KALAMAZOO, Mich.--There's no sugar coating a criminal record. But a Kalamazoo chocolate shop gives troubled youth a second chance at success.
Western Michigan University business student Lauren Bliss is getting the opportunity to help Confections with Convictions spread its message of hope while learning about mission-driven marketing.
Counselor-turned-chocolatier Dale Anderson started the business in 2010, hiring people with barriers to employment. Bliss, an honors student from Muskegon majoring in entrepreneurship, was matched with the company through her business ethics and sustainability class. It requires students to complete at least 15 hours of community service and reflect on how the experience could impact their future careers.
"I started my own t-shirt shop this past year. In the future I'd like to add a coffee bar to it," says Bliss, who spent a semester working on the chocolate shop's social media presence. "Working in this position helped me to learn more about mission-driven businesses and marketing strategies involving branding."
Many of the young people who work at Confections with Convictions are the same age as Bliss.
"Just hearing the stories of the people who have come through here and what they're doing now is amazing," says Bliss. "We did a profile on a worker last week who just bought her own house. Dale wants to provide an opportunity for young people with troubled pasts; he sees potential in all of them."
Bliss has already completed her service hour requirement but plans to continue to volunteer at the chocolate shop and help with marketing until she graduates in December. She says the experience has opened her eyes to how she wants to run her own business.
"What I want to do is not specifically mission-driven like this, but I still want to impact my community as much as they do here."
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