Juma Ventures sells concessions at major sporting events across the country and helps break the cycle of poverty for young people.
Juma Ventures began as a project of Larkin Street Youth Services in 1993, providing transitional jobs to homeless youth by opening a Ben & Jerry’s franchise in San Francisco. In 1996, the organization began selling ice cream, and later coffee, at San Francisco 49ers and Giants games. Over time, concessions sales at major sports venues evolved into its main line of business.
Starting in 2006, Juma’s scale was transformed when it expanded operations to Oakland and San Diego. Since then, Juma has developed and currently operates 14 social enterprises that employ between 650 and 700 youth across seven U.S. cities. Juma’s revenues have increased close to three-fold in the last decade, with over 40 percent coming from the enterprise itself.
The organization’s success in achieving scale is the result of a number of important factors:
While these factors characterize Juma’s experience to date, the organization continues to adapt to sustain its rapid growth. In new sites, Juma partners with local service providers to deliver services, reducing the organization’s overhead. Because scaling up through sports concessions alone is becoming more difficult, Juma is considering expanding its target venues, including convention centers, hospitals, and universities.
Juma Ventures primarily targets low-income students who enter the program during the summer after their sophomore year of high school. Participants must have a family income at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL). Close to 90 percent of the youth employed by Juma would be the first in their family (including both parents and siblings) to attend college. Most have mid-level GPAs (2.0-3.0).
Juma sells a variety of products—primarily ice cream, coffee, and nuts—at major sporting venues, which involves selling merchandise in the stands and at kiosks around the stadium. The number of youth employees at any given event varies from 40 to 100, with approximately 60 youth for every one adult supervisor. This ratio is much higher than an average business because employees are so concentrated in a single venue, which lowers overhead costs and increases profitability. Juma provides these services under subcontract with larger concessionaires that have the prime contract with the stadium owner, but also holds agreements with food brands including Nestle, Dreyer’s, Peet’s, Starbucks, and Emerald Nuts.
Juma’s model includes three distinct components:
- A job
- Financial education and an Individual Development Account (IDA)
- Academic support and case management
With employment opportunities serving as the platform, the program provides at-risk youth with the support they need to move on to a four-year college. The job gives participants the ability to save money for higher education, with an IDA that provides a savings incentive with a two-to-one match for every dollar saved. Supervisors give employees the flexibility they need to schedule around school demands, and college attendance is built into the overall culture of the job. Academic counseling and case management ensure participants are staying on track in school, and Juma also provides assistance applying for college and financial aid.
Juma has a sophisticated data management system that tracks its success factors by individual participant, caseload, site, and organizational level. These dashboard reports are tracked on a monthly basis at different levels to make sure the organization is on track and operating efficiently. Primary program outcomes include participant retention, engagement in services and employment, savings rate, high school graduation, and college enrollment. Higher-level dashboards also track larger strategic goals including revenue generation and operational efficiency. and 49ers games. This early success in ballpark concessions led Juma to expand its target population to a broader set of at-risk youth. As time went on, its ballpark concessions expanded and new products were added, including coffee and nuts. Juma staff soon realized that the ballpark concession jobs were a perfect fit for at-risk high school students because games were almost always in the evenings or on the weekends when youth would not be in school. The work itself, which involved attending Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Football League (NFL) games, made it easy to recruit a young, high-energy demographic. Most importantly, since the venue allowed for a large number of jobs in one location, the overhead costs of providing adult supervision were much lower than in a traditional brick-and-mortar business. Harnessing this unique opportunity, Juma began to refine its program model to center on helping at-risk youth graduate high school and enroll in a four-year college, which became the focus of Juma’s mission. The program started targeting high school sophomores and created a set of intensive in-house services to provide a solid foundation to support youth as they planned for the future—including work experience, financial education and a college savings account, and intensive case management and academic support. The executive team found funders to support these program services, and the business revenue helped support most—and in some cases, all—costs of providing employment to participants.
Early Success at Scaling Through Replication
From this solid foundation, Juma was able to replicate its model in other locations. An initial expansion to Oakland in 2006 was soon followed by San Diego’s launch in 2007. A number of key factors allowed the enterprise to scale its services and operations.
Strong relationships with national concessionaires. Relationships with Centerplate, Aramark, and Levy Restaurants gave Juma entrée into new communities and venues. These relationships have been mutually beneficial for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, Juma delivers better service than many of the other subcontractors to concessionaires in terms of very low no-show rates as well as high retention rates among employees. Furthermore, working with Juma demonstrates to the stadium owner and larger community how the concessionaire is giving back by providing employment opportunities to at-risk high school students.
Positive relationships with venue owners and food brands. Relationships with team owners and general managers have provided some security in the event the concessionaire loses the contract at a stadium. Agreements with food brands help Juma expand to new venues because they have specific products to sell that will add to the “fan experience” at any particular stadium. Brands often give Juma modest rebates for selling a certain amount of product in a given year.
Coffee, ice cream, and nuts are a good niche for Juma’s target population. Unlike beer and liquor, these products do not have big mark-ups, so concessionaires are more willing to subcontract for these product sales. Since Juma’s employees are underage, selling alcohol is not an option, creating a good match with the concessionaire’s needs.
The Washington, D.C. Experience
Although Juma developed a solid foundation for scaling, it ran into difficulties in its attempt to replicate the model in Washington, D.C. In 2008, the organization opened an office in the city because of an opportunity to subcontract with Centerplate to provide concessions at RFK Stadium and the newly opened Nationals Park. As the program was rolled out, staff struggled to raise money from local funders. With the financial crisis depleting the assets of local philanthropic foundations, timing was simply a challenge. Funders were also hesitant to support the provision of case management and academic supports by Juma, given that these services were already provided locally. In 2009, Juma’s business in Washington, D.C. concluded, providing the organization with a number of important lessons that have helped scale even further in the San Francisco Bay Area and a number of new sites. Juma determined it needed the following conditions in place to move to a new site:
- Growth Capital. Entering a new community requires a significant amount of upfront growth capital, including at least three years of operating costs.
- Partnerships with local service providers. Working in partnership with local nonprofits provides a more seamless entrée into a community and reduces funder concerns about supporting redundant services. In addition, having outside organizations providing case management and academic support allows Juma to cover more of its operating costs through business revenue.
- Understanding the benefit/cost threshold. Juma has developed a sophisticated understanding of the benefit/cost threshold for entering a new market or venue in terms of the number of fans, events, and work shifts needed to make it a worthwhile proposition from both a business and social impact perspective. Having a baseball venue is critical to this equation, given that MLB has a large number of games each season and an embedded base of fans.
Increased Focus on Growth Capital and Community Partnership
Since 2009, Juma has reached its most ambitious goals through replication in New Orleans (2012), Seattle (2012), San Jose/Santa Clara (2013), and New York (2015). The organization is now exploring the possibility of expanding to Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Atlanta. This rapid expansion was fueled by the factors that underpinned Juma’s success in Oakland and San Diego—strong relationships with concessionaires and a replicable business model. It also represents changes in approach that grew directly out of challenges and lessons learned in Washington, D.C. In the new replication sites, Juma has focused on what it now considers its core strengths—transitional jobs and financial education for youth. Juma’s model for financial education and college savings plans has attracted support from large financial institutions, including Citibank, Bank of America, BlackRock, and Wells Fargo. These partners have provided funding, some of which is unrestricted growth capital, because—like the concessionaires—they are large national corporations that can make connections for Juma in new markets.
Learning to work with local service providers for referrals, case management, and academic support has been a mostly positive experience. The biggest benefit in outsourcing these services is that new sites cover a much larger proportion of their operating costs with business revenue. In San Francisco and San Diego, where Juma is directly providing services, gross profits in each site cover a little over 40 percent of the operating costs. But in sites with the partner supports, like New Orleans and Seattle, gross profits cover 64 and 83 percent of operating costs, respectively. However, it takes time and effort to create the processes necessary to ensure efficient and ongoing coordination between Juma staff and supervisors and external case managers. Tracking participant outcomes is also more difficult as it involves discussions about what to measure and how to share data.
Performance and Impacts
Juma delivers strong financial performance from both business and social impact perspectives. The organization has grown from two to 14 businesses and increased revenues roughly six-fold in that time of expansion. While in 2004 Juma employed approximately 100 youth in ballpark concessions, today it employs between 650 and 700 youth at any given time. Juma’s strong social impacts include the following core indicators, measured in 2014:
- 97% of youth graduated from high school
- 96% enrolled in post-secondary education
- Participants earned $1 million in wages
- 751 IDAs were opened
- Students saved $239,000 for college
According to CEO Marc Spencer, Juma’s ultimate objective is to be “the nation’s greatest youth social enterprise.” Juma plans to achieve this objective by continuing to grow and replicate its model across the country, but doing so in a financially sustainable way. To achieve this vision, Juma is focused on the following goals:
Increasing enterprise profitability. Juma’s goal is to have the businesses covering 60 to 80 percent of total operating costs. The target has already been met in New Orleans and Seattle, where community partners are delivering case management and academic support. The goal may be more difficult in sites where Juma offers services directly, such as San Francisco and San Diego. The only way to increase profitability in these locations is to establish better commission splits with concessionaires and brands, which has been difficult. The only enterprise currently in the black is AT&T Park, due primarily to the Giants selling out regular season games and making it to the playoffs in recent years.
Improving Juma brand recognition. Juma’s Director of Enterprise, Richard Martinez, says that “We want people sitting in the stands to look for the Juma cart and know that the wages our workers earn will help them go to college.” Juma has made strides in this area. Bank of America—one of Juma’s major funders—highlighted Juma’s work in its advertisements during the MLB World Series. Juma is trying to make similar inroads with stadium owners and food brands to provide more opportunities for advertising at games. At Qualcom Stadium in San Diego, Juma was offered the opportunity to rebrand an old Dreyer’s scoop shop, now called “Juma Café,” where Juma’s work is highlighted through posters and in-store branding. It has been more difficult convincing other stadium owners and general managers to provide the same level of visibility.
Better defining “collective impact” and Juma’s role. Experience has shown that Juma’s value proposition, particularly in a new community, is twofold: providing job creation with supervision and financial education featuring college savings plans. However, Juma struggles with how best to measure its impact on the ultimate goal of getting more youth into college, especially when the case management and academic support critical to meeting this goal is housed in another organization. Staff are currently developing measures, data sharing agreements, and team processes with community partners to ensure that participants are on track to enroll in college, and are measuring key outcomes along the way.
Providing technical assistance to replicate the Juma model. Juma is exploring the possibility of expanding to new sites as a technical assistance provider rather than an owner and operator of a social enterprise. This approach would allow Juma to expand its reach and impact far beyond its existing geographic footprint without bearing the costs of starting up and operating a business.
Juma faces both challenges and opportunities in increasing its scale. Contracts at new sports venues are proving more, not less, difficult to secure. In some sites, owners and general managers in venues with a strong union presence have been unwilling to risk their relationships with union leaders to carve out opportunities for Juma. In other sites, stadium owners have sponsorship agreements with food brands that compete with the brands that Juma sells, making it more difficult to corner a market at these venues. Building upon its strong relationships with national concessionaires, however, Juma now has the opportunity to expand to different types of venues, including convention centers, hospitals, and universities. This type of expansion will require Juma to move beyond its existing target population since high school students are not available to fill the daytime shifts needed to staff these venues. This expansion will require a modification of Juma’s service model, and also its mission. Juma undoubtedly has a bright future, but it sees itself at a crossroads in efforts to continue to scale, expand its reach, and increase its impact.