What Does Great Chicken Have to Do with Community Service?

July 1, 2015

Joe DeLossHe's described as an altruist, social entrepreneur and community advocate. He also happens to make some of the best dang chicken in Ohio.

Joe DeLoss, a former financial analyst and Bloomberg Business America's Best Young Entrepreneurs finalist, started a small restaurant with the idea of making great chicken while helping the community. After a visit to Nashville, where he consumed copious amounts of the city's signature spicy fried chicken, DeLoss decided to open his own pop-up chicken shop.

"The chicken in Nashville is so far from what we were used to in Ohio—definitely not your standard buffalo wings. We loved the community and experience around hot chicken in Nashville and believed we had to do it here. It took us three months to perfect our recipe, all while serving friends in our living room," he says.

The Three Cs: Columbus, Chicken and Community Service

ChickenOpening a chicken restaurant in Columbus just made sense. DeLoss says, "I grew up in Gahanna and then adventured across the country with my family, and returned to Ohio to go back to school. We were really motivated to become an employer in the Ohio community."

The result is Hot Chicken Takeover, a community business that brings amazing chicken and people together by employing adults affected by poverty. DeLoss acknowledges he isn't alone in the effort. "We do this with the support of great community agencies," he says.

DeLoss works with Lighthouse Mission, which provides meals, counseling, shelter and one-on-one case management to area homeless. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Lighthouse is dedicated to breaking the cycle of helplessness by providing hope, direction and skills to those in need.

DeLoss' work hasn't gone unnoticed or unappreciated. "This is the type of service by community members that we believe in and we support," says Mark Menges, president of Compass Financial Group. "It has been great working with Joe. It's important to give back in any way we can, and he is a great example of those with an idea and the desire to make a difference."

Gathering the Community Around the Table

LighthouseBoth Menges and DeLoss have found partnering with Lighthouse Mission rewarding and hope others get involved. "We've employed several guys who were experiencing housing instability when we first met them at Lighthouse. Finding them good jobs and finding us good employees has been a perfect synergy," DeLoss says.

Today, DeLoss employs 12 individuals who have experienced homelessness, have criminal records or face other obstacles to regular employment. But DeLoss insists it isn't charity: "We're a supportive employer intent on providing jobs to motivated adults—we invest in them and they invest in us. We've got a loyal, retained workforce, often because we're providing second chances to adults highly motivated to work. Why wouldn't you hire a team like that?"

DeLoss wants to keep growing and building. "I hope we can open more restaurants while hiring more employees. We want to gather the community around our tables. I want to continue that goal. To have two important communities together: our customers and our employees."