As the owner of two Philadelphia coffeehouse/cafés with a socially responsible mission, Angela Vendetti of Mugshots figured an advocacy group for like-minded businesses was a natural fit. So she joined Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN) almost from the moment she served her first macchiato in Fairmount in 2004.
It's proved to be a great way to meet other business owners committed to the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit, Vendetti said. And she credits the organization, founded in 2001 by restaurateur Judy Wicks, with raising City Council's awareness of sustainable businesses and the Philadelphia tax credit that went into effect for them this year.
But when it comes to membership value, Vendetti said she found SBN well behind another business group to which she belongs, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. That was understandable, she said, given that SBN's early years have had to focus on getting known, finding funding, and even educating the public on what sustainable business is.
But the organization is entering a new era, with a new executive director for the first time in eight years. Vendetti said she is hoping SBN's focus can now be on providing more services to its 400-plus members.
"The members are members because we care about the mission, not necessarily because there's a ton of value," Vendetti said last week at her other shop, in Brewerytown. "I'm hoping Jamie can create that value."
That would be Jamie Gauthier, who on March 13 became the second executive director of SBN in its 12-year history.
Gauthier, 34, a mother of two from West Philadelphia, replaced Leanne Krueger-Braneky, who resigned at the end of January to join the staff of a national organization Wicks also helped found, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.
In an interview last week, Gauthier said growing member services was a priority, along with pressing for adoption of the recommendations for improving the climate for the city's 93,000 small businesses SBN made in its 2011 "Taking Care of Business" report.
"Membership is . . . our lifeblood," she said.
But to serve it costs money and, as Gauthier pointed out, her goal to raise $100,000 this year will be "up against a tough economy." SBN has a $500,000 annual budget and a staff of four, she said.
With degrees in business and city planning from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania, respectively, Gauthier said she hopes to deliver some new support services by partnering with existing business-development agencies, such as the city Commerce Department and the Enterprise Center.
Gauthier's collaboration-building was among several skills cited last week by her former boss at Local Initiatives Support Corp. in Philadelphia, which helps nonprofit community-development organizations transform distressed neighborhoods.
"During her eight years with LISC, Jamie had the opportunity to work with a diverse set of stakeholders: community residents; small-business owners; community-development professionals; bankers; government officials, etc.," LISC executive director Andrew Frishkoff wrote in an e-mail.
Describing her as "a clear-thinking optimist," Frishkoff said Gauthier's "vision, strategic thinking, and collaborative approach to leadership should serve her and SBN well as they champion the cause of socially conscious businesses and ventures."
SBN's search committee thought so, too, said Iola Harper, a member of the SBN board. She called Gauthier "an extremely skilled administrator who has the network and know-how to successfully advocate for the needs of our members."
Part of that advocacy will involve trying to get consumers to patronize SBN businesses, similar to her role at LISC supporting revitalization of commercial corridors.
"I want to send a message to consumers that they can get their everyday needs met at local, sustainable businesses," said Gauthier, who acknowledged sustainable is still a foreign term to many. So, for now, she intends to focus on the local part.
"That's an easier message to grasp," she said. "Then we'll work on the sustainable piece."
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