Red Door Center for Social Entrepreneurship
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” – Matthew 25
When we look at society rationally, we can quickly conclude St. Andrew’s can’t possibly meet the needs Jesus would see. St. Andrew’s doesn’t have the skills, infrastructure, or resources. St. Andrew’s has concluded that we have the skills, infrastructure, and resources to help Kansas City’s social entrepreneurs. It is the social entrepreneurs in our community that give people fish, teach people to fish, and even build fishing-pole factories! Within our church family are experts who have the skills to help social entrepreneurs create true social change.
St. Andrew’s has a long history of nurturing social entrepreneurs. In the 1960s, our members were figuring out how to establish other churches as Kansas City grew to the south. In the early 1990s, an organization that would eventually become the Global Birthing Home Foundation and its birthing center near Torbeck, Haiti, started among St. Andrew’s parishioners. Today, our members are supporting entrepreneurs as they train homeless women in livable-wage jobs, and supporting a micro-finance loan program in rural Haiti.
This ministry is called the Red Door Center. In biblical times, a red door meant protection. In colonial times, it meant, welcome. In Scotland, it means the home is mortgage-free. If you would like to use your work skills in a different and fulfilling manner, contact Stephen Rock. You will be welcoming and nurturing the people who help make a difference – and helping their businesses mature without owing debt. Learn more at their website.
Empowering the Parents to Empower the Child (EPEC): The Grooming Project
The Grooming Project is the pilot program of Empowering the Parent to Empower the Child (EPEC). EPEC is a 501c3 nonprofit devoted to empowering families to become self-reliant through job training, life skills, and practical solutions to end their cycles of poverty. EPEC trains parents in a trade high in market demand that pays a livable wage.
The pilot program teaches animal grooming, which our research reveals is in high demand in the Kansas City area. Groomers make an average of $19 an hour. It is a profession in which individuals with many of the barriers to stable employment – including past addiction, criminal records, and incomplete education – can find employment. Upon completion of the grooming program, student parents will be able to work in one of the areas 200 pet salons or even start their own animal grooming business.
St. Andrew’s supportive association with Natasha Kirsch’s entrepreneurial start-up, Empowering the Parent to Empower the Child (EPEC) began in 2014. Since the first dog grooming class started in 2016, EPEC has graduated two classes totaling 10 graduates. The staff running this six-month dog grooming and life skills program consists of three full-time, including a director of grooming, one part-time staff mmeber, one intern, and about 30 volunteers. Cost per student for the program is $11,000, money coming from donations and grants.
In 2017, EPEC was selected as a finalist in the “One Million Cups” competition sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation as a subset of their “Zero Barriers” campaign aimed at enabling entrepreneurs to execute their start-up ideas in the marketplace. Natasha presented EPEC to the foundation last June, and finalists were selected last October. Finalists received a $5,000 grant and a two-day trip to Washington, D.C., to meet senators working to find new ways to support new entrepreneurs.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and his staff welcomed Natasha. Natasha has identified federal and state job training money that funnels through local job hubs. Our local hub is the Full Employment Council. Because FEC is not allowing access for new training organizations, EPEC needed to look elsewhere for funding. Navigating these systems can be tricky, and Sen. Blunt’s office offered their DC labor staffer to assist. Natasha also spent the week with the Kauffman Foundation learning about market gaps in entrepreneurship the foundation seeks to address. The Grooming Project is researching a mobile grooming incubator that may contribute to new growth in 2018.
From the retail aspect of the EPEC business, Natasha has partnered with a similar start-up, non-profit in India from whom she will import leashes, collars, and scarves for customers. Buying these products supports impoverished Indian mothers to earn a living wage while supporting our moms in Kansas City. The Welch Foundation has donated the seed money needed for business development on this idea, and EPEC will launch an online crowd funder to gauge interest in these new products.
Most fascinating about all of this terrific success is seeing how a relatively simple concept of helping people to learn skills qualifying them for good paying jobs leads to numerous connections in the development of a right-now, sustainable business with strong growth potential for the future. Congratulations, Natasha Kirsch, on your imaginative successes to date! We look forward to seeing and supporting what’s next!