More Than Words: A Nonprofit Youth-Run Business!

Empowering youth to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.

The Problem

Too often, youth face public systems focused on remediating their problems rather than treating them as part of their own solution. By contrast, national research reveals the powerful effects of work: teens with jobs are more likely to earn a diploma, avoid risky behaviors, and find employment as adults. The best preparation for youth’s future success must include an actual paid job, one which provides developmentally appropriate feedback and hands-on training for youth to equip themselves with marketable skills and education. Youth need and deserve a place to go where they are valued and relied upon, where their contributions matter, and where they are supported by adults who believe in their potential.

And they need it now. Around 12,000 youth in Boston, aged 16-24, are currently disconnected from both career and educational opportunities along with 5.5 million young people nationwide. Eighty percent of low-income minority youth in MA are unemployed, and national research shows that 43% of women and 74% of men who age out of the foster care system will be incarcerated at least once in their lifetimes. These young people are bursting with potential but there are numerous factors contributing to their disengagement.

These are the youth that MTW serves. However, applications to our program increased 89% last year and we are bursting at the seams. We need to grow!

The Solution

More Than Words (MTW) is a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers youth who are in the foster care system, court involved, homeless, or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.

At MTW, youth run a robust bookselling business, working paid jobs approximately 20 hours/week as part of a team generating over $2M annually in earned revenue. Youth work and run shifts, track financials, and source the 2.6M donated books per year needed to run their business. Youth simultaneously have a second equally important "YOU" job, working weekly shifts, getting support, and advancing personal goals.

This model works because WORK WORKS. After a habit-forming, skill-building 6-12 months at More Than Words, our graduates go on to achieve measurable, positive outcomes in education, work, and life.

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take over the first floor of our building in Boston and transform the boarded up storefront into a two floor hub of youth empowerment that brings the community together with young people and books at the center. This expansion will grow our youth-run business by 75%, contributing support to our program and building a sustainable More Than Words for years to come. It will provide a space for our community to gather with young people and books at the center. And, most importantly, 60% more youth every year will earn the opportunity of a job, a spot on the team, training, support, and compassionate accountability at More Than Words.

Stage of Development

  • Early Stage
  • Established Prototype
  • Scaling
  • Other

Organization to Receive Funds

More Than Words (MTW) empowers youth, ages 16-24, who are in foster care, court-involved, homeless or out of school to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business. MTW believes that when system-involved youth are challenged with authentic and increasing responsibilities in a business setting, and are given high expectations and a culture of support, they can and will address personal barriers to success, create concrete action plans for their lives, and become contributing members of society.

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