Margaret Windham had nearly eight years’ experience working in the George W. Bush White House, three years’ experience as the vice president and director of marketing at Northern Trust in Dallas and four years’ experience as the senior director of individual giving at United Way. But when she joined the Café Momentum team in 2016, the veteran businesswoman had to forge her own path in a new position — social work restaurateur. So few restaurants have social-impact goals, the East Dallas neighbor had to invent the title after taking the job. Café Momentum revolutionized the food scene in Dallas when it launched in 2011 with the mission of teaching life skills and vocational skills to teenagers who have spent time in juvenile detention. As chief operating and development officer, Windham oversees the board of directors and a staff of about 20 people, who have mentored more than 400 students who have completed the 12-month internship program. She also ensures the dual restaurant-nonprofit can continue to grow by managing fundraising operations and event planning.
How she became an executive at Café Momentum: I was leading individual giving for United Way, and they have a program called Social Innovation Fund. It’s meant for programs that don’t have outcomes yet. Café Momentum was the first project we funded. I got to know founder Chad Houser really well. He would bribe me with drinks in exchange for tips on fundraising and development. During those conversations I said, “You’re not ready for this yet, but once you have a real development strategy, call me.” At the end of 2015, he did.
On running a unique restaurant: When I joined, we needed to start raising money. We needed to start diversifying our funding stream and putting parameters around what the program would look like. The operations piece is running a restaurant. But the vocational skill of learning the restaurant business is just one piece of our internship. Our program team works to create an ecosystem of support — life skills and social skills. I make sure those two teams are married. There’s no such thing as a social work restaurateur, other than our founder and now, probably, me.
On her wedding: The interns catered my wedding to Chad Windham in 2016. The kids love doing catering events. They danced at our wedding, and it created a unique experience for me and my husband, as well as for all our guests. They made it such a fun time.