Running a small business is hard work. Between managing people, logistics and operations, sales and marketing, not to mention any specialty knowledge required to actually create the products, it requires a combination of cross-industry skillsets that are often hard to learn in a classroom. Recognizing this, coupled with the fact that many students leave the classroom for the “real world” without valuable job experience, a local Richmond nonprofit has set out on a mission that provides students what they need to succeed, while providing the local community with four small businesses offering goods and services.
Church Hill Activities & Tutoring (CHAT) serves the youth of Richmond’s East End – equipping them with solid foundation of skills to serve them both in the classroom and throughout their lives. In an effort to fulfill this mission, the nonprofit has established a Workforce Development Program which includes four small businesses where teens and young adults, ages 16-24, are able to develop professional skills in addition to training, job experience, and mentoring opportunities. These businesses run the gamut across industries, offering something for all interests, and include the Front Porch Cafe, On Point Prints, Legacy Farm, and Nehemiah’s Workshop and allow students to learn skills including problem solving, teamwork, communication, and community engagement while pursuing areas of interest in a meaningful way.
As the program’s flagship business, Front Porch Cafe is perhaps the most visible to the community. Located across from Bon Secours Richmond Community Hospital, about a block away from the still relatively new Market at 25th Street, the Front Porch Cafe provides students with opportunities in hospitality and food service while providing the community with a local coffee shop for their caffeine fix. Front Porch offers a variety of caffeinated beverages as well as all-day signature breakfast options, lunch options, and a grab-and-go menu.
Often found at local farmers markets, Legacy Farm is a multi-seasonal community farm that is as much about cultivating the land as it is about restoring the community. Students are trained in farm management, how to care for and harvest crops, as well as about food justice - the seeds sown at Legacy Farm endeavor to nourish not only the bellies satiated by its produce, but the soul of a community that has been disenfranchised. Students hone their skills on gardens and farms located at Resurrection House, Richmond Hill, 31st Street Baptist Church, and the Nine Mile Fruit Forest. They also offer an online store with merchandise.
For students interested in pursuing more creative endeavors, CHAT’s Workforce Development Program has two businesses: On Point Prints and Nehemiah’s Workshop. At On Point Prints, a screen-printing studio, students will design and print apparel, bags, and other cloth products for local businesses (including but not limited to other CHAT businesses) and organizations, as well as for their online store. At Nehemiah’s Workshop students learn how to build timeless handcrafted wood products and furniture available for purchase in their online store.