A network of social enterprises aims to advance the neighborhood west of Downtown.

Franklinton, the Columbus neighborhood named after Benjamin Franklin by Lucas Sullivant in 1797, has seen its share of change. Though it once served as the county seat, the area never fully recovered after the devastating 1913 flood. Recently, however, Franklinton is showing signs of rebirth, thanks in part to a crop of social enterprises—businesses whose non-negotiable mission is to make measurable positive social impacts, according to Social Ventures vice president Molly Tafrate. Tafrate believes Franklinton may be perfect for such businesses because of its proximity to Downtown, residents’ pride and commitment, the low cost of space, and the residents’ immense need for goods and services.

Several social enterprises stand out as new leaders in the area, including Bottoms Up Coffee/Cova Cowork (1069 W. Broad St.), an example, Tafrate says, of how social enterprises maintain their commitment to community impact through periods of change. When, in 2018, owners Meghan and Joshua Boone bought Bottoms Up Coffee, which has aimed since 2016 to curb Franklinton’s high infant mortality rates by offering emergency diapers to individuals, the couple increased their efforts, providing diapers to other local agencies. They also added a new shared-workspace business, Cova Cowork, which donates two free desk spaces to local social enterprises.

In partnership with nonprofit workforce development program Columbus Works, Fortuity Calling (775 W. Broad St.), provides clothing, legal aid, mental health support, education, training and affordable housing to its Downtown employees, most of whom, says co-founder and chief marketing officer Katie Robinson, live within walking distance or one bus ride of work.

Resident Jonathan Youngman created Franklinton Cycle Works (897 W. Broad St.) because he saw his neighbors using bikes for transportation without a means to tune and fix them or learn about bicycle mechanics and safety. He believed a traditional retail bike shop wouldn’t be a good fit for his mostly low-income community and knew a different business model was needed. The shop sells refurbished bikes (acquired mostly through donation) and offers classes, tours and group-specific shop nights, such as a women’s/trans/femme night. Youngman also recycles all unused parts, taking them via bike to the recycling center.

If you’d like to see Franklinton’s progress for yourself, you can sign up for one of Cycle Works’ bike tours at franklintoncycleworks.org.