Monday, February 05, 2007

Three passionate entrepreneurs turn around a rustic lodge - and the lives of the needy youth they employ.

Evergreen Lodge, on the edge of Yosemite National Park, is a rare phenomenon: a business that has achieved its dual mission of giving back to society and earning a profit.

In 2000, Marketing Executive Lee Zimmerman and his Stanford Business School roommate, Brian Anderluh decided to start a business that would help the disadvantaged. Not sure where they could make the greatest contribution, they sought ideas from Juma Ventures (jumaventures.org), a Bay Area nonprofit that provides jobs and social services to low-income youths. The organization had just received a grant to establish an incubator for profit-making businesses that would provide job training to needy young adults.

Zimmerman, who had recently left a marketing position at a San Francisco restaurant chain, and Anderluh, who had also just left his job in business development for an Internet greeting-card firm, agreed to launch the first company in the incubator and received a $150,000 fellowship to do so. Deciding that outdoor recreation was a business that they could master, they set out to buy an appropriate venture.

Teaming up with Dan Braun - who runs a successful mountain-climbing business - Zimmerman and Anderluh bought a family-run guest lodge for wilderness travelers for $1.25 million in 2001. They envisioned offering internships that would train needy 18- to 24-year-olds in skills including cooking, housekeeping, maintenance and carpentry. The lodge would provide social services such as career-planning sessions while giving interns a chance to hike, bike and kayak.

Read on...