Case Study: TigerMountain Foundation

Jan 28, 2016

With “all the sunshine in the world,” and some SVPAZ seed money, TigerMountain Foundation has taken root in South Phoenix

The Challenge

The statistics in South Phoenix are sobering: TigerMountain CEO and founder Darren Chapman says the multi-ethnic area where TigerMountain Foundation operates has the highest criminal recidivism in the nation. It’s also known as a food desert.

The Scenario

TigerMountain Foundation empowers people through the creation of community gardens. The model, asset-based community development, extends far beyond just growing food. It teaches financial literacy and micro business enterprise, encourages workforce development and addresses behavioral and substance among the multigenerational participants who’ve had rough beginnings.

 Chapman had both the charisma and the cred to lead to lead a community-focused effort, but lacked the operational know-how and funding. He was a 2013 SVPAZ Fast Pitch winner, though not on his first try.

 The Solutions

In 1990, at age 25, Chapman was sitting in a maximum-security prison, awaiting sentencing. It was then that he had the insights that led to the establishment of TigerMountain Foundation.

     Drawing Upon Life Experience. Chapman, like many young black men who grew up fatherless in rough neighborhoods to working single mothers, was incarcerated in his early 20s. “Being destructive, tearing down things was easier than building things,” he remembers.

More positive memories of time spent with his grandfather that changed the direction of his life. “I remember being three, four years old and seeing my grandfather growing carrots and tomatoes, trading collards for oranges. Everything happened at that fence. These were people who were living off the land and creating a good quality of life.”

     Putting Down Roots. After his release, Chapman began investing in real estate in L.A., before settling in South Phoenix in 2005, which offered more affordable real estate. As a youngster, Chapman had lived in Arizona, so it was a homecoming of sorts. By then Chapman had met his wife, Leonarda McClarity, who shared his vision of community service. “What is better than a garden, which has to be cultivated day after day, week after week?” asks Chapman, of the seeds of success he’s sown. “Digging in the dirt, working in the sun, showing up and being accountable, this garden is a tool for helping people strategize to make their lives better.”

     Gaining Business Savvy. Chapman says having the support of SVPAZ was akin to having a “full administrative staff.” In particular, he says the organization helped him identify opportunities, risks and deficits, and shape a board that was reflective of the organization and the community TigerMountain serves. Chapman also credits SVPAZ with helping TigerMountain gets its books in order: up to date and transparent, important criteria for attracting funding to move forward.

The Outcomes

Since its inception, TigerMountain Foundation has truly blossomed:

  • Served more than 3,000 people through consultations, presentations and garden events
  • Garnered acclaim from the City of Phoenix Mayor’s Office, the Phoenix Police Department and the national agencies across the U.S.
  • Received positive publicity from the Phoenix Business Journal

 “With Social Venture Partners Arizona, we became part of an alliance,” Chapman says. “We became a formidable player in the social equity space.”