The Philanthropy Collaborative

Regional Case Studies

Taharka Brothers
Baltimore, Maryland

Taharka Brothers Ice Cream hires urban young men, brings them together, and teaches them business strategy and entrepreneurship. The company has a retail shop in Mount Washington, two vending carts used in the summertime, and an ice cream factory in Hampden. The company has a core staff of six, and employs an additional 15 people during the summers.

The company's ice cream factory, built in 2009 with the help of a $50,000 loan from the Abell Foundation, gave them five times the production capacity and helped them expand to more than 20 retail outlets, as well as local restaurants like Roy's, Sotta Sopra, Crush, Salt, Dogwood, The Ambassador, City Café, Renaissance Hotel, Eatonville and Busboys and Poets.

Even in its early years, Taharka Brothers was a vibrant part of the community, winning the "Best of Baltimore" award in Baltimore Magazine in 2002, and a similar award in The City Paper in 2006. However, their revenue-$250,000 in 2010-wasn't enough to cover expenses. "We were losing money, and it was impossible to get investors because we were a nonprofit," Executive Director Sean Smeeton said. "So we decided to spin off the ice cream company and get B-Corp (Benefit Corporation) status."

Benefit Corporations are a new business model designed to create a positive impact on society and the environment, and have to consider how their decisions affect workers, community, and the environment. Taharka Brothers was one of the first companies to apply for the new status. Smeeton is eager to take the best of what business has to offer, while holding on to the social mission that got him started. "I want the company to make millions," said Smeeton. "But I want to make sure that we build a company that is also a vehicle for change. That's the goal."

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