A restaurant specializing in plant-based fare in the heart of Manhattan's Theater District is serving up portions of generosity. P.S. Kitchen not only donates all of its profits, but the enterprise with a social mission also hires employees who are re-entering society from prisons.
"This is an oasis where you come in and you love the food, you love the environment, but you realize — P.S., we donate 100% of our profits. P.S., we employ those who need a second chance. And P.S., the food is 100% plant-based so it's better for the environment and better for our consumers," co-founder April Tam Smith told CBSN.
Smith, also a managing director at a leading investment bank, said her life changed about 10 years ago when she first visited an orphanage in South Africa. A group of 12-year-old girls approached her with a letter, asking her to help them with a list of things — all for other friends at school.
"I just got to experience seeing their joy in generosity, and also how much generosity is contagious," Smith said.
She even considered quitting her investment banking job and working for a nonprofit, but she experienced a turning point when a friend posed: "What if you are meant to be on the trading floor? And what if you are supposed to use that platform for good?"
That's when she started to brainstorm ways she could still work on Wall Street but also support projects with social impact.
The restaurant, which opened its doors in 2017 and became profitable last year with $3.7 million in revenue, now partners with organizations including Defy Ventures, which offers entrepreneurial training to those who were formerly incarcerated, and Justice Rising, a charity that empowers children in war-torn regions with education.
"In terms of job creation, we have now offered over 55 jobs to those who might need a second chance," Smith said, adding, "We've now started three different schools in [the] Goma area in Congo: P.S. Kindness, P.S. Grace, and P.S. Justice. We have also been able to provide numerous cancer screenings through an organization called Share Hope in Haiti."
Smith, who emigrated from Hong Kong at age 11, said in addition to being an immigrant, her faith compels her to live a lifestyle of radical generosity.
"I believe that everything that I have is given from God. So if it's either from my family or if it's from God, or if it's from the simple chance that I got to move to the U.S. when others cannot, then it just makes sense for me to share and give it all back," Smith said.
While she stressed there were numerous hurdles she and her co-founders had to overcome — including "cleaning up a very good amount" of her own savings account — Smith said the journey has been "so worth it."
"What I love is it has ignited so many conversations where there would be people who actually come and want to donate to our nonprofits, or simply saying, 'You know, I've always wanted to start X, Y, and Z. And because I saw that you took this crazy leap of faith, I feel less crazy. And now I can actually maybe try this out as well,'" Smith said.
"I think being the first one to be 'crazy' had really allowed the freedom for other people in my world to also think in a more crazy way that is 'better for the world' kind of crazy," she said.