As we reflect on 2019, we have been examining what we got our hands dirty with this year (hint: a lot more than just pancake batter). We have been thinking about where we put our attention, our efforts, our visibility, and our brainpower, within our doors and beyond. We are grateful for the recognition we have received for our efforts but we know that the work we have done is just a piece of a very big puzzle. The more work we do, the more we realize how much more work needs to be done. We are humbled by the way our community continues to support us and thrilled that we can continue to support our community. Through dollars, events, partnerships, and real life personal relationships that matter most to us, the community support is abundant and the symbiosis apparent.

This fall we applied for the Force for Positive Change grant, with the hope that this grant could give us greater capacity to expand the work we do. Phase One of the application required us to explain our mission and describe indicators, data and outcomes of our work. Phase Two required us to make a short video further illustrating this. While we didn’t make the final cut and thus didn’t receive the grant, it was a good exercise for us to reflect on the way we do things, and what matters most to us.

As a for-profit business doing and supporting the work that a lot of nonprofits do, in applying for the grant we found it difficult to provide the concrete indicators and measurable impact/outcomes they asked for. We don’t have committees or panels measuring our impact and we don’t have a board of advisors to answer to. We see this as a positive thing as this gives us the time and space to be able to listen directly to community partners and their needs and ask how we can best support them without other voices getting in the way. Because of this, we can afford to invest more time and money into the organizations in our community that are already doing the work in the way they have proven it needs to be done.

Because of this, we measure our success by the success of the organizations we support. Take a look at the 2013 Race to Equity Report that demonstrates the gross disparity between black and white residents in Dane County. Then look at the successes and great strides of the organizations fighting for racial equity (you’ll find a handful of them linked at the bottom of this post) and know that we measure their success as ours; the value we see coming from our involvement in the community is that with collaboration, the outcome will be a far more healthy and sustainable community for all.

Similarly, when people ask us if what we are doing is working or not, or if people feel comfortable and safe in our restaurant or not, we have to tell them to ask the people from historically and presently marginalized communities this question. It is not our place to answer and it is the feedback from these individuals and groups that tell us if we are making a difference. Their voices and experiences are the indicators and the true measure of our work more than anything else.

Our structure looks different than other organizations in that we’re a breakfast restaurant in downtown Madison. Most people aren’t expecting to be confronted with issues of race equity or sustainable purchasing power during their Saturday brunch–and that’s the important bit. We’re conversation starters that are asking our customers and community to try harder, speak up, and get involved.

And with involvement comes change. Over the past few years we have focused on broad-spectrum sustainability and we are seeing these visions and changes shift the culture and conversation within our restaurant and community. We have examined our hiring practices and on-boarding processes, invested in education for ourselves and our employees, partnered with powerful nonprofits, focused on inclusion, and transformed our space and practices to match these values.

These simple but powerful gestures and intentional decisions have gotten a lot of (majority positive) feedback. We have received a lot of love on social media, a lot of important follow-up conversations and a lot of gratitude for being an inclusive business with social impact. As a business, it is humbling to be told that the work we do actually makes a difference in someone’s life. We take it to heart when someone tells us they chose to come inside because they saw the Black Lives Matter sign or the Trans Flag and instantly felt welcome. We are honored to be featured in articles like this one published in Them. And about a month ago we received this beautiful card that touched us deeply, vividly reminding us why we do what we do:

This is what it’s about. These affirmations keep us going, keep us motivated and keep us in a state of constant humility. We want to continue hearing from you, beautiful people of the Madison community, about the things that matter to you and how we can do better and be better. But we need you to get involved too. It takes a village, a city, a well-fed community to do this work the right way; consider it our promise to keep serving you all-day breakfast in the process.

P.S. Big love and shout out to these community partners, leaders, and friends—you inspire us daily:

Nehemiah/Justified Anger, Madison Area Urban Ministry/Just Bakery, Freedom Inc, Lilada Gee/Black Woman Heal, Progress Center for Black Women, Foundation for Black Women’s Wellness, Sustain Dane, the list goes on…