Since 2001, a small shop in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has been serving 1000s of meals to some of the city's most sick and isolated residents, while training and employing others in food preparation. Now, after three years, the Potluck Café has "made it" - it's breaking even. Its sales to "market-rate customers," topped up with grants and in-kind donations, are finally covering costs. Manager Liz Lougheed Green knows how much and how long it's taken to reach this goal, and wonders: just what is a realistic financial goal for social enterprise?
"The expectation that Potluck - or any social enterprise - will become self-sufficient within three years of start-up is unrealistic. The double bottom-line of sustainability & valuable social outcomes is a manageable goal, but not in the short-term."
"I can't count the number of times a funder has asked me to bring another funder to the table before they will provide support. My immediate reaction is that we are in fact that 'other funder.' We are already investing thousands in Potluck's training operations."