140619_HER07_49Richard Gygi

Age: 68
Hometown: Franklin
Cause: Providing jobs, education and charitable funding through a local business

Inspired by a volunteer mission to Africa where Gygi helped turn uncultivated land into a farm to provide food and jobs to locals, Gygi decided to bring the social enterprise model back home to the Nashville area. In 2005, he opened ThriftSmart, a 30,000-square foot thrift store that donates 100% of its profits — about $30,000 a month — to support four local charities, including an inner city school and local clinic for people without health insurance. The store, located in a neighborhood with 4,000 refugees from countries including Burma and Afghanistan, hires only locals. It also provides English classes for non-native speakers, along with job training. Gygi plans to open several more stores in the Nashvillle area and hopes to eventually franchise the ThriftSmart model around the country.

Says Gygi:

In Africa, I fell in love with the idea of creating a business to support a mission. I know this can work, and my real joy will come if we can repeat this model all over.”

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