Cafe Momentum makes it possible for formerly incarcerated youth to achieve their full potential.

Briefing / Learn how Cafe Momentum created a business that works.

Define the Problem

Incarcerated youth in Texas experience a high recidivism rate, which is often as a result of the lack of opportunities and support they receive upon exiting the prison system. 

Design Impact

To mitigate this, Chad and his team developed a 12-month restaurant training program in which men and women coming out of the prison system could find paid employment and support services that would help them move forward in a more positive, stable way.

Build

After they designed the business model, the next step was to secure funding to start the restaurant and pilot the program among a small group of formerly incarcerated youth.

Scale

The Cafe Momentum team plans to expand to open as many restaurants as possible, while staying true to their mission of providing quality services. In the end, Chad hopes that there will be more Cafe Momentum locations than Starbucks!

“We take kids out of jail and teach them to play with knives and fire.”

Chad Houser, Founder

Read the full profile

Tool / Use the Logic Model to articulate your theory of change, just like Cafe Momentum did.

We'll email you Cafe Momentum's completed Logic Model as well as a PDF lesson and template so you can try it on your own projects.


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Advice / Chad's thoughts for those who want to make an impact

  • Best Advice

    Don't spend your time wondering why no one is doing anything... Be the person who does. 
    "I just remember thinking it's just not fair. That transferred into... why is nobody doing anything about this? Why is no one helping him? Why is no one helping any of these kids? It's wasted opportunity. It's wasted potential. These are incredible human beings. And then that translated into me saying, "Why are you blaming everyone else?... I became bound and determined that I was going to do something to help. My only guideline was that I wanted it to be about them."

    Get flexible. Make lists.
    "When you're running an operation that has so many moving parts and so many moving pieces, and some of those pieces are children that are in various forms of crisis, no two days ever look alike. No two hours ever look alike. On any given day, I could be in court lending support to a kid. I could be helping move furniture into their house. I could be helping them move into housing. I could be taking my kitchen team out to a farm and tasting food, talking about the flavors because it's important to make sure that we're all on the same page with the dishes we're preparing and the quality of the ingredients. I could be having lunch with a donor or a potential donor, updating them on how we're doing, or making an ask for money. I could be meeting with city council members or county commissioners talking about projects we're working on and trying to get them to advocate support for us to accomplish those projects. I could be doing just about anything. I've gotten really good about making lists so I can kind of keep track of certain things cause I'm not a naturally organized person."

    Question your own assumptions and biases.
    "The first thing that I realized when I met these eight young men [at the ice cream competition] was that I had stereotyped them before I ever met them. The way they walked, the way they talked, a stereotype... and I realized I was wrong because all eight of those young men looked me in the eye when they spoke to me and all eight of them called me sir. My running joke is that I've been cooking for 20 years now, I've been called a lot of names in a lot of kitchens in a lot of languages and in no language and in no kitchen was it ever sir. If I was lucky, maybe it was chef without an adjective in front of it. That's not even to mention that these eight young men were so enthusiastic to learn something and so eager to do something that they could be proud of. And for most of them, you realize it was a first time feeling ... First time in their life, 16 years old, 15 years old and the first time they could say, "I did this" and be proud."

    Remember that you're not the expert.
    "The first questions I asked myself is what was my motivation? And what was my end? Because I felt like if I couldn't answer those questions with complete integrity, that I should never do what I wanted to do. This goes back to being about the kids. Every question that I asked myself revolved around that. How does this affect them? How does this help them? And I was not arrogant enough to think that I knew the answers to those questions. They did. I cannot know what it feels like to be of color in this country. I cannot know what it feels like to live in poverty in this country. They do, so I would ask."

  • Educate Yourself

    The first step in taking action around any issue is to inform yourself. Here are some resources you can use:

  • Get Involved

    Donate to Cafe Momentum

    Make a reservation at Cafe Momentum

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    Share Cafe Momentum's story with the world

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