Next time you're flummoxed by a problem at work, spare a thought for Natasha Kirsch. As the founder of a Kansas City nonprofit she was tasked with figuring out how the homeless mothers she worked with, many with felony convictions, could make a living wage that supported their families with also retaining the flexibility they needed to care for their kids.
Their criminal record closed many doors for these women, their skills were often extremely limited, and the low-wage jobs they could get demanded so many hours to make ends meet that they were left with unsolvable childcare problems.
Then it dawned on Kirsch, what she needed was a whole lot of cute dogs.
A booming market with a dire shortage of workers
Growing up, Kirsch's mom had owned a dog grooming business and had regularly complained about the difficulty of finding workers. Given that Americans own (and obsess over) 43 million dogs, this labor shortage is only set to grow. All that was required was a little training that could prepare struggling single parents to fill decently paid dog grooming gigs. Kirsch's latest initiative, The Grooming Project, was born.
As the Kauffman Foundation video below explains, the project has faced many obstacles, not least of which is the participants' often chaotic living situations and lack of work experience. But with a whole lot of perseverance Kirsch managed to find funding and get her idea off the ground. Now she's teaching dozens of participants not only the basics of dog grooming and the fundamentals of being an good employee, but also helping them sort out the other logistical and life challenges that stand in the way of a career in the pet beautification business. .
The program, which is now growing steadily, has a 100 percent job placement rate for grads and is looking to expand beyond its original Kansas City location. Kirsch's goals for the program are lofty, not only ending the cycle of poverty for the families involved, but also giving dignity and self-respect back to people who have never before caught a break or been told that they have what it takes to succeed.
Check out the video for your daily dose of not only entrepreneurial inspiration, but also heart-warming human decency... and adorable dogs.