Each year, Think Realty, publisher and resource organization for investors in real estate, presents Think Realty Honors, a program to honor and acknowledge the change-makers who represent the best the real estate industry has to offer. The nominees for this program are chosen by their peers, with finalists selected by an independent panel of judges who are former recipients of the Think Realty Honors themselves.

For 2017, Think Realty has honored Steve Down, the founder and CEO of Even Stevens, a sandwich shop that has become a force for sustainable change in the communities it serves, and of The Falls Event Centers, which serve as innovative and state-of-the art event facilities that are becoming established as the ideal places for business gatherings, dream weddings, and family events.

The business model for Even Stevens is an exercise in extreme innovation.

“For every sandwich sold, Even Stevens donates the value of that sandwich to a local non-profit which, in turn, feeds the hungry,” Down explains.

This may sound impossible in an industry that operates on razor-thin margins in even the best of times. To make this model work, Down has re-thought everything we believed we knew about the casual food industry. He has paired senior executives with experience in fast-casual dining with operational experts who have no experience in the restaurant industry (and no preconceived ideas about the traditional limitations).

Investors, employees and even customers are co-opted into the mission of Even Stevens, which has already donated more than 1 million sandwiches in its two years of business. In Salt Lake, for example, Even Stevens is able to meet all of the food contribution needs for the regional YMCA, meaning that precious cash contributions to the Y can be conserved for other pressing requirements such as clothing, medical care and other vital services to put participants for better lives.

The Falls Event Centers also support Down’s cause capital concept, offering free facility space to local non-profit partners from their unused inventory. Both endeavors meet Down’s priorities of making a difference in the communities he invests in while also turning a profit.

“I invest in real estate because it is a hard asset and provides preservation for your investment during the wealth creation phase,” said Down to Think Realty, upon the receipt of his award.

“Steve has an unwavering commitment to building businesses that change lives and communities for the better,” said the investor who nominated Down for the 2017 award. “He has helped more people than can even be counted through his cause capital philosophy.”

It is an innovation that will lead to continued innovation by the Steve Down Companies and perhaps many other organizations as the mission of cause capitalism progresses in 2018 and beyond.

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Originally published at medium.com