The South Side of Chicago faces significant challenges. Violence and gangs are ubiquitous, poverty and unemployment rates are high, particularly among Black youth. And properties sit vacant, seemingly abandoned like many of its residents.

But one social entrepreneur is fighting inner-city poverty and its effects, turning flowers into opportunities for at-risk youth living in Chicago’s toughest neighborhood. We meet him next.


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Quilen Blackwell is bringing sustainability & opportunity to the toughest neighborhoods in Chicago Photo credit: Southside Blooms


Welcome to In the Business of Change, where we speak with social entrepreneurs impacting their communities and the world.  I’m your host Elisa Birnbaum publisher and editor in chief of SEE Change Magazine. On today’s episode we speak with Quilen Blackwell, president and co-founder of Southside Blooms, a social enterprise that hires and trains at-risk youth as florists and flower farmers. The social enterprise is a project of Chicago Eco House which turns vacant lots into organic, solar-powered flower farms.

In our conversation Quilen shares the stark realities of Chicago’s South Side and what inspired him and his wife to settle there despite – or rather, because of – its challenges. We discuss why flowers became their focus of change and the ups and downs of running a social enterprise. Quilen then talks about the value in staying joyful and his ultimate mission of transforming vacant lots into tools of impact in inner cities all across the US.

Listen. Learn. Enjoy. Share.

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