Women’s Bean Project: Newshour Spotlight

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It’s always cool to see one of our social enterprise partners get publicity outside of our blogosphere. Women’s Bean Project recently received some of the spotlight from PBS show Newshour. The story follows a woman named Rosie Robinson and how the Women’s Bean Project helped her get out of the prison/poverty cycle and become more self sufficient. The clip also dives into the history of Women’s Bean Project and how it got to be where it is today.  

Check out the video clip by clicking on this link.

What do you all think?

**About Women’s Bean: Women’s Bean Project is a social enterprise that offers a transitional job in gourmet food manufacturing designed to provide immediate income, arrange support services to overcome barriers to employment, and teach the job readiness skills needed to get and keep a job. Women’s Bean Project has helped hundreds of women develop the work and interpersonal skills and address the basic needs required for moving up the path toward personal and economic self sufficiency.

Blurring the Lines Between Nonprofits and Business

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Social enterprises. Are they nonprofit organizations? Do they actually make money?

Some actually combine a little of both.

When the term “nonprofit” comes to mind, most automatically associate it with a business model that focuses more on helping people than actually making money. Most organizations who do help people and have their entire focus directed toward social good do operate using a nonprofit model.

What if you could focus completely on making the world better around you AND still make money? That’s the niche some social enterprises fit into.

Using a traditional  business model, social enterprises use their goods and services to maintain a full-time commitment to their social mission. A great example of this is Greyston Bakery. They are a traditional business in the interest of making profit. What separates them from other businesses is how they make money and help others improve their lives. Greyston gives employment to those who are less likely to be able to gain employment at other places. Employment at the bakery gives less fortunate individuals a second chance at making a more sustainable life for themselves.

Sure, Greyston does focus on making a profit and making money. However, 100% of their profits go to the Greyston Foundation, an organization that helps teach life/job training skills to those caught up in the poverty cycle.

What other businesses do you know with socially responsible goals? Check out a few others here.

CSR’s Bottom Line: Disney Volunteer Day

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If any of you have seen any TV in the last month or so, you more than likely have seen ads featuring Disney’s new offer to boost volunteerism. If you give a day of service to any participating organizations, Disney will give you a free day at one of their parks. This is one pretty neat way the company is encouraging other people to get involved in helping others without just making a lump donation. The program engages people to pick which organization they want to volunteer with, since  people are more passionate about some causes over others.

Disney’s push for volunteerism will also potentially help create more consistency in giving back among those who may not do so on a regular basis. Seeing how many people will only do it just for the free pass, they will be exposed to a new experience and/or organization and could be more inclined to help them out in the future, without the free ticket incentive.

This is not only a win for volunteering, Disney will be able to put up a W for themselves before it’s all said and done. Corporate social responsibility nearly always improves a company’s image and increases the likelihood of the public wanting to do business with them. The image factor isn’t the only way Disney benefits. Admission prices are only a small part of revenue generated from park visits. Anybody who has been to a Disney park knows that the average person spends as much (if not more sometimes) on other things while in the park like dining and souvenirs. This will help the parks earn money from people they may not typically have revenue from.

Who says CSR doesn’t help the bottom line in the end? Genius idea on Disney’s part. What do you think?

Want to see other companies doing good things? Click here to see more!

Spreading Holiday Cheer…HHR Style

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What is one way to spread cheer through the holiday season? How about giving a gift that also gives back to someone else?

This year we are producing a socially responsible greeting card selection. Instead of giving a standard corporate gift, our cards allow the recipient to choose which gift they want. Each card has a selection of gifts that the recipient chooses from for redemption. They then fill out a corresponding response card selecting their gift and simply mailing in what they want. Pretty simple right?

The great part about this is not the simplicity of the process. It’s what the process helps.

Each gift is produced by one of our partner social enterprise groups. The products and profits made from each of these groups goes to help someone in need with job training, life skills training, and better life sustainability for those caught up in a poverty and/or prison cycle. See more about our partners here.

It’s really neat to see how someone’s normal gift giving can be used in a socially responsible purpose. Learn more!

Sedy’s Story: Mary Fisher

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Sedy’s Story


Nchimunya Shambilu – Sedy, to her friends – bore a daughter in 2002, began getting sick in 2003, and learned she was HIV-positive in 2004. A year later, when Sedy was just 24, her husband died of AIDS-related illness.

Sedy went to live in her family’s village several hours from Lusaka. Her relatives didn’t want her in the house, and made her move her belongings to a shed. They put a pick and shovel near her bed, Sedy recalls: “I asked my grandfather why he was doing this and he said they didn’t want to be far from a shovel so that when I died, they would be ready to dig my grave. They told me they knew the place where the dead bodies were, and that they would find a place for me near my dead father.” Sedy says she told her grandfather that she was not going to die, that she had to live to care for her daughter.

When the family refused even to share food with her and her child, Sedy returned to Lusaka. One day at church, she stood before the congregation and said she was HIV-positive. She says the pastor told her, “Shut your mouth, sit down,” and instructed her not to return to the church. Not long after, she says, she saw the pastor at an HIV clinic; he begged her not to tell that she had seen him there. Eventually, she says, the pastor apologized for how he had treated her, and invited Sedy to attend his new church.

Sedy is proud that The ABATAKA Collection project taught her the skill of jewelry-making, which she also uses to make small items she can sell locally. With her earnings, she was able to put her daughter in school, and to give some money to a sick aunt. She has started a small business selling second-hand clothes, and she has been working at the HIV clinic, partly as a volunteer and partly for pay.

Sedy recently married a man who works at the clinic as a laboratory assistant; a few months ago when their daughter Patricia was born, Sedy took drugs to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to the baby. Patricia’s HIV test at six weeks was negative and she seems healthy; she will be tested again when she is nine months old.

Check out Mary Fisher online at www.maryfisher.com

A Dreambean Saturday Afternoon

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Drinks. Cookies. A live pianist. Of course it wouldn’t be a Bright Endeavors open house without its large assortment of Dreambean candles out on display.

Recycled Bottle Candles

This past Saturday, Bright Endeavors opened its doors  to the public showcasing their great variety of candles handmade by women in their program. For those who may not already know, Bright Endeavors is a nonprofit social enterprise committed to helping inner city, homeless and at-risk young women, between the ages of 16 – 25, gain the necessary skills to become self-sufficient, successful adults. The money made from producing candles goes towards life and job skills training to help improve the self-sufficiency of these women.

Sure the candles help support a great cause but there are also some great ideas behind the candles!

One selection offered by Bright Endeavors were candles made in recycled wine, beer and soda bottles. Each candle was made with a soy wax inside of the bottom halves of these recycled bottles. The soy wax is water soluble so once you are finished with the candle, you can wash out the glass and use it as a drinking glass. Talk about recyclable!

Flower Pot Candles

While on the topic of recyclable goods, one other candle promoted green usage. These candles were held in flower pots made from recycled rice hulls. Not only were the pots made from something recyclable but after the candle was finished, they could be used as normal flower pots. If you chose to throw it away instead, the pots were completely bio-degradable, which also made it that much more green-friendly.

As a result of the open house, Bright Endeavors sold enough product to support 90 hours of quality training and mentoring for their homeless/at-risk women. It was a Saturday afternoon well spent.

Check out Bright Endeavors at www.brightendeavors.org or follow @brightendeavors on Twitter!

Cecilia’s Story: Divine Chocolate

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Cecilia’s Story

[tweetmeme] My name is Cecilia Appianim. I am 47 years old. I have three kids. One female, two male. My village is Asemtem in the Central Region. Fair Trade has helped us a lot. Because of Fair Trade, women can come out boldly and take part in Ceciliaevery event. Before it was not like that. Before we would stay at home and watch the men. And we would work with our husbands and they would take the money, put it in their pockets, and when it came time to buy food or pay school fees they would say the money is gone. But Kuapa has opened our eyes to see that everything should be 50-50. So if a man has one vote a woman has one as well. If the men come together to make a decision then the women are there to take part as well. So now we are empowered and the men they can not cheat us again. Today, as I am here, I am the national finance secretary of Kuapa Kokoo and also I am a village recorder. I buy the cocoa in my village. I show the farmers how much they will get paid, check their beans to make sure they are fine quality, and I make sure they know that the scale is free and they are not being cheated. I am the first woman in my village to be a recorder. When I was elected only the men ran against men. But now that I am the recorder more people bring their cocoa to Kuapa because I tell the women and they tell their husbands and the women know how much Kuapa does for them so they bring us their cocoa. Also because of Fair Trade we have some many projects for women. We make soap, tshirts, batik, we grow other food stuffs and sell in the market and then put some money into the credit union for hardship times or to pay our children’s school fees. My appeal to the women in the US is to support Fair Trade and to support Divine. Then we can get more premium to do even more projects for women in Ghana.”

Denna’s Story: The Enterprising Kitchen

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Denna’s Story

[tweetmeme] I’m 23 years old and the mother of Evelyn, who is 15 months. I was a TEK participation from April 2007 until February 2008 when I gained permanent employment full time by Chicago Transit Authority.Denna

When I started working at The Enterprising Kitchen, I didn’t want to be bothered by anyone. They put me in a corner because I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I had come from the penitentiary into a work release program and was sent to TEK. I learned how to deal with the women working here. I wasn’t ready to grasp that all women aren’t out to destroy me or use me in some way, shape or form.

I learned how to deal with women and how not to snap off at times when people don’t remember that you’re working toward something. I am grateful for the opportunity – this is where it all started. I learned acceptance and I humbled myself. My hope for the future is to be the best mother that I can be. I want to give her the things I didn’t have – a loving, stable home, good education, love and affection. I ran away from home and I didn’t give them a chance to do these things for me.

I want to give myself the chance I know I deserve, such as go back to school, and I want to get my record expunged because I want to be a teacher. I’m going to go far because I have something that it’s for – my little girl.

A Gentle Giant

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[tweetmeme @helphandrewards]Among many coffee drinking consumers, it has a very negative image. Its presence is viewed like a Wal-Mart to the coffee shop industry, running smaller family-owned stores out of town. Contrary to popular belief, Starbucks has actually done the opposite. The presence of a Starbucks has actually benefited many “mom and pop” coffee boutiques in many cases (not to say there haven’t been a few casualties along the way…). The coffee giant also provies several other benefits that its local competition does not such as health benefits to employees, greater wages and of course…fair trade coffee.

Starbucks is the world’s largest producer of fair trade coffee. In 2008, the company purchased 385 million pounds of coffee for $1.49 per pound, 13 cents higher than the market value of that time. Within the next six months, the company is partnering with Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) to have every espresso drink served in Europe be Starbucks Fairtrade-certified. This effort alone, attained successfully, will help smaller farmers (most of which are located in poorer Latin American countries) earn $4 million annually.

Also in the works, Starbucks is partnering up with the African Wildlife Foundation to build a coffee quality lab in Kenya. Most coffee farmers up until now did not even get to drink or taste the coffee crop they harvested. The tools that this partnership is providing will help farmers improve their planting and harvesting techiniques and ultimately the qulaity of their crop.

Using its giant corporate muscle, Starbucks incorporates many forms of sustainable business practices to help improve lives for others. Like them or not, the choice is yours.

From a Cardboard Shack to a Sustainable Life: Dona’s Story

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Dona’s Story: World of Good Inc

Dona, a lively, energetic woman, becomes solemn as she begins her story. Tears melt into her weathered face as she talks about her five children and abusive husband.

With very little income, her family lived in a makeshift cardboard shack on the streets in the Zona Roja. She was unable to work and was reliant on her alcoholic husband to bring home food for her family. On numerous occasions, she found herself lying awake at night, hungry because her husband never came home and fearful that once he did come home, she would have to take her children and flee to avoid his abuse.

One morning, Dona awoke to find her daughter sick and needing immediate medical attention. She had heard of a free clinic in the Zona Roja run by a non-profit called UPAVIM or “United for a Better Life,” and immediately set out on foot in search for help.

While waiting for her daughter at the clinic, Dona learned of a program at UPAVIM that employed women to produce fair trade crafts for the local and export markets. As the woman from UPAVIM rattled off all the services provided to the members of the cooperative, including childcare and education for their children, hope slowly started to flow through Dona’s tired and desperate heart. She knew that UPAVIM was her only escape.

After completing 32 hours of required volunteer service, Dona’s membership into UPAVIM was accepted. She started working for their crafts program and immediately her life began to change. With her new found income, Dona was able to free herself from her dependency on her violent and unreliable husband. She became the sole provider for her family and was able to break the cycle of hunger and abuse, which had plagued her children since birth. Today, in her sixties, Dona lives in a cinderblock house near the UPAVIM headquarters. Through her work, Dona has been able to provide her children with an education so that they may further their lives. One of her daughters has decided to follow in her footsteps and is being trained on craft production. Dona spends her free time helping Angela, UPAVIM’s craft director, maintain her rooftop garden.

She is proud of her accomplishments and even though it has been years since she lived on the streets, she still becomes emotional when she shares her story with others. I am inspired by Dona’s courage and determination.

She is just one of hundreds of thousands of Guatemalan women faced with the constant threats of poverty, domestic abuse and hunger. UPAVIM in partnership with World of Good, Inc. provides a way out of this cycle of poverty for thousands of women in Guatemala City.

Established in 1988, today the cooperative has nearly 70 members; their craft sales, soymilk production and newly developed internet center support a dental and medical clinic, pharmacy, as well as tutoring, alternative learning, day-care and nutrition centers, all on site. UPAVIM is an outstanding example of what a community can accomplish and is making sustainable and influential changes where Guatemala City needs it most.

World of Good has been partnering with UPAVIM since 2007 to transform the lives of women in Guatemala City by offering them consistent orders and financial stability.header_logo