Natasha Kirsch may not define herself first as an entrepreneur. Her success won't be measured by revenue or sales. Kirsch's success will be measured by her ability to help stabilize homeless families.
Her innovation has been to connect a social need with a market need. While working with families in a shelter, she realized that the only way to break them out of the cycle of poverty would be to provide well-paying jobs. With that in mind, Kirsch had a lightbulb moment.
Recognizing that more than 43 million Americans own dogs, that there was a booming market for pet services and particularly for dog grooming, Kirsch came up with the idea for the Grooming Project, which trains parents in poverty for jobs in the growing dog grooming industry, as well as career and life skills.
She has discovered a way to take advantage of a niche market and has aspiration to scale her organization across the country. The Grooming Project may be just the first jobs training program under the umbrella organization EPEC (Empowering the Parents to Empower the Child), the nonprofit organization she founded. Yet, like many entrepreneurs, she has faced seemingly endless barriers on the way to seeing her idea become reality.
Kirsch, who presented the Grooming Project at 1 Million Cups, was a top 5 finisher in the 1 in a Million competition, faced years of frustration before finding the financial support and partnerships she needed. But now, with more than 20 women graduated from the project with jobs and a full pipeline of more trainees, her vision is becoming a reality.
Kirsch may not be the traditional small business owner, but the Kauffman Foundation believes to encourage more people with Kirsch’s kind of vision to make ideas economic realities, we need to broaden the definition of who is an entrepreneur.
This resonates with the themes that the Kauffman Foundation will present in the 2018 State of Entrepreneurship Address on Feb. 28 in Washington, D.C. Despite a recent uptick in the traditional economic indicators and startup activity, too many people are left out of these gains. The long-term decline in entrepreneurship has dragged down productivity, wages and living standards for all Americans. Put simply, fewer entrepreneurs mean a lower quality of life for Americans. Entrepreneurs like Kirsch ride market forces to create jobs and social innovations.
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