Greyston Bakery Featured on Good Morning America

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This morning, one of our own partners got a national shout-out thanks to the people at Good Morning America.

As part of their “Countdown to Christmas” series, the theme for today was gifts that gave back. Each set of items featured products whose sales ultimately contributed to either a charity or other social good initiative. What was the first set of products shown in the segment? Do-Goodie brownies from our friends at Greyston Bakery.

The segment explains how Greyston Bakery doesn’t hire people to bake brownies but instead bake brownies to hire people. Greyston employs homeless, recently incarcerated or other impoverished individuals to help make the brownies in their factory. This business model uses the profits to help teach theses individuals job and life skills in order that they may experience a more sustainable lifestyle.

Want to see the Good Morning America clip? Click here or simply follow the link below for the full segment!

http://abcnews.go.com/assets/player/walt2.6/flash/SFP_Walt_2_65.swf

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.

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!

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!

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.

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

Michelle’s Story: Women’s Bean Project

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As seen in earlier posts, the true stories of the people involved with our partner organizations reminds us why we make the effort to do business with these social enterprises. The following story is from Michelle, a woman who was able to make a positive turnaround in her life with help from Women’s Bean Project, one of our partner groups.

Michelle’s Story

I lost my mom when I was 17. I managed to at least graduate from high school living on my own. But my older brother introduced me to drugs. I was in and out of jail starting at 18 because of criminal acts and abusive relationships. For 16 years I felt alone. I was distant from my family because of my drug use.

I was married in 2004. My husband had melanoma cancer and it was his dying wish to be married. We were only married 3 months when he died. Other than losing my mother that was the most painful thing I had ever been through. After he passed away, I was working as a personal care provider but that wasn’t enough money to pay the bills. So I started selling crack cocaine. In 2005 I was arrested and went back to jail.

A year ago, I completed probation. I never really had figured out what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t have any Michellegoals. I became pregnant with my first child. I was 37. I decided I needed to be a mother and to find a career that would support me and my son. I didn’t want to be a mother on welfare.

My son was 3 weeks old when I applied for the Bean Project in February of 2008. They called me in July to come in for an interview. I finally figured out that there was a chance for me to have work skills and a goal for long term employment.

After the interview I was on pins and needles. I didn’t wait to be called, I called the Bean Project the next day! I was so excited when they said, yes you are hired. I hadn’t worked for 3 years.

I came and was willing to learn all the skills and the production line because I was so eager to have a job. I’ve learned you have to be organized in your life. You have to have a schedule and you have to be compatible. The Women’s Bean Project is a wonderful opportunity for women to learn skills, stability and flexibility. I feel extremely lucky to be a part of the program.

When I leave the Bean Project, I would like to pursue a career in the grocery business. I worked at King Soopers years ago and had a great experience. I would also like to get my CNA license because I have a passion for helping people. And may some day get a CDL and drive a truck.

My family is back in my life. My sister is more accepting of me now that I am clean and sober. And of course they love my son. I want to thank my coworkers here, the staff and the organization. I wish we could open a bigger facility for more women to have an opportunity to be a part of Women’s Bean Project and gain all of the knowledge and skills that I have been able to receive.

I thank the Women’s Bean Project for giving me an opportunity!

(This story, along with others, can also be found at our home website. Check it out here!)

Social Enterprise: What is it?

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The term “social enterprise” is becoming an ever popular buzz word in the world of social responsibility gurus and aspiring world changers.

What exactly is a social enterprise?

Many individuals group social enterprises in the same cluster as non-profit organizations. While it is true that many social enterprises operate under a non-profit status, many more are actually generating revenue. Social enterprises are becoming an increasingly popular business model and provide more financial flexibility for doing good than a traditional non-profit model.

So what separates a for-profit social enterprise from any other money making company?

One huge difference…and this may be a shocker…social entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily in it for the money. They design a business model to make profits but aren’t obligated to serve the interest of share holders or investors looking for a large ROI. Most social enterprise groups reinvest those profits into their business or into the community around them. For example, Helping Hand Rewards partners like Greyston Bakery, Bright Endeavors and The Enterprising Kitchen use the profits generated from their products to teach life skills training, job skills training, and help find more permanent employment situations for individuals in their programs.

In a nutshell, social enterprises are fulfilling a need. According to an article in the Telegraph:

 “Wherever there is a social or environmental need, social enterprises will be working on solutions- whether that’s saving the local village post office or shop, tackling global warming, combating homelessness or providing better health and social care services.”

For-profit social enterprises believe that being a competitive and profitable business is the best methodology for attaining socially responsible goals. What do you think?

Bright Endeavors: Jamie’s Story

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Helping Hand Rewards partner Bright Endeavors is a Chicago-based social enterprise that is committed to helping homeless and at-risk young women, between the ages of 16-25, gain the necessary skills to become self-sufficient, successful adults. They offer transitional employment through its natural candle line Dreambean Candles and provide each participant with the guidance and training needed to build a foundation that leads to the achievement of personal and professional goals. Profits generated from the sales of Dreambean Candles go towards funding for training, support, education and permanent job placement for their participants.

The following is a personal success story of one of their participants. It’s stories like these that make doing business with social enterprises make even more sense!

Jamie’s Story

Jamie was a nineteen-year-old single mother when she joined Bright Endeavors in May 2008. Initially, Jamie expected simply to learn how to make candles but she quickly realized there was much more to be gained.

Every day presented new challenges for her both at home and at Bright Endeavors. Outside of Bright Endeavors Jamie had experienced homelessness, inadequate health care for her son, the loss of family support and the everyday struggles of raising a newborn baby by herself. Frequently Jamie would come to work appearing to be overwhelmed by the various day-to-day demands on her, but she was able to find warmth and support with the staff and participants at Bright Endeavors.

One of Jamie’s first struggles was managing a work schedule while meeting the ever-changing needs of her infant son. On one given morning Jamie appeared to be less connected to work than usual. She didn’t participate in the daily pre-shift meeting and returned to her work station with little enthusiasm. In most work places this would be misinterpreted as an employee with a poor attitude and could lead to future workplace issues. Because of the staffing design of Bright Endeavors, a manager was able to pull her aside and talk through the negative performance. What became clear was that her behavior had nothing to do with the work at hand. Her son was ill and Jamie was out of solutions. The lack of support and erratic suggestions by her doctor to alter her son’s diet, coupled with the clinic’s inability to vaccinate her son, sent Jamie into a tailspin. Reeling from the stress and worry of her son’s well being, Jamie was paralyzed and unable to think of anything else. With Bright Endeavors’ support and input Jamie developed a firm plan; she was able to proactively manage the health care of her child, find a new pediatrician and elevate her work performance. Now she is a valued leader on the production floor. She trains new associates in candle production and often leads pre-shift and post-shift discussions.

In the future Jamie hopes to have a home for her and her son and be on her way to earning a medical degree, specifically in pediatrics. In her own words, “There aren’t a lot of jobs or programs that you can go into that are actually going to be concerned with what happens outside of work, and here there is always someone to talk to and help you with your problems.” She embodies our motto, “renewable resources…renewed spirits”.

(This story, along with others, can also be found at our home website. Check it out here!)