Building the Three Legged Stool
A Model & Tool Box for Creating a Social Enterprise

In early 2005, staff at Porchlight, Inc., a social agency in Madison, Wisconsin, came up with the idea that a food project could solve three practical issues for their organization which provides emergency shelter, food, employment services, counseling, and affordable housing in its effort to meet the needs of homeless households in the region. A food business could take advantage of one of its existing assets, the professional kitchen at the Brooks Street facility; could generate revenue for its programs; could provide program participants with job skills and work experience to facilitate their move to independence.

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The agency brought in Nancy Christy for advice: Christy had successfully employed people with disabilities at the Wilson Street Grill in downtown Madison from 1986-2001. A timely gift from John Taylor paid Christy and her consulting partner, Andrea Craig, to conduct a feasibility study of their idea for a food processing business at Porchlight. A concept took shape - a multi-purpose plan to manufacture two or three food products, to base the products on foods grown in the Madison area , and to enrich the project further by intentionally hiring people with disabilities for some of the permanent staff positions. The Madison Community Foundation generously helped fund Christy & Craig's development of a business plan where the concept evolved further: "Porchlight Products" an enterprise to turn local ingredients into high level products for restaurants, through artisan preservation. In late 2006 Medicaid Infrastructure Grand funding made possible the development of the social enterprise model-The Three-Legged Stool and its accompanying tool box.