Combining Social Work and Social Entrepreneurship

A year and a half after her graduation, Amanda Raposo, BS '11, continues to strive to create sustainable change in the social work field. Raposo is the co-founder of Powerhouse NYC (formerly known as Baby's First Home), an initiative to help young moms become financially stable through a combination of housing and economic empowerment programs.

Raposo was inspired to start her own organization after volunteering at Bellevue Hospital as an NYU Silver School of Social Work undergraduate and seeing how difficult it was for young mothers to establish themselves without resources. Young mothers in Powerhouse NYC are already learning about infant care, nutrition through a community gardening project, and recycling clothing for profit. With a home secured in Elmhurst, Queens, Raposo is raising funds to open the future shelter. To reach this goal, Raposo is utilizing a business model to provide Powerhouse NYC with funds through the initiative Project Playdate.

Launched in 2009, Project Playdate takes on the nightshift for day care services and runs pajama parties throughout the city so parents can enjoy a night out. The service is staffed by babysitters from two partners businesses, College Nannies and Tutors, and Urbansitter. Students from NYU studying child development, education, or social work often volunteer their time as well.

Project Playdate began with "a one-off fundraiser," explained Raposo. She contacted Playgarden, a Tribeca-based playspace with the following offer: to borrow their space on Saturday evening, once a month, when their agency is closed. In exchange, the agency received some publicity, parents had an alternative to private care in the evenings, and all the proceeds went towards supporting the services at Powerhouse NYC.

"It was such a hit with parents," shared Raposo. "I thought we might have a business here." She reached out to other playspaces. Project Playdate now works with a second business, Kidville, in Union Square, the Upper West Side, and Park Slope, and will expand to more Kidville locations this year. Project Playdate hosts pajama parties every weekend and also sells private packages to provide child care at special events like weddings. The goal is for Project Playdate to eventually sustain and enhance the entire social impact of Powerhouse NYC.

"I am very passionate about combining the idea of nonprofit and business. The social impact can grow through the success of the business, which breaks away from dependencies on donations and grants," added Raposo. "That's what makes it so powerful."

In addition to her role as co-founder of Powerhouse NYC and Project Playdate, Raposo is also a teaching assistant for three joint NYU Stern-Wagner courses on social entrepreneurship. "There are weeks where I'm pulled in all different directions," but she believes in the work and potential of what both Project Playdate and Powerhouse NYC can do for young mothers.