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Chad Houser of Café Momentum Takes Home Top Prize at BBVA Social Entrepreneurship Competition

Chad Houser of Dallas-based Café Momentum, a restaurant training platform for juvenile offenders, won the top prize of $50,000 last week as the BBVA Momentum program for social entrepreneurs closed out its inaugural season in the U.S.

BBVA Momentum has been operating since 2011 in other countries throughout the global footprint of BBVA, the Madrid-based bank, but this year marked its first foray into the U.S. Its goal is to help social entrepreneurs — those who are hoping to change the world through their work — scale up and make a positive impact on the lives of more people. On Friday, to close out its first BBVA Momentum class, BBVA Compass convened a panel of judges at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin to hear 10-minute pitches from its six BBVA Momentum finalists.

The judges — entrepreneurs, UT-Austin McCombs School of Business educators and BBVA Compass executives — selected those considered most sustainable and with the highest social impact to receive cash awards. In addition to Café Momentum, two other social entrepreneurs were awarded prizes: Margo Baines of Houston-based Chicks With Class was awarded $25,000 for second place, while Andy Lovley of Dallas-based Education Opens Doors received $5,000 for third.

“Chad’s belief in and passion for Café Momentum is contagious, but what put it on top is that it already has a viable business model that has a big impact on young, vulnerable lives,” said BBVA Compass Director of Corporate Responsibility & Reputation Reymundo Ocañas. “And there’s real potential for him to expand into other cities. We’re fully confident this $50,000 award is going to help Café Momentum create more opportunities for these young people to build the kind of lives they deserve to have.”

Ocañas served on the judges panel, along with Kevin Dasch, a partner at Social Starts; Kurt Faulhaber, a partner at Stafford Capital Partners; Jose “Pepe” Olalla, head of Business Development at BBVA Compass; and Jim Nolen, a distinguished senior lecturer at UT-Austin’s McCombs School of Business.

About the winners

Café Momentum is a restaurant training platform that provides post-release paid internships for juvenile offenders through which they receive intensive culinary, job and life skills training as well as continued mentoring and support to foster successful reentry into the community. Its first brick-and-mortar restaurant and classroom space opened in January 2015 in downtown Dallas. It serves dinner Thursday through Saturday beginning at 5:30 p.m. The restaurant has been featured on local, regional and national media outlets including “The Chew,” “The Rachael Ray Show,” and The Atlantic to name a few, and it was named Eater Dallas’ 2015 “Restaurant of the Year.”

In his final pitch to the BBVA Momentum judges, Houser related his rise as a chef over 17 years — he received multiple nominations from D Magazine for Best Up-And-Coming Chef and Best Chef, and received the Edible Dallas/Fort Worth Local Hero-Chef award — and why he decided to sell his stake in Parigi Restaurant to devote his full attention to being Café Momentum’s executive director.

“I get to fly back to Dallas tonight and those kids working in the restaurant are going to walk by this check and understand that BBVA Compass believes in them and what they’re doing,” Houser said after being announced as the winner. “This validates Café Momentum and recognizes that what we’re doing is effective, and it creates an opportunity for us to be able to scale and impact more kids.”

The other prize-winners were:

Margo Baines, Chicks With Class, which offers etiquette programs and empowerment workshops, giving girls and boys the tools they need to help shape the world into a better place.

Andy Lovley, Education Opens Doors, which empowers students to purposefully navigate through high school to college through the Roadmap to Success Program. Its college and career-readiness program focuses on middle and high school students, and is delivered by teachers during in-school hours.