Early in the internet’s development, Michael Arkes understood the possibility and power of online sales. So as CEO of Hinda Incentives — a merchandise-based incentives business in Chicago founded by a prior generation of his family — Arkes launched the company’s e-commerce in 1996. Hinda grew into a $115 million per year business before his family sold it in 2012.
That’s when life really got interesting for Arkes. With his extended family now financially secure, he chose to spend his time being more present to his father, Ben, wife, Helen, and teenage son, Daniel (now a sophomore at Beloit College), and to growing Helping Hand Partners (HHP), the nonprofit e-commerce social enterprise that Arkes and his wife founded to create training, jobs and a sustainable life for those who most need it.
HHP finds artisan social enterprise partners who employ and train the otherwise unemployable, then sells their handcrafted wares to other companies and online to the general public. HHP currently works with these partners:
- Blue Sky Bakery
- Chapín Coffee
- Faire Collection
- Helping Hand Artisans
- Lambs Farm
- Malia Designs
- Mercado Global
- Motif Ltd.
- Rebuilding Exchange
- The Chicago Lighthouse
- Ūsful Glassworks
Based in a small nondescript space near the intersection of Halsted and Chicago, HHP is a proud member of the Aspen Institute Alliance for Artisan Enterprise and Chicago Fair Trade. HHP spends more than it sells in order to help underserved individuals develop skills and self-sufficient lives. “Those served by our partner social enterprise organizations include the blind and visually impaired, the developmentally disadvantaged, previously incarcerated adults, recent immigrants, and marginalized/impoverished women,” Arkes says.
Ripple-effect benefits for the populations served include free day care, interest-free loans, disaster relief and scholarships, as you can see in this video:
“Our goal has been and will continue to be building a sustainable organization funded almost exclusively through earned income,” says Arkes. But HHP has a long way to grow before this happens — despite sales of more than $500,000 this year.
HHP projects revenue of more than $1 million by 2018. The organization is also excited about the launch of a line of artisanal bath and spa products called 1eleven. The items will be made in Chicago by workers in paid transitional job training. The name comes from the fact that at 111 degrees the luxurious ingredients melt and blend together in the production process, sparking change.
“Just as this chemical reaction sparks change,” says Dena Hirschberg, executive vice president of HHP and co-founder of 1eleven explains, “1eleven wants to spark permanent and meaningful social change too.”
Currently, HHP’s earned income is only a fraction of its expenses. Most of the charitable donations needed to run HHP come from the Arkes Family Foundation. To broaden support, last year HHP held a fundraiser at Manny’s Deli. The event netted $50,000.
The second-annual HHP event will be Oct. 27, again at Manny’s, with sponsorship by Northern Trust, Northwestern Medicine and Horwood Marcus & Berk. But, it’s going to be bigger and even better this year! It includes an improved auction, tasty pies by social enterprise partner Blue Sky Bakery & Café and an engaging talk by new HHP employee Shanika Smith. HHP hopes to raise at least $75,000. Make It Better is proud to help too — as the media sponsor.
For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.
Donate directly to HHP here.
To learn more about Michael Arkes, most weekdays you can find him having lunch at a restaurant in the neighborhood near HHP, with Ben, his 93-year-old father.
More from Make It Better: