My Cause

Social Justice, with a Twist

by Katie Morell

For most nonprofits, funding is a core challenge. Lack of funds causes a myriad of problems, not the least of which is the never-ending time and effort it takes to solicit donations, which can be touch-and-go depending on corporate giving budgets and the generosity of philanthropic individuals.

Enter the model at Not For Sale—a model dubbed “enterprise is the mission.”

Based in the Dogpatch District, Not For Sale launched in 2007 to fight human trafficking around the world. Traction was built, success stories were abundant, money gifts flowed in and programs to pull survivors out of horrific conditions in more than seven countries—including the U.S.—proved successful. But something was missing.

Despite best intentions, all efforts proved reactionary: Not For Sale would learn of exploitation (labor, sexual or otherwise) in a region and forge partnerships with local social entrepreneurs helping survivors. Still, this approach neglected to prevent the source of the problem: What about stopping trafficking … before it started? Was it possible to create a wall around the pipeline for slavery in the first place?

Co-founder and president David Batstone wanted to investigate, so a few years ago he ventured to Peru. Not For Sale had long operated in Lima, but upon closer inspection, Batstone learned that most exploited children in the city were from smaller villages in the Amazon; they’d been trafficked out of their homes. He traveled to those villages and found that economic uncertainty was the single largest factor for falling victim to slavery. Traffickers promised economic prosperity—often in the form of pledging to send money back to families for selling their children as slaves.

Batstone also noticed that the Amazon was ripe with natural, renewable ingredients that could be transformed into a product. He and his team, including Not For Sale co-founder Mark Wexler, decided to launch a project that would involve sourcing ingredients from the Amazon and turning those ingredients into an organic, healthy drink.

That drink became Rebbl, an Emeryville-based company now celebrating its fifth year in business. As part of its founding, Not For Sale maintains a board seat in perpetuity and, perhaps most interestingly, receives 2.5 percent of Rebbl’s gross sales. Money is then circulated back to the source communities (which today consist of more than two dozen countries, including Peru), thereby giving economic opportunity to people who might otherwise have been endangered by the trafficking trade.

“Instead of a company looking for a cause, we were a cause looking for a company,” says Batstone. “The enterprise is the mission. This isn’t about a company giving a donation to Not For Sale. We are the company. Rebbl is now the largest donor to Not for Sale. It’s full circle.”

Not For Sale has taken what it’s learned and created several other ventures, among them Z Shoes, an organic shoe line; Square Organics, an organic protein snack; and St. Clare Coffee, a shop a few steps from 3rd Street and Mission Street in San Francisco.

Each company is independently run, but written into its bylaws is a hefty allocation to Not For Sale, and most materials are sourced from high-risk areas.

Among Not For Sales’ enterprises is Dignita in Amsterdam, a culinary school and two restaurants that employ formerly trafficked individuals.

“The profits from the restaurants pay for the culinary school, making it a self-sustaining system,” Batstone says. “We’d like to create something like this for survivors in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Currently, Not For Sale’s SF operation involves helping more than 100 local women per year with life skills, job skills training and career placement. Batstone sees an opportunity to create a culinary academy/restaurant combo in the area, similar to what Nor For Sale operates in Amsterdam.

“We would make it fine dining,” he says. “We don’t want people to just come to support women who are learning to cook because of their tragedies. We want to provide great food and have the fact that they’d be supporting Not For Sale to be the byproduct. Our goal is to launch something like that by late 2018.”

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