy Resource Center helped design the program, and says the real estate model has potential to pay off.

“This could potentially be tens of thousands of dollars per year for each of the nonprofit organizations,” he said. “Every time I make a few thousand dollars, I can take care of one family in need.”

The Energy Resource Center helps low-income families with energy efficiency needs and ensures gas appliances are safe.

“We’re looking to be able to serve dozens of families who have immediate health and safety and energy needs. We’re really, really, really excited,” Brooks said.

And Weise says the investment in nonprofits goes even further.

“At the end of the day, look who’s benefiting,” she said. “Our kids alone [at the Conservatory], the kids with Children’s Literacy Center. That investment will come back tenfold.”

A nonprofit since 1994, the Conservatory teaches youth theater, dance, music and vocals in a safe place, according to the agency’s website.

“I’m terribly humbled to be part of the initial launching,” said Weise, who provides scholarships to students to attend after-school classes for free or at discounted rates. “I have no doubt it will be successful because everyone’s heart is in the right place.”

 

 

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BUY SELL IMPACT Real Estate for Good

By Leslie Massey, Gazette

Published Sunday, June 12, 2016, page PH35

A new independent real estate firm in the Pikes Peak region is putting the focus on helping local non-profits while continuing to deliver the same high-quality home buying and selling services they always have.

“We provide experienced, knowledgeable, and comprehensive real estate services to both home buyers and sellers,” Managing Broker of Buy Sell Impact, Paula Lydon said.  “We’re just a little different than other firms because 100 percent of our net profit goes to a group of non-profits.”

Owned by a group of four local non-profit agencies, The Children’s Literacy Center, the Energy Resource Center, the Colorado Springs Conservatory, and REACH Pikes Peak, Buy Sell Impact is determined to make a difference in the Pikes Peak region.

“John Tighe, a former real estate agent in Colorado Springs and marketing executive, is the CEO of REACH Pikes Peak,” Lydon said. “And he decided he wanted to find a way to blend both worlds.”

Joining forces with Employing Broker Bryan Seale, real estate brokers Amy Niswonger, Gary Peacock and Marla Crane, as well as Lydon, Buy Sell Impact was launched with a clear-cut ambition to better the community while helping families achieve their real estate goals.

“Even though the company is new, collectively we have widespread experience and extensive knowledge of the Colorado Springs housing market,” Lydon said.  “We are full service realtors who genuinely work to provide the utmost customer care and support to our clients.”

The Childrens Literacy Center is a non-profit organization endeavoring to foster literacy among children in the area.  The organization, founded and headquarter in Colorado Springs, has been helping kids build successful lives through literacy since 1991.

Helping families keep their homes safe, warm and energy efficient since 1979, The Energy Resource Center helps income-qualified families maintain a safe and healthy quality of life by making energy efficient improvements to their homes. In the end, families save money to use towards medicine, food, and other vital needs.

Lending assistance to students who aspire to realize their highest potential as artists and human beings, the Colorado Springs Conservatory works to inspire, motivate, and challenge them through arts immersion studies and community arts advocacy.  With a combination of classroom instruction, performance experience, and collaboration, students have gained confidence as well as awareness of their own creative capabilities since 1994.

Offering comprehensive services and programs to reduce the effects of poverty, REACH Pikes Peak aims to increase the abilities of families and individuals to become self-sufficient. Through programs including emergency services, long-term intensive job skills and education, and matched savings programs for self-sufficiency asset acquisition, REACH Pikes Peak has been providing supportive services for over 50 years.

Anyone in the market to buy or sell a home, and ready to make a positive impact in the community at the same time, should explore the opportunities with Buy Sell Impact.  For more information visit BuySellImpact.com, or call 719-345-2300.

 

 

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