Lawyer-turned-chef-turned-social entrepreneur Michelle Horovitz is taking a businesslike approach to expanding Appetite for Change, the nonprofit she co-founded to help bring healthful food options and economic development to north Minneapolis.
Horovitz established Appetite for Change in 2011 to offer food and gardening educational programs to social service agencies and other organizations.
As Appetite for Change pursues larger aims — workforce development, job creation, incubating small food-based businesses — Horovitz is applying for-profit business strategies.
She aims to generate revenue from new ventures, products and services, and rely less on grants and donations. Horovitz projects $366,000 in revenue this year, up from $78,000 last year, including an increase of more than $100,000 in earned income.
"We are constantly trying to innovate," Horovitz said. "We're trying to move toward a more for-profit business model because it's just so much more sustainable."
One example is Community Cooks, a program in which families cook nutritious, culturally relevant meals, discuss food-related issues and learn about nutrition and culinary skills. Appetite for Change generates income from Community Cooks workshops tailored to groups at social service agencies and other organizations.
Joining with partners
Appetite for Change also is partnering with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis on programs to promote fresh fruit and vegetables at stores and restaurants.
"The goal is to build a local, value-based supply chain of food in north Minneapolis, so more income is retained in north Minneapolis by the store owners, the restaurants and the growers," Horovitz said.
Horovitz said she has other ideas such as a cafe that would sell fresh, nutritious soups, salads and sandwiches and offer jobs and training to young people. She would like to see small businesses launched, such as a food-processing facility or a greenhouse.
"We're trying to be the glue that brings all of the different partners that are working on this together to build a more sustainable economic system around food … where people can not only access fresh, affordable food but they can grow their own and they can even start a business around it," Horovitz said.
Roots in business, north Minneapolis
Appetite for Change combines Horovitz's passion for food and economic and social justice with her deeply rooted entrepreneurial spirit and affinity for north Minneapolis. She is a silent partner with her father and sister in the family's longtime business, Minneapolis Glass Co. in Plymouth, where her brother also works. She made a conscious choice to work in north Minneapolis, where her grandparents, her father and their family lived for more than 40 years.
Before launching Appetite for Change, Horovitz earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota, then worked for four years as a public defender in Miami. She had a longtime interest in food and food-based businesses and was planning to attend culinary school when she instead took a job with Michelle Bernstein, a James Beard Award-winning chef based in Miami.
Michelle Bell, project coordinator of Goodwill-Easter Seals' Father Project, said participants and project coordinators have had positive feedback about the organization's Community Cooks workshops, in part because the people leading the workshops are from the community.
"I have a lot of respect for Michelle and what she's doing and her staff as well," Bell said. "They can speak to their audience very articulately, they're very knowledgeable and everybody is comfortable."
The expert says: Laura Dunham, associate professor and chair of the entrepreneurship department at the University of St. Thomas' Opus College of Business, said she found Appetite for Change's accomplishments encouraging and inspiring.
Dunham credited Horovitz with understanding the community and identifying a need, drawing upon her experience and passions to develop services to meet that need and looking ahead to create a self-sustaining business model. The challenge Horovitz may face is focus, said Dunham, who recommended developing a process for selecting future projects from her "fount of ideas."
"She strikes me as somebody who is going to be successful, who is going to be effective and already has been," Dunham said. "She definitely appears to be on the right track."
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is email@example.com.