Entrepreneurs frequently explain how they came up with a business idea to solve some sort of problem they personally experienced. This “necessity is the mother of invention” incentive is also true in the world of non-profits and purpose-driven businesses more concerned about making a difference than making a profit.
Often it is during the worst of times – crises, hardships, or conflagrations and controversies – that people see opportunities to help those most in need. Or, on a grander scale, to dismantle systems of oppression and come together in new ways to make things better.
Take, for example, Casey Phillips of The Walls Project.
We’ve talked about The walls Project previously on Out to Lunch. In this conversation, Casey expounds on a specific initiative that has the potential to address Baton Rouge’s systemic problems in new ways. It’s called OneRouge, a partnership between The Walls Project, which works to break down the societal walls in our community, and MetroMorphosis, Reverend Raymond Jetson’s nonprofit organization that seeks to transform urban communities from within.
The OneRouge Coalition was created in 2021 and has brought together 400 organizations in the community to address the economic and social disparities in Baton Rouge through a systematic framework that has identified the nine drivers of poverty and created coalitions to tackle each one by breaking down its component parts and working together – what’s known in the nonprofit world as collective impact — to address it.
Casey is a music industry entrepreneur who spent more than a decade away from Baton Rouge, before moving back in 2011 to found The Walls Project.
Amber Elworth is owner of Light House Coffee, a coffee shop with the unique mission of supporting migrants by providing them with opportunities for employment, a space to sell handcrafted items they have made and just a safe space where they are welcomed and included.
Amber and her husband founded the shop in 2017. At the time, Amber was working at Catholic Charities in Baton Rouge as a social worker in its immigration and refugee services division. She got to know a lot of the migrants coming into the community and recognized the need for a place like Light House.
Today, the coffee shop has grown in popularity, expanded its menu to lunch and dinner, and secured a liquor license to serve beer and wine.
As a middle class average working person, it’s easy to live in Baton Rouge and think that our most urgent problem is traffic. It’s more difficult to be aware of the issues that trouble the people in the cars and buses clogging our city streets or living alongside them. It’s encouraging to learn from Casey Williams and Amber Elworth all that they’re doing to improve Baton Rouge for all of us.