Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

Lisa Mitzen: Changing The Way Philanthropy is Done

By  0 Comments

Lisa Mitzen firmly believes if you have what you need, then you give to others. Business for Good™, the dream she shared with her husband, Ed, is the result of that conviction.

Lisa Mitzen is a woman who firmly believes if you have what you need then you give to others. She feels blessed in her life and understands not everyone is afforded the opportunities she has had. She and her husband, Ed Mitzen, founded the non-profit, Business For Good.  Lisa grew up in this region, having graduated from Hudson Falls High School.  She  went on to earn her associates degree from Adirondack Community College, then continued her education at the S.U.N.Y Institute of Technology in Utica/Rome, where she earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration with a concentration in finance.

She began her banking career working as a teller during college summer breaks at the First National Bank of Glens Falls, New York. After graduation, she landed a management position at Countrywide Home Loans, where she spent the majority of her career. She managed both sales and operations for upstate New York and the state of Vermont.    

She and Ed brought like backgrounds, dreams and lifestyles together when they met and subsequently married. As it happens sometimes, your soulmate appears later in life after you have established who you are and are ready to share your dreams and aspirations with another. “I met Ed in 2005 when we were working in the same building,” she smiled. “That is when he owned Palio Communications. We started dating and married in 2011, and we still like each other! Ed has three children, Emily, Nick and Grace, so I was blessed with an instant family.” Ed’s current company, Fingerpaint Marketing, based in Saratoga Springs, New York, has been on the Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies for the past eight years.

The Vision
Lisa and Ed’s shared passion for philanthropy was the magnet that drew them to each other; both have a strong love of giving back. She was dropping off food and cat litter at animal shelters, and, at the time, Ed served on several boards including the Double H Ranch and Saratoga Performing Arts Center. She was on the board for Rebuilding Together Saratoga County, a low-income housing organization, for six years, and she still plans their annual fundraising dinner. The couple always dreamed of starting a foundation to help as many people as they could.

“With three kids in college and both of us working, it took a while for our dream to create a different type of philanthropic foundation to become a reality. We were very blessed to be able to start Business for Good in the fall of 2020,” she explained. “Our goal was to change the way philanthropy is done. People write checks, which needs to continue for all non-profits, but we also wanted to try a different approach.” 

Business for Good is doing just that, making businesses better, blending business and philanthropy in a new way. Business for Good makes donations to non-profit organizations and also works with people who want to be entrepreneurs. “We provide support to accelerate the development of their businesses, including mentorship, marketing and connecting them with others so that they can hopefully achieve their vision and build capacity,” Lisa explained.

Lisa and Ed purchased the Bread Basket Bakery in Saratoga Springs, New York, in summer 2020 and in partnership with Business for Good, donate profits to address food insecurity. They approached Saratoga Springs-based Hattie’s Restaurant owners Beth and Jasper Alexander with the same idea. Beth and Jasper have a long history of giving back to their community, so it was a perfect fit. Chef Jasper and his wife have owned Hattie’s for over 20 years and the couple was excited for the opportunity to continue running the restaurant while being able to bring Miss Hattie’s philanthropic spirit to the forefront. One hundred percent of the profits from Hattie’s are donated to battle food insecurity.  

This spring, the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society unveiled a new name on their building, the Lisa Mitzen Animal Care Center, in honor of Lisa’s love for animals and a substantial donation from Business for Good. Lisa is also working on plans in the town of Malta, New York, to develop a parcel that will include a doggie daycare, overnight boarding, training, grooming and a small veterinary clinic. All profits from this endeavor will be donated to animal-related charities. The foundation made a $20,000 donation to the Albany High School Robotics Team, which performed exceptionally well at the New York Tech Valley FIRST Regional Robotics Competition, placing as the runner-up. The grant will allow the Falcons Robotics Team to compete in the FIRST Robotics World Championships in Houston, Texas, this spring, giving a nod to the importance of STEAM education.

Lisa and Ed plan to open a Hattie’s Restaurant in the former Lombardo’s Restaurant building on Madison Avenue in Albany, New York, which they hope will be open in fall 2022. The neighborhood is a confluence of government buildings, updated brownstones, low-income and senior housing. The restaurant will serve the community and will have a pay-what-you-can structure in line with Hattie Gray’s tradition of support and hospitality. “We want to be sure that everyone will be afforded the same delicious meal regardless of their financial position. Studies have shown that people who have the means are willing to pay a little more, knowing that they are helping the greater good of their community,” Lisa continued.

Since Ed has early roots in Voorheesville, New York, the Mitzens are redeveloping some of the downtown area. “We had an opportunity to buy an old Stewart’s Shops building in an area of town that needed a little bit of a lift. We also purchased a building across the street,” she mentioned. “We held a family fun day and took a poll to see what everyone who lives there would like to see. We learned that Voorheesville wanted a restaurant.” The result will be a family restaurant with a little café and bike shop across the street, close to the Albany Rail Trail. Cyclers will have a welcoming place to stop, put air in their tires and grab a coffee and a snack. All profits will be donated to youth sports in the Capital Region.

“Ed and I work very well together,” Lisa mused. “We were raised with similar values and our styles complement each other. He’s a big picture guy, always creating the vision; I’m very detail oriented and like to get into the weeds.

“We feel incredibly blessed as a family, and we have a very talented team at Business for Good, including all three of Ed’s children, who sit on the board,” she continued. “I am proud of this group that accomplishes so much under the leadership of Jahkeen Hoke, who has worked with for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, even having founded a not-for-profit in Albany.” Business for Good has been inundated with requests for donations as well as projects and entrepreneurship support. A more streamlined process to manage requests is in the works, in keeping with the mission of helping as many people as they can. 

In their down time, Lisa and Ed enjoy their 130-acre hobby farm in Saratoga. “I was not bored during COVID! I bred my two female goats and they each had triplets! I was feeding baby goats, hatching eggs and playing with baby chicks, which is how I went from six to 52 chickens. Now, we have 13 goats, the chickens and three pigs! We sell our organic farm-fresh eggs, T-shirts and other swag at the farmers market. All profits are donated to animal-related charities,” she assured. “We have an online store, the Handsome Cock Farm, on Instagram and Facebook. Everybody loves to see the animals! I never imagined I would have a farm, but I love being surrounded by animals.”

Lisa is direct with advice for other women. “I think all of us have to conquer our fear,” she stated. “I was raised in a generation where, as a woman, you were expected to grow up and have a family. I like to think I’m still growing up. I didn’t meet the right person to have a family with and never had a strong desire to have children. I watched my dad put on a suit and pick up his briefcase every morning. I always wondered what he did there and how did he know what to do. Occasionally, I went to work with him and watched him sit at his desk. I thought, ‘I’d like to be in business one day.’ After college I worked in banking and got into the mortgage business. Business was good for me. I worked really hard and was compensated well. I was able to purchase my own home and car. In my late 30s, I met Ed. I had a lot of great individuals in my life but not until I met Ed did I find my partner. 

“My words of inspiration are to be fearless. We don’t have to take a path that’s expected. The worst thing that can happen is, you may fall down. Then you pick yourself up. And always hug your animals!” she affirmed.

Lisa’s father recently passed away after a courageous five-year battle with Alzheimer’s. When he was diagnosed, she created a fundraising team that she called Team Big Guy. “For five years, we have participated in the yearly Walk to End Alzheimer’s Northeastern New York Chapter to keep his memory alive,” she noted. “I’m very involved with the Alzheimer’s Association. Team Big Guy lives on in his memory.”

Lisa and Ed are supportive of the Red Cross of Northeastern New York, Double H Ranch based in Lake Lazerne, New York, and Saratoga’s Franklin Community Center. She currently sits on the board for Shelters of Saratoga, and they have been actively involved with trying to find a permanent location for the Code Blue winter shelter for people experiencing homelessness.

What are the couple’s date night plans? “We are out and about so much we actually enjoy doing date nights at home! We both get dressed up. I like to cook, put music on and a have glass of wine, maybe watch a movie. We do enjoy sometimes going out to dinner and a movie. However, when you go out, you sometimes end up talking to other people. That’s why, when we want a true date night, we stay home so we can talk to each other,” Lisa laughed.

Creating Inclusion
“I feel life is about what you do with your own opportunities. Our parents encouraged us to go to college; in some underserved communities, these opportunities are not there. Everyone needs someone to believe in them and tell them that anyone can do it. It’s very rewarding to make a difference, mentor people and give them a leg up,” she affirmed. “We feel so blessed; how can we not give back?”

The mission of Business for Good says it all: “We believe it is imperative that all people have access to help and support at each meaningful step in their life, from their lowest moment to what might be their greatest success. A fairer, better future depends on it.”

For more information go to