START Fund Helps Recent Grantees Freedom a la Cart and Ruling Our Experiences

The START fund, Columbus’ first-ever entrepreneurial giving fund, recently announced two 2019 grants of $2,500 each to Freedom a la Cart and Ruling Our Experiences (ROX). These two non-profit enterprises epitomize the type of initiative and results that the entrepreneurs who support START envisioned. Read below how the START Fund is supporting these two organizations.

Freedom a la Cart

Paula Haines, Executive Director

Who We Are: Freedom a la Cart helps survivors of human trafficking build new lives of freedom and self-sufficiency by giving women the training and tools to develop practical job skills and a strong work ethic. What started out as a food cart in 2011 to create job opportunities for survivors has grown into a thriving box lunch and catering business. Providing supportive services to more than 200 women every year, Freedom a la Cart combines life-changing employment with delicious cuisine.

“Human trafficking is happening here in our community,” said Paula Haines. “It is overwhelmingly women who are victims. In order to rebuild their lives, they need to be able to support themselves financially. We partner with local agencies and receive referrals from treatment facilities. Our program is not just about teaching our clients how to cook. We teach basic work skills like how to show up on time, how to navigate the bus system, and how to do your job with a good attitude. We build on the basics so the women leaving our program can get a job earning a living wage.”

With a structured approach in a safe and empowering environment that helps survivors see their own worth, opportunities at Freedom a la Cart are not limited to food service. An employment coach helps participants identify their strengths, imagine career possibilities, identify any obstacles (keeping it real), and then guides them through the steps to get to where they want to be.

How START Helped: Freedom a la Cart is in the process of opening a café in downtown Columbus. The café will create the opportunity to bring more women into the program, sell more delicious, made-from-scratch food, and generate more revenue to fund programming. The START grant helps support that campaign.

Our 2019 Ask: Healing, hope, and job training take time. Impact the life of a survivor by donating to operations or specifically to the capital campaign to open the café. Hire Freedom a la Cart to cater your next event. Order delicious box lunches or fresh pastries made by women who are remaking their lives. Become a mentor or volunteer.

Ruling Our Experiences (ROX)

Lisa Hinkelman, Executive DirectorRemove featured image

Who We Are: ROX is on a mission to create generations of confident girls who control their own relationships, experience, decisions, and futures. Today’s girls face tremendous challenges. They experience a 26 percent drop in confidence between the fifth and ninth grades—and their confidence doesn’t recover. Almost a third of girls say they are afraid to be a leader because they don’t want to be thought of as bossy and half of girls report that they don’t want to speak their mind or disagree because they want to be liked. Further, one in three girls with 4.0 GPA or higher, do not believe they are smart enough for their dream career. These prevalent issues call for direct confrontation—that’s what ROX is all about. With evidence-based programs that include a 20-lesson curriculum validated by more than 10,000 girls since 2006, and training and licensing for educators, ROX helps girls from grades 5 through 12 learn how to deal with drama, bullying, healthy relationships, navigating social media, body image, safety and violence, and much more.

“If we want more female leaders, we have to cultivate them,” said Lisa Hinkelman, ROX founder and executive director. “You don’t just decide when you are 30 or 40 years old that you are going to suddenly be confident and a leader. It’s the messaging we receive when we are young. If we coach girls and put them on a different trajectory early in life, we won’t have to repair them. They will have internalized a different sense of themselves—the expectation that they are going to be a leader instead of that being an afterthought.”

How START Helped: Knowledge of ROX has spread by word of mouth. The organization’s resources have been invested primarily in developing, delivering, and evidence-based validation of programming. The START funding will be used in part to further programming and in part to investment in program awareness.

Our 2019 Ask: The number one barrier to making this proven curriculum and training available to more girls and educators is funding for seed programs. With student support services budgets strained, few schools have specific training and tools to equip them to deal with the specific challenges girls face. However, once ROX launches in a new location, the program proves itself. As educators recognize how effective ROX  is, the schools find a way to pay for it. The Dr. Patricia Cunningham II Scholarship Fund provides direct support for ROX programming with a designated poverty level of 75 percent or above.

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START, the Columbus region’s first-ever entrepreneur giving fund, is a unique charitable fund supporting BIG ideas that work towards improving the lives and opportunities of the people who live and work in Columbus. START provides entrepreneurs and startup teams a collective and efficient way to contribute financially to the very community that supported their innovation. Led by an entrepreneur advisory committee, START funds non-profit organizations in the areas of STEM education, Workforce Development, Connecting Communities, and Sustainable Food Solutions. START is an ongoing donor-advised fund, set up at the Columbus Foundation.