DePaul Industries in 2012: Financing Growth in a Social Venture
Established in 1971, DePaul Industries was a social venture operated as one organization (and for short called DePaul Industries) but legally registered as two 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organizations (DePaul Industries and DePaul Services). DePaul's mission was to generate employment opportunities for people with disabilities. DePaul operated in three industries that shared three characteristics: they were employment intensive, had paper-thin margins, and were cash-thirsty. DePaul derived most of the funds to finance its operations from revenue from these businesses but had yet to turn a profit. In the past, banks had been willing to provide DePaul with financing (mortgages, credit lines, and factoring loans), but it had always been challenging and it appeared to be increasingly so. Dave Shaffer, DePaul's CEO, had begun to explore other options, namely social investors, but with little success so far. Considering DePaul's increasing difficulties to identify suitable financing, Shaffer had begun wondering whether these difficulties were, as in the past, rooted in financiers' lack of understanding and sympathy towards DePaul's social venture nature or whether there was something else-the eroding of DePaul's net assets connected with recent business losses (largely derived from its contract packaging business).