About More Than Words
Jodi Rosenbaum founded More Than Words (MTW) in 2004 with a vision to provide at-risk young people the training needed to run a successful business. As a nonprofit social enterprise, MTW empowers nearly 400 Boston-area young people, ages 16-24, who are in the foster care system, court-involved, out-of-school, or homeless to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business. The young people run a successful $3.75 million book selling business—which includes a brick-and-mortar store and eBay ecommerce operation—and leverage the business to hit measurable, positive outcomes in education, work, and life.
MTW was named eBay’s 2019 Shine Award Small Business of the Year. As Jodi explained on the organization’s Shine Award application, “More Than Words helps young people realize that they matter, reclaim a sense of self, and chart their own path to success. When young people work in an environment of success and compassionate accountability day-after-day, they are empowered to take charge of their lives.” Watch the organization’s Shine Award video.
The young people earn a paying wage and work about 20 hours per week learning critical customer service, technology, inventory management, and leadership skills. Young adults also work a paid YOU job focused on advancing personal goals and education, including obtaining a personal identification card, opening a bank account, finding housing, participating in mock interviews, and visits with universities and trade schools. Youths graduate after 6-12 months in the program and receive individualized case management support as needed as they continue their college or career exploration.
eBay for Charity Solution: Direct Selling
eBay is the backbone of MTW’s operation, helping vulnerable young people gain concrete skills and see that their actions matter in this world. MTW started exclusively as an online sales model, and have since added two brick-and-mortar retail bookstores. The majority of the social enterprises’ sales are still made online, complemented by the physical bookstores which deliver additional skill building opportunities, such as in-person customer service, managing a cash register, marketing sale days, and making creative product displays.
One hundred percent of the proceeds from MTW’s eBay sales directly benefit the organization, covering about 50% of the organization’s program costs. Yet the impact of eBay extends beyond the financial bottom line. eBay enables the youth to balance customer and seller support, learning valuable skills such as answering customer service emails, looking at sales metrics, and day-to-day interaction with the eBay support team. According to Jodi, “The skills that drive success on eBay drive success in business and employment overall, making it a particularly effective tool for training young people.”
MTW tracks outcomes of its graduates for up to five years after they finish the program. They have found that graduates of MTW pursue education and secure and keep employment at rates that far exceed their peers: 94% of their youth and graduates have or are on track to earn a high school diploma or equivalent and 82% are working.
Learnings & Benefits
eBay’s promoted listings and promotions have been particularly effective for growing sales for the organization. “We made over $87,000 from promoted listings alone since we started using them earlier this year,” says Jodi.
Jodi shared these words from Olivia, a program graduate: “More Than Words isn’t like other programs. It has good vibes. I loved working in the store and giving tours to volunteer groups. I learned leadership and communication skills—being able to get in front of a group of people and direct them. As a shift leader on shifts selling books online, I had to think on my feet and stay calm, cool, and collected under pressure. I’m now at Northeastern as a biology major. I plan to go to medical school, study pathology, and become a medical examiner. No one expects much from kids like me, but at More Than Words, we’re breaking every stereotype and taking control of lives we previously thought were out of control. I’m proof that youth like me can be so much more!”