#80 – GardHouse: A SchermCo Case Study


GardHouse is a Charlotte nonprofit founded in 2019 with the goal of developing paid internships for the area’s interns of color in partnership with small businesses. Jonathan Gardner saw there was a need to create a pipeline to employment for college students of color, starting him on a journey to find solutions for that problem. 

Essentially, GardHouse finds businesses in need of interns and students of color in need of internships, and then pairs them together strategically. Then, GardHouse plays a supporting role throughout the internship by providing one-on-one coaching opportunities, programming and more to increase each student’s chances of obtaining employment upon graduation. 


Jonathan has worked with SchermCo in the past and was aware of our organization’s ability to help them provide clarity in their work and identify areas of expansion. 

“When I started Gardhouse and we officially got funding, it was a no-brainer that SchermCo was who I would reach out to support us in our needs of growth,” Jonathan told us. 

The overarching goal for Jonathan and the others in his organization was to create a 5-year strategic plan outlining areas where GardHouse should focus its efforts and grow. In doing this, Jonathan also wanted to provide clarity on their priorities so they could effectively communicate that with stakeholders as well as figure out how the nonprofit’s board should function.

As we got started, these were some of the questions which we wanted to provide answers for:

  • Is GardHouse an educational organization or a workforce development organization?
  • How can GardHouse expand to serve more college students of color in Charlotte and North Carolina?
  • What impact has GardHouse had on its interns through their internship experiences?
  • What are the areas of growth for GardHouse?
  • What are potential revenue streams available for GardHouse?
  • How can GardHouse measure its program impact on small business partners?
  • How can GardHouse measure its program impact and intern success in terms of economic mobility?


  • Clarity on GardHouse’s priorities
    • By 2025, Garhouse will:
      • Create 100 paid internships for college students of color 
      • Increase each individual intern’s net worth by $500
      • Provide 2,500+ hours of career and professional development training for students of color 
  • The raising $125,000 in funds within 6 months of plan completion
  • The creation of succinct and powerful messaging for stakeholders 
  • Framing of the organization’s board of directors 
  • Areas of growth were determined through market analysis 


There’s a four-step process for projects like GardHouse’s. First, we begin with an internal discovery phase. During this time we do a deep dive with the client to learn all about their organization, their team, their assets and their current success.

Armed with this information, we begin the external discovery process. For GardHouse, this meant going to existing and prospective funders, students and employers to get feedback. 

Through surveys given to existing interns and stakeholders, we were able to identify strengths and weaknesses within the organization. For example, stakeholders felt there wasn’t a strong sense of what Gardhouse does (something which we helped provide clarity on). There was also some confusion on board member requirements and priorities. 

In speaking with prospective funders and employers, areas were found where GardHouse could expand their services and programming to better serve the small businesses which interns are placed with. 

The external discovery process is also where we do a deep dive in market reserach and reach out to prospective funders to gain insights.  

The next part of the process is the most important for our model. We call it the strategic testing phase. This is where we pick up on some of the common themes we saw during our information gathering stages and begin to test out our potential solutions for the clients. It’s also where we were able to create some warm leads for GardHouse. We were able to go back to these leads later on in the process to get further information with the goal of landing those leads for the client. 

For GardHouse, this meant testing different price points for employers who wanted to receive interns. During this stage we also gauged funder interest through two to three different meetings which essentially functioned as a feedback loop. Armed with information from these meetings, we were able to outline new earned revenue services based on all our data with different price points and pillars to better align with funder philanthropic strategies. 

This is when we start to turn those warm leads into hot leads for our client. For GardHouse, we were able to secure some funders and begin building the foundation for more. In the end, this resulted with GardHouse obtaining $125,000 in funding from different grants and sources within 6 months of us ending our work with them.

The final stage of our work occurs when we take all our findings and package it into a large report for GardHouse, build an implementation plan and let them begin executing. 


Throughout our data collection process, we found important information which helped us develop our strategy with GardHouse. 

In our market analysis, we found that there are more than 37,000 students who self-identify as racial minorities at the ten colleges within a 25-mile radius of Charlotte. The percentage of students of color in the Charlotte area is 50.61%, significantly higher than the 38.5% claimed throughout the state. 

In addition, we found there are more than 10,500 small businesses across Charlotte. These two findings spoke to the huge opportunity GardHouse has in the immediate area to make a difference for both students of color and small businesses. 

We also found that a large portion of GardHouse’s funding was coming from grants and donations. This is exciting, but we want to ensure the nonprofit has other ways of securing revenue so it can decrease its reliance on charitable giving. This led us to explore some earned income opportunities with small business partners, which we found they were receptive to during our strategic testing phase. 


Our goal in our work is to be less transactional and consulting-focused and more data-driven by providing proven strategies for the school or organization we’re working with. With that, we also want to work hand-in-hand with the client rather than simply presenting them with information or ideas. 

We were able to do this with Gardhouse by not only providing them with more clarity around their organization, but using the data points we collected to increase their earned revenue services and land funders. 

We concluded that by 2025, GardHouse should have the ability to serve college students of color by providing 100 paid internship opportunities within their desired career field as well as increase the interns’ net worth by $50,000. They should be able to accomplish this by: 

  1. Creating 100 paid internships for college students of color 
  2. Increasing each individual intern’s net worth by $500
  3. Providing 2,500+ hours of career and professional development training for students of color 
  4. Improving economic mobility for college students of color 

Jonathan told us one of the ways we helped the organization most was by bringing clarity on the nonprofit’s priorities and in helping stakeholders understand the impact of the work Gardhouse does. This development had far-reaching implications. The clarity around their purpose, priorities and areas of opportunity allowed for GardHouse to secure more funding and support. Because they were able to more clearly and succinctly articulate information about their organization, it was easier for stakeholders to get excited and buy in. 

“Now the community knows exactly what GardHouse is, does and the impact we have. It’s helped us tell our story more efficiently and succinctly,” Jonathan told us. “It’s created a roadmap for success.” 

In addition to this, we were able to complete a 5-year strategic plan for the nonprofit mapping data-proven opportunities where they could grow and expand. With this road map, they’ll be able to serve 100 interns by 2025, hire for new positions that will further their work and shift their funding model to small businesses paying for a portion of the internship cost, making their financial model more sustainable. 

“It’s a very collaborative process,” Jonathan said about working with SchermCo. “It’s not instructional. It’s a hands on, ‘we can do this together’ type of deal.”

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.