JOB TRAINING FOR HOMELESS YOUTH

Challenge
Provide homeless youth real life job training skills to lift them out of poverty and street life. 
 
Research Approach
  • Directed extensive qualitative and quantitative market research on the food and service industry.
  • Designed surveys and guided numerous 1-on-1 interviews with homeless youth to determine current job training and aspirations for future employment.
  • Conducted qualitative research with service industry employers to understand the skills and traits they required for employment. 
 
Research Impact 
My research provided the foundation to move forward, develop, and test a new sales and market entry strategy. We knew it was critical to operate a business that could be flexible enough to accommodate the needs of homeless youth so we limited job schedules to only 4-hour shifts. In addition, we needed a product that already had value and a brand in the marketplace, and allowed our youth to be customer facing. Based on my market research, we focused on service industry jobs as a way to provide them with the qualifications for future employment such as food and beverage handling, customer service, processing payments, ordering inventory, and team collaboration.
 
Ben & Jerry's Partnership 
Ben & Jerry’s provided mobile ice cream carts that youth could manage. Mobile ice cream carts run by homeless youth could maximize job-training skills and deliver financial returns, essentially turning them into micro-businesses. We purchased two carts and started to test viable locations. I produced food and beverage industry market research finding (not surprisingly) that ice cream is a seasonal market with the highest volume of sales in the summer months. However, I uncovered an untapped market entry strategy that would lead to consistent year-round ice-cream sales. 
 
Going to Market 
After additional research, including 1-on-1 interviews and customer buying habits, I concluded that indoor sporting events were the best option and offered the most promising possibility of financial sustainability and social return. First, concessions are purchased year round at sporting events and thus have the ability to negate the cyclical nature of seasonal ice-cream sales. Second, the short duration of indoor sports like basketball and volleyball solve the problem of a 4-hour employment shift. To test my assumptions we partnering with a local University and placed our youth run ice-cream carts at college sporting events. This proved to be financially very successful and after running the pilot for only six months we reached and exceeded our yearly sales goals. In addition, we found an unintended yet added benefit of exposing homeless youth to a collegiate atmosphere. Due to using human-centered design and a lean startup approach I was able to provide the client an innovative, financially sustainable model that delivered quality paying job training skills for homeless youth. 
 
 

GOVERNOR'S

PROSPERITY INITIATIVE  

A BETTER WAY TO BUY LOCAL  

Role

Project Manager 

Project Approach

  • Market and landscape analysis  

  • Research and interviews with business owners and homeless youth

  • Prototype testing

  • Evaluation

  • Scaling 

 

Industry
Food 

Job Training
Non-profit