Social justice movements have gained a new momentum and support base following the election of Donald Trump in the United States. People who had never been actively involved before started to join the fight, and many of them had a lot to learn. The past few years have also seen a rise in small businesses and nonprofits who envision a better, more equitable future.
That is why Senior Fellow Chelsea Racelis is creating Advocrate, a subscription box with social justice content. Advocrate’s goal is to connect energized individuals with the organizations who need them.
In the final two weeks of her HIA Fellowship in Poland, Chelsea’s team worked with HIA Poland on developing potential revenue streams that would be more sustainable than donations and grants. It was the perfect opportunity for Chelsea to apply her skills.
By the end of the program, Chelsea was determined to use the idea for her Action Project – bringing a “social justice box” to the US.
At some point during the program, her team was joking around about doing a HIA subscription box. But as they thought it through, they realized it might actually be feasible – and fun. They decided to run with the idea and even developed a prototype for the final presentation. By the end of the program, Chelsea was determined to use the idea for her Action Project – bringing a “social justice box” to the US.
At the University of Michigan, Chelsea was a dual-degree student in Business and International Studies, focusing on human rights. Almost everything she does is at the intersection of business and human rights/social justice, from studying labor rights, to leading peer dialogues in business school and doing brand strategy for human rights nonprofits.
It was encouraging to know that there were other people in the class who had the same passions.
In the second week of her entrepreneurship course at her business school, the students were each asked to pitch an entrepreneurial idea. Ultimately, only 12 ideas out of 80 would be used for project teams throughout the rest of the course. Chelsea had often been the odd one out in business because of her passion for human rights and social justice, so she was surprised and touched when ten of her classmates asked to be on the team for the subscription box. It was encouraging to know that there were other people in the class who had the same passions, and she was lucky to find a helpful group to work with and think through the nitty-gritty details of the business.
For four months, Chelsea worked with the small team to develop a business plan, financial projections, prototypes, and more. She also spoke with potential consumers about what they would expect in such a product, and with nonprofits/small businesses about how the product could help them spread awareness, gain customers/supporters, or sell their products. Most importantly, she just talked to as many people about Advocrate as possible.
Through Advocrate, Chelsea wants to prove that you can be socially, environmentally, and financially sustainable. There were moments that she was discouraged and doubtful, but through developing the business plan and financial models for the project she now knows it is possible. Chelsea has some advice for anyone interested in creating a social enterprise, “It is hard being cross-functional, I know. Social justice/human rights folks will be skeptical about your values; business people will be skeptical about your financial feasibility. A lot of people will say “you can’t” before you’ve even tried. Just know it’s not a zero-sum game. Through Advocrate, I’ve learned that nonprofits aren’t the only way to do values-based work – a good business model can be the right solution.”
“A lot of people will say “you can’t” before you’ve even tried. Just know it’s not a zero-sum game. Through Advocrate, I’ve learned that nonprofits aren’t the only way to do values-based work – a good business model can be the right solution.”
For now, the project is still in the development phase, so any ideas, suggestions, or criticisms would be most helpful! If you run or are part of a business or nonprofit, and would be interested in Advocrate, Chelsea would love to talk. You can contact her on Facebook or LinkedIn.