Disruptive Leaders features some of the country’s most thought-provoking business leaders. Executives building businesses that are intentionally disrupting the status quo. These leaders are not about creating the “new and improved” they are creating the “never seen before” products and services which are re-shaping their industries. Technologist and Senior Editor, Cynthia Nevels, uncovers some of the world’s most interesting change agents and sheds light on new innovations.
In the United States, more African American and Hispanic males from poor neighborhoods go to jail than college. The cycle of crime, poverty and family destruction starts early and is seldom broken.
Chad Houser believed he could change that fact or better yet put a fork in the road for some of these troubled youth. He believed he could give the young adults a choice with a dinner plate, a champagne flute, a spoon and an open heart. Houser is the Executive Director and Chef for Café Momentum in Dallas, Texas. Café Momentum has challenged the restaurant industry to do more for society than just serve hot plates. He has drawn a line in the sand to dare any restaurateur with a vision to utilize the resources available to them and impart change in the lives of the forgotten youth. He believes great restaurants can simultaneously serve delicious meals and save lives.
Chad has created a way to help these young adults with criminal histories develop new skills. He believes, if given an opportunity, offered training, employment and barriers are removed the young adults would make the choice to change their own paths and walk the straight and narrow. How? Café Momentum’s model focuses on delivering viable employment, life skills and resources. Chad uses local restaurants as a vehicle to employ young adults, teach them the value of hard work and develop social and life skills.
Through the organization’s innovative business model, passionate and committed board of directors, and community partners Café Momentum has reduced the current recidivism rate of youth served from 47% to 11%, respectively.
Café Momentum partners with local community programs that work within the juvenile detention system to help identify, vet and select viable candidates for their program. Once selected, the participants learn communication skills, time- management skills, financial management skills, parenting and anger management skills while learning a trade. Most of the young adults released from the detention system or prison have never held a full-time or part-time job before and do not have any work experience to tout on their resumes.
Café Momentum requires a 12-month commitment after candidates are selected and awarded the opportunity to participate in the program. Once the young men are in the program, they have five different stages they must complete and a job. The living wage is $9.17 but the participants are paid $10.00 an hour. You work, you learn, and you earn. This concept seems normal to most but in some communities it is not what you see every day.
Houser saw a need and wanted to make a difference. He saw an opportunity to utilize his skills as a chef and restaurant owner to impact change in the community where his children would grow up. Hauser shared, “Yes, some patrons are surprised to learn their polite, courteous and knowledgeable waiter may have been recently released from prison but once they hear the participants’ stories they see their son or daughter standing in front of them.” Innovative leadership is not always about the bottom line, it sometimes is about community and what each of us are doing to spawn economic development, promote the pursuit of happiness and equality for all one bite at a time.