2016 Community Impact Awards: Social Entrepreneurship

Winner: Savers, Evrnu

Gold Award: 
Location: Bellevue  |  Employees: 14,308   |  (22,000 total)  |  Top Exec: Ken Alterman, president/CEO  |  savers.com | valuevillage.com

The power of “reuse” goes a long way toward creating a better, more sustainable world, says Ken Alterman, president and CEO of Savers, the for-profit, privately held global thrift retailer with nearly 330 locations, including Value Village stores, in the United States, Canada and Australia. Through its business model of purchasing, reselling and recycling second-hand merchandise, it benefits more than 120 nonprofit organizations in its local communities.  “Whether a product is sold at one of our stores or recycled,” Alterman notes, “rethinking reuse is key to making a more sustainable planet.” In the Greater Seattle area, Savers/Value Village has been partnering with local nonprofits for nearly 50 years. During the past 10 years, the company has paid its nonprofit partners in Washington state more than $100 million — more than $11 million last year alone. “Communities are stronger when businesses are involved and we’ve proven this through our relationships,” Alterman says. “Our view is that if our communities aren’t flourishing, how can we expect our businesses to thrive?” 

Silver Award: 
Location: Seattle  |  Employees: 4  |  Top Exec: Stacy Flynn, cofounder/CEO  |  evrnu.com

Seattle startup Evrnu is solving the textile waste problem by producing regenerated cellulose fiber from worn and discarded garments. In a partnership with Levi Strauss & Co., Evrnu is creating the world’s first jean that uses discarded cotton T-shirts and a small amount of virgin cotton. Evrnu’s technology is a patent-pending chemical process that purifies waste cotton, dissolves it and extrudes it as a pristine new fiber.

Bright Idea: Labor Saver

Bright Idea: Labor Saver

Forget email. Shyft Technologies makes shift swapping easy.

New legislation requiring Seattle businesses with 500 or more employees to schedule workers’ hourly shifts two weeks in advance will be a boon to some, but it could complicate the lives of many workers and employers.

Seattle startup Shyft Technologies has created a free smartphone app that simplifies the tangled dance of schedule shuffling by making it easier for employees to swap shifts and for bosses to get shifts covered on short notice. 

The app notifies all staffers automatically when open shifts are posted. Swaps can be approved right on the app. By matching in real time the hours when workers are available with the hours employees need work done, the app creates a more efficient market.

A worker or manager can easily add a bonus as an incentive to fill a shift on short notice, says

Shyft CEO Brett Patrontasch. “It’s a lot easier than email,” he observes. Meanwhile, workers can quickly change their availability status if they want to make more money or free up more time.

The Shyft app uses a combination of geolocation, financial transactions, machine learning and big data analytics to determine availability and pricing. The goal is to create an on-demand workforce that has more control over schedules while providing employers with the fluidity to operate efficiently.

As of late September, more than 12,000 Starbucks baristas, 3,500 Old Navy staffers and 7,500 McDonald’s employees were using Shyft’s app.

Founded in Toronto, the startup moved to Seattle in February to participate in the three-month Techstars mentoring program. This past summer, Shyft obtained $1.5 million in funding from Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group and other investors.