New Door Ventures is addressing a critical issue: the fact that 80,000 youth aged 16-24 in the Bay Area, don’t work and aren’t getting an education. That’s a lot of youth at loose ends, with no prospects. New Door Ventures’ unique approach offers them stipends for learning, and helps provide them with employment. That’s good work any way you want to look at it, so we were glad we could do our part through our small grant program. We spoke with Development Associate Mariah Goncharoff to learn more:
Kars4Kids: How do the youth you work with, end up in your programs?
Mariah Goncharoff: Program participants come to us in all sorts of ways. Primarily, youth learn about us by word of mouth. Many of them have had a friend or sibling that have gone through the program and have had such a positive experience, they naturally want to recommend it to everyone they know.
We also collaborate with nonprofits throughout the Bay Area to make sure young people are getting the services they need. For example, Larkin Street Youth Services focuses primarily on helping homeless youth find stable housing. Though they also have an employment program, they will recommend a young person come to New Door if they’re looking for a certain type of employment experience. On the other end, if we have a young person struggling to find housing, we’ll recommend they go to Larkin.
Lastly, we do outreach at different events and sometimes even schools where young people can learn about our program. But by far, friends telling friends about New Door is how we get the vast majority of our program participants and we take that as a good sign.
Kars4Kids: New Door Ventures help kids either stay in school or find employment. Is this an either or proposition? Do you decide which path to push on an individual basis?
Mariah Goncharoff: Although we do have both an employment program and an education program, each program isn’t necessarily the right fit for each young person. Some program participants are looking to find stable employment and already have a high school diploma and therefore don’t need our education program. Some program participants aren’t ready for a full time job and really want to focus on completing their education. For those young people, we would recommend they join the education program. For some young people, they want both the employment experience and the education. For them, we highly recommend doing one program and then the other rather than doing both programs simultaneously.
Both programs are rigorous and take a lot of commitment on the part of the young person. We want to set them up for success, so we suggest they do one program at a time. They can choose to do employment and then education or vice versa. It’s totally up to them!
Kars4Kids: Tell us about Pedal Revolution.
Mariah Goncharoff: Pedal Revolution is a full-service bike shop in The Mission District of San Francisco and one of New Door’s two social enterprises. Having a social enterprise means that New Door owns and operates these businesses, but all profits go straight back to the program. The main component of our Employment Program is a 3-month internship at one of over 100 Job-Site partners throughout the Bay Area. Despite having so many job sites to choose from, the majority of our youth chose Pedal Revolution and Ashbury Images as their internship site. The interns who work at Pedal get to work side-by-side with skilled mechanics learning customer service, sales and how to build and repair bikes. Pedal Revolution is a neighborhood staple for all your bike needs and we’re always accepting bike donations!
Kars4Kids: Can you give us an overview of Ashbury Images?
Mariah Goncharoff: Our second Social Enterprise is Ashbury Images, a screen-printing company. Ashbury is your go-to place for all your swag needs from T-Shirts to bags, to hats and mugs. Ashbury employs between 40 to 50 young people each year and accounts for about half of our overall revenue. Ashbury even has some full-time staff who started working for them as New Door interns. So many companies in the Bay Area and beyond need someone to make their swag. Why not go to a company that is also strengthening your community and helping disconnected youth with job experience?
Kars4Kids: New Door Ventures help secure jobs for children at Pedal Revolution and Ashbury Images, but also through what you call your Ally Partners. Can you name some of these partners, and tell us how they are working with San Francisco youth?
Mariah Goncharoff: Our Ally Partners are comprised of a vast and varied array of businesses and organizations, and youth internships are likewise across the spectrum, including retail, food service, hospitality, technology, office work, and customer service positions. Some examples of current organizations and youth internships:
Kars4Kids: New Door Ventures offers a stipend to youth who enter your education program. Why is this necessary?
Mariah Goncharoff: So many young people who come to New Door have had to grow up too fast and prioritize taking care of their families over getting an education. If you are put into a situation where you have to choose between going to school or going to work and putting food on your families table, the choice isn’t a difficult one to understand. We want to take away that financial barrier so they can prioritize their education without making difficult choices. For young people in the education program who have had different struggles, paying them to go to class is a pretty good incentive to show up!
Kars4Kids: Do you have graduates who come back to volunteer with you?
Mariah Goncharoff: We do! Very recently, we had a program graduate reach out who wanted to volunteer for a career roundtable and talk about his experience. After graduating from New Door, his case manager helped him apply for college at UC Santa Cruz. Years later, he is now a successful adult working at YouTube!
We love when program graduates come back to share their stories with current interns. It’s one thing to hear it from someone who hasn’t dealt with the same struggles as you, but it’s completely different to hear it from someone who completely understands what you’re going through and can tell you, “You can do it.”
Something I find really special about New Door Ventures is this coalition of graduates called “The Alumni Leadership Council.” The council consists of a small group of program graduates who want to help make the program as great as possible. They help influence program decisions, help us plan events and even run an extra-curricular club for New Door Ventures participants called “The Film Club.” The Film Club just premiered their new post-apocalyptic film last month!
We want every young person who walks through our doors to know that they are always welcome here. We are a family and once you are a part of this family, you always will be. The Alumni Leadership Council and volunteering are just some of the ways we keep graduates involved.
Kars4Kids: You offer the kids in your education program flexible scheduling. What kinds of impediments do your students have that might get in the way of the more usual classroom schedule?
Mariah Goncharoff: Despite the fact that we pay our education program participants, many of them also have jobs. We understand that many, if not all of them, have families counting on their financial support through these jobs so we don’t want them to jeopardize those opportunities. Many of them have other things going on in their lives that can also affect their schedules. For example, we have young people struggling with stable housing which can affect their ability to show up on time. Rather than punish them for being late, we want to find out what’s going on that’s making them late and address that issue. Are they sleeping on the street so they have nowhere to plug in their phone and set an alarm? Did they get kicked out of their house so they had to stay with a friend who lives really far away? Are they taking an extra-long route to avoid a gang they’re desperately trying not to join? These are the questions we’re asking.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for New Door Ventures?
Mariah Goncharoff: In 2018, New Door Ventures took a big leap of faith and expanded into the East Bay after over 20 years of operating solely in San Francisco. With already astronomical living costs continuing to rise in the Bay Area, young people and their families are being pushed farther and farther east. It was a natural decision to follow where the need for our program is greatest and quite literally, “meet the young people where they’re at.”
We were conservative in our expectations but have been blown away by the success of our East Bay expansion. Our success is just a testament to how great our services were needed in Oakland and Alameda County. We are set to serve the same number of youth in the East Bay as we will in our much more entrenched program in San Francisco, and we currently have a wait list for participants in our four East Bay Program Sites. We hope to continue this growth and serve more and more disconnected youth in the Bay Area.