Those entrepreneurial north Minneapolis teens behind Green Garden Bakery are more than three-quarters of the way to raising $200,000 toward a commercial kitchen and expanded instruction-and-demonstration space in the community room of their home base, Heritage Park Apartments.
These young North Siders, including senior-high leaders who met years ago in a neighborhood cooking class, have concocted a business that could approach $50,000 in sales this year. They operate at the intersection of community gardens, vegetable-based cakes, cookies and pastries, environmental stewardship and old-fashioned hard work and hustle.
Last fall, Green Garden won the youth division of the annual Minnesota Cup entrepreneur sweepstakes, earning accolades and a $10,000 prize, plus an extra $1,000 for the best pitch to the judges.
The youth entrepreneurs, led by an executive team of eight that gets paid about $10 an hour for running the enterprise, has outgrown the small kitchen at Heritage Park, which they also shared with others. Increasingly, they were busing to south Minneapolis to rent space in a large kitchen incubator for small businesses.
Several weeks after I wrote a column about Green Garden last November, their mentor was approached by an individual who told her to work with the kids to dream what they would like to do with $150,000. After weeks of planning and consultation with cooks and contractors, Green Gardens produced a plan for a better facility that would allow for wholesale operations, involvement by more youth, and nutrition-and-cooking classes for others in the community.
The benevolent investor listened to the plans and bought in for $150,000.
The teens agreed to raise $50,000 on their own, including $2,500 in a few days.
They just launched a crowd-funding effort to raise the rest of the money on “PieShell” at www.pieshell.com/projects/GGB.
Green Garden engages mostly low-income, minority youth. The teen leaders, shining examples of skill and creativity from the garden to the sales floor, also bring younger kids to the table through this year-round neighborhood program that serves 100-plus from kindergarten through 12th grade.
CEO Alfonzo Williams, 16, told me last fall that the business evolved from “a bunch of middle school kids” who were bowled over with the success of their first pop-up sale in 2014 to a more sophisticated-but-still-fun enterprise that has attracted many loyal customers, including a growing online business at: www.greengardenbakery.org
This is another green shoot in the small-business led economic renaissance of the northside, the lowest-income and highest-unemployment-rate quarter of the city.
“They have a real business, a model that they have organically built that involves people and production and distribution and a pricing model,” said CEO Margaret Anderson Kelliher, of the Minnesota High Tech Association, and a Minnesota Cup judge, said last fall. “They have a plan. They are mentoring middle school kids. That’s what we should be modeling in our own work. They are young business leaders out of the North Side. Hallelujah!”