The Potluck Café: Navigating the "twilight zone" of social enterprise
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 presentation of the financial struggles year by year are revealing. Without any systematic base of program support from a government partner, Potluck’s inspired founders have had huge difficulties getting to where they are, but as of 2007 it looks like they will survive. Based on this case the expectation that this type of social enterprise can become self-sufficient in 3 years is seriously questionable. Indeed, without a different configuration of supports, the author suggest this type of social enterprise is neither replicable nor advisable.