From Impact Investor to Impact Investee: The Story of Breaktime

By Connor Schoen

As some of you might know, I’ve been working in the impact investing space for the last year or so — conducting research at Harvard Business School, writing articles about current impact investing topics, etc. However, recently, I’ve transitioned to another side of this world: actually being the investee.

After working at the Y2Y Harvard Square shelter, my friend Tony Shu and I became inspired to go out and start our own company around the issue of homelessness: Breaktime is a social enterprise that builds cafes to provide stable employment, vocational training, and career-based education to young adults experiencing homelessness. We do this by establishing wholesale partnerships with food vendors, like Union Square Donuts, to expand their brand and serviceable addressable market to a store we manage in another location. On the employment side, we partner with homeless shelters, such as Y2Y Harvard Square, to address the issues of access, experience, and flexibility that young adults experiencing homelessness confront in the employment process.

After discussion with various non-profit leaders, Breaktime has specialized into being a second-stage employer for at-risk youth. This allows us to (1) focus on being great employers and (2) not overlap too much with what other companies are doing (Pine Street Inn, More Than Words, etc.). It also means that Breaktime’s primary goal is to grow and create as many quality jobs as possible for our target population — representing a direct alignment of impact and profit incentives.

Overall, it has been such a fulfilling, engaging process creating my own social enterprise. I get to actually take what I’ve learned about impact frameworks and the double bottom line, and put these lessons to action. I’m extremely excited for Breaktime’s first cafe to open in Cambridge this fall, and I look forward to continue putting my words to action in this space.