Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, December 21, 2012
Habitat for Humanity International is going from building homes to developing its own retail business.
The international nonprofit known for building and renovating affordable single-family homes since 1976 is now in the social enterprise business.
It is developing a national chain of stores — ReStore — that is selling discount building products, furniture and appliances as a way to generate new revenues so it can build more houses around the world.
ReStore is both a national and a local story — a concept that is breaking new ground for the Atlanta-based nonprofit — one that has the potential of raising hundreds of millions of dollars for the organization.
“We are looking to create a sustainable business model for ReStore,” said Larry Gluth, Habitat’s senior vice president for the United States and Canada. “This is like taking a chunk of clay and molding it into a beautiful vase. The assets are largely in place.”
Gluth, a former Starbucks executive with a background in franchising, envisions Habitat opening 300 to 400 new ReStores in the next five years — potentially generating $1 billion in gross revenues and between $300 million and $400 million in net income.
“We have estimated that with those type of increases, we could serve another 25,000 families a year around the globe,” Gluth said. “What has really resonated with the donors is that this is a wonderful social enterprise. It is a sustainable model that generates funds for Habitat. And we kept about 200 million tons of material out of landfills last year.”
Habitat International has just received a $1.5 million grant from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation to help create a regional cluster of ReStores in metro Atlanta.
The collaborative venture will give Habitat International the ability to develop and operate Restores throughout the metro area. If the pilot concept is successful, Gluth said that Habitat will explore creating other regional clusters of Restores around the country.
At the same time, one of the local affiliates — Atlanta Habitat for Humanity — will be dramatically expanding its ReStore when the local nonprofit moves from its cramped leased space on 3 acres at 519 Memorial Drive to its new, more spacious 5.3 acre-headquarters just a few blocks away at 824 Memorial Drive.
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