The only thing sweeter than a cup full of cold soft serve on a hot summer day is knowing the spot you're supporting is making a difference in the community, beyond satisfying ice cream hankerings.
For the nonprofit ice cream stand, Green Man Twist, it’s never been much about the revenue as it is prioritizing the employees and local customers. It sits on Walnut Hills’ Green Man Park, where the community comes together over a universal love for ice cream.
TRAINING SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS
“We wanted to open a business like the ice cream [stand] for a variety of reasons,” says co-founder Mark Leeman. “One was to raise up ‘social entrepreneurs’—people who use their ideas, energies, and know-how to run enterprises that don’t just serve them and their customers, but also make the world a better place.”
Green Man Twist set out to be a place for people of all backgrounds to gain a purposeful experience.
“So often young people from neighborhoods like ours get their first jobs at fast food places, and often don’t walk away with an appreciation of the value and dignity of work," Mark says. "We wanted to run a business where everyone gets to experience what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and to leave their mark on a business because they have [a] voice, an input, and real power to form and change how things are run.”
Founders R.H. Sweeten, Mark Leeman, Anne Leeman, and Katy Dietz opened the stand in 2016, but they’ve also been involved in Walnut Hills housing projects since 2007 when they began rehabbing properties hit by The Great Recession of that year. With Green Man Twist, 100% of all profits go towards entrepreneur training, affordable housing, education initiatives, etc.
“Now that Walnut Hills is so expensive, we see preserving affordable housing (at least on a small scale that we can manage) for long-term and lower-income residents as a key part of what we do,” says Mark. “It goes great with Green Man Twist too, as some of our workers rent affordable apartments from us also.”
SOFT SERVE FOR SOCIAL CHANGE
Another main goal of Green Man Twist is to provide a friendly location for neighbors to meet and bond regardless of age, gender, or race.
“We also wanted to run a business in our neighborhood that built community,” Mark says. “People around here could get to know each other via the business. As our founder R. H. Sweeten often says, ‘The problem with race (or any other difference that matters) is that we just don’t know each other.’ We wanted a business that could help provide a platform where people could meet and get to know their neighbors across differences Since the neighborhood has gone from mostly all African American to a mix of races, a place for neighbors to meet and mingle and hopefully get to know each other is more needed than ever.”
Gaining new perspectives while enjoying frozen treats? Sounds like sweet success, to me.
“Our ‘saying’ is ‘Life is Hard Enough, Your Ice Cream should be Soft,’ which seems more appropriate than ever in these present days. We are 'Soft Serve for Social Change', so we hope more and more people will come eat the highest quality ice cream and do a bit to change the world!”
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