Society for Case Research MBAA 2020

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Rob Touchstone, Leanne Smith, Bart Liddle

The Well Coffeehouse: A Nonprofit In Favor of Profit

The Well Coffeehouse: A nonprofit in favor of profit Rob Touchstone, Lipscomb University Leanne Smith, Lipscomb University Bart Liddle, Lipscomb University Abstract This case seeks to answer a critical question for the founders of a unique, nonprofit, “business as mission” coffeehouse in Nashville, Tennessee: should The Well, established as a nonprofit business at its inception in 2011, now change its legal designation to a for-profit social enterprise? Nine years ago when the founders first vetted this question, it made sense to select a nonprofit status. But new considerations, especially as pertained to growth, mission/impact, and brand, now had the owners going back to their original question once again. Growth had exceeded expectations, but was growth now being stunted by The Well’s nonprofit status? The mission had not changed, but once again, the founders wondered if a change in legal designation could be an impetus for even greater impact. It was important to The Well to protect its strong brand. Would changing to a for-profit status send the wrong message to customers and supporters, ultimately affecting growth and impact in negative ways? Learning Outcomes In analyzing this case students will do the following: 1. Learn to assess whether a non-profit or for-profit social enterprise is the best legal structure for maximizing impact and growth for The Well, while supporting its mission and brand. 2. Determine whether there are other legal designations The Well should consider. Are there like-minded companies with a similar mission and strategy that have successfully used a designation besides these two considerations? 3. Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each viable business model, specifically as pertains to growth, mission/impact, and brand. Application This case is appropriate for both undergraduate and graduate students in management, business law, entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship, strategy, and business as mission courses. Key Words social entrepreneurship, strategic management, strategy, business law, business strategy, entrepreneurship, not-for-profit, non-profit, for-profit, management, business as mission Contact Rob Touchstone, Lipscomb University, College of Business, One University Park Drive, Nashville, TN 37204. Email Phone 615-516-3187.