Rachel and Randy Fox might be two of our favorite people in the Wilmington business community. One - the menu and atmosphere that they've created are unique, satisfying, and feed both the body and the spirt; two - almost every business decision that the Foxes make somehow incorporates and/or benefits the greater community in some way; and three - their goals both in life and in business involve lifting people up...in every way possible.
What's not to love, right?
These are the people and business owners that we want to support, those who support others and work to fortify the community we love. So, when we heard that Rachel and Randy were incorporating a non-profit into The Foxes Boxes mix, we immediately decided to make The TFB Externship Academy our 3rd quarter nonprofit partner.
Why the TFB Externship Academy? Largely because of its mission and unique value proposition.
The goal of the Externship?
"...to inspire and empower individuals with employment barriers by providing innovative on-the-job training, building leadership, communications, and job skills that lead to self-sufficiency, professional fulfillment, and a confident value-added workforce for the always growing hospitality and service industry."
We see The TFB Externship Academy as the missing link for many young people in our community. So, we were honored to deliver our 3rd quarter giving check to Rachel and Randy Fox earlier this month. And, we were thrilled to get to spend some time together as a team, surrounded by good food and good people - two of the components we deem to be the main ingredients in a happy life.
We all had a few questions about the TFB Externship Academy, and Rachel was kind enough to fill us in. Check out our interview with Rachel below for more information:
CSP: Did you for see that The Foxes Boxes would eventually need nonprofit status?
Rachel: The original idea was to become an LLC b-corporation (for-profit, social enterprise). We are recognized by our customer base as a social enterprise, however that alone does not permit donations to be tax-deductible. Many of our supporters have asked that we pursue 501c3 to open more funding options in order to grow our job-training program.
CSP: Why did you choose nonprofit over social enterprise in the end?
Rachel: We are both a nonprofit and social enterprise. Many (most) social enterprises are nonprofits, but not all. For our situation,The Foxes Boxesis the “enterprise” or for-profit entity, and theTFB Externship Academyis the 501c3. Because our training program takes place inside a restaurant, there are many ways the two are able to support one another. The restaurant can host fundraisers for the nonprofit, contract out the externs for corporate catering opportunities, and on the flip side the nonprofit can rent the space of the restaurant for training.
CSP: Describe the evolution - i.e.: When and how did all of this come about? The restaurant, the mission, nonprofit application, etc.?
Rachel: We have always been a family of ideas. Randy has worked over 30 years in the service industry, so that world has always been part of our conversations. My passions have always focused on social and economic justice (equity). My first degree in nursing provided me opportunities to work at the VA Hospital with chronic psychiatric patients living independently, as a high school nurse for a large high school in the suburbs of Indianapolis, and work from home after having kids, as an after-hours telephone triage nurse.
When we moved to Wilmington I was fortunate to connect with the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty advocacy organization founded by Bono and others to address the issues of extreme poverty across the globe. I became a volunteer Congressional District Leader and later a founding member of the ONE Moms Advisory Council where I attended a trip to Kenya with ABC World News to visit programs that are saving millions of lives.
These experiences led me to sit on local boards, public speak locally and beyond, and finally back to graduate school to obtain my MPA (Master’s in Public Administration), with a public policy concentration. While in graduate school the idea for The Foxes Boxes began forming. I found a business counselor at SBTDC to support me along the way. I graduated on Thursday, December 1, 2016 and opened the restaurant on Saturday, December 3, 2016. It was a whirlwind of a yearJ
CSP: Are your family/children involved? Excited?
Rachel: This is definitely a family endeavor. When Randy and I get tired and want to quit—our kids lift us up and tell us to keep moving forward. Nothing about this (ad)venture has been easy. All three of our kids have worked in the restaurant and all of the brainstorming we do is the five of us together. Our daughter’s boyfriend in NYC has even helped with some graphic design.
CSP: What segment of the population will benefit from the work you do?
Rachel: Our entire community benefits from the work we do! We have had 22 externs in our program since opening and all have either transitioned into work, school, or both upon completing their externship. The majority of our externs are 16-25 years old with a variety of employment barriers. Most come from families experiencing generational poverty and lack of opportunities. Some have criminal backgrounds, others have literacy struggles, and all have very limited work experience. Together with our community partners we can provide the externs with as much support as they are willing to receive.
When we as an entire community lift up any one person we are making our economy stronger, our streets safer, and ALL of our citizens feel worthy of an equal opportunity.
CSP: What kind of support will your nonprofit need/want from the community?
Rachel: Eat with us. Have patient with our externs. Support our fundraising efforts. Donate uniforms. Donate computers, ink cartridges, training materials, etc. Join us as a star volunteer. Follow us on social media, and spread the word.
CSP: Where does the desire to dedicate your life to helping others come from?
Rachel: I don’t know…..I guess I am naïve enough to think that we are all together in this world and should help lift each other up always!
CSP: What fuels you to keep moving toward this goal every day?
Rachel: Somedays I feel really tired and question if what we are doing is making a difference, then one of our past externs will walk through the door. Whether it is with good news or they need some support, it tells me that this space is important enough for them to share what is going on in their lives. Our young adults are often left to navigate transitioning to adulthood with little to no guidance. We have to be that stable place…..they need to know that we are not going anywhere, so that thought keeps me going.
CSP: What defines a happy life for you?
Rachel: Tough question! Finding balance is important. I think I am still working on that. The struggle is real to work 70 hours/week and not have a paycheck. I am told by my mentors to hang in there…5 years is a turning point when you start your own business. I do look forward to every evening going home, turning off the phone, and finding a binge worthy tv series that one of my kids will watch too.
CSP: Who is (or are) your “right-hand(s)” in all of this and how does that change things?
Rachel: Oh my, do I ever have the BEST humans lifting me up!! ...Tricia, and Fred (Ireland) being some of them!! When I went to ask for board members, I created a list of about 30 people who have been eating with us and supporting us since we opened our doors. My thought was maybe I would get 8-10 people to say “yes”…….not a single person said “no”, so the first 12 people who I saw to ask are my first round of board members. They are an incredible, diverse group of professionals that motivate me and remind me that I can lean on them. Something several of the board members said at the first meeting that meant so much was that they saw my vision for theTFB Externship Academyand that was why they wanted to be involved. I sometimes think my ideas are unattainable and this group as told me otherwise.
I am blessed!
CSP: Why do you do it?
Rachel: Why not? I have always felt that if you know something is not right and have an idea of how to make it better, then take action. Also, don’t think too long about it. You will be able to adjust things as you go, but at least get the ball rolling.