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One Billion Rising 2016

1BillionRising_3

In 2013, we participated in several of the 1 BILLION RISING events here in Massachusetts. It was powerful, meaningful and incredibly energetic. We danced. A lot.

And everyone there – women, men and kids – all of us heard the call-to-action loud and clear:  stop violence against women and girls.

Last year on Valentine’s Day we sent out an email entitled “Women are not a possession,” and it elicited many more responses than usual, mostly thank-you’s, but also questions about why we did it.

We thought we’d reiterate why this movement means so much to us. Why we are promoting their campaign and donating 10% of sales from the past few weeks.

When we started Prosperity Candle, supporting women in regions of conflict was our purpose. The founders had traveled around the world for decades helping people escape poverty through entrepreneurship, and decided that investing in women would be our focus, our way of creating lasting change.

In March 2009, we were traveling to meet with our pilot project partner, Women for Women International, and on the plane started reading about the women in their programs. Women who had not only survived war, but unspeakable atrocities at the hands of men.

We landed in tears. What these women had experienced was beyond comprehension. So was their strength and resilience. Six months later, we began working with a group of these women in Baghdad.

That is how we started, and who we are. All of our candles are handmade by strong women building a brighter future for themselves and their families, here in the U.S. and overseas. Women who have faced and overcome unspeakable adversity. Women who have lost their homes, family members, dignity… and so much more that is beyond words.

We recognize this past, but are focused on the future and doing what we can to ensure women and girls everywhere have an equal opportunity to build a better life. A big part of that is standing up for their rights, and ending violence against women and girls.

February 14th is Valentine’s Day and the worldwide event day for ONE BILLION RISING. We are incredibly inspired by this movement and Eve Ensler’s engaging approach to activism.

We encourage you to visit V-Day on facebook and ONE BILLION RISING to discover powerful videos, images and more.

And check out HeForShe, an organization we also support:

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And be sure to listen to Break The Chain, Tena Clark’s incredible anthem for ONE BILLION RISING:

Break The Chain, One Billion Rising

Breastfeeding at work – get over it

Spanish woman breastfeeds in parliament

Breastfeeding at work

Member of Parliament Carolina Bescansa brings Diego to work and, shockingly, breastfeeds him.

When will everyone – both men and women – get over it?

Pediatricians and health professionals emphasize that breastfeeding is the healthiest, most natural care a mother can give a newborn. Not every woman can or chooses to breastfeed, but why do we continue to stigmatize those that do?

This morning’s news paints a bemusing picture of Spain’s newest members of parliament arriving for work while the establishment looked on “bewildered.” Younger, more female, some biking instead of riding in limousines. A few of the men even had ponytails.

But who causes the biggest stir? Diego, a 5-month old who was not elected and therefore should not be allowed in the hallowed chambers of government. Carolina Bescansa took flak from both men and women for grabbing headlines and perpetuating the assumption that childcare is a woman’s job.

When will this nonsense stop? Spain’s 2016 parliament boasts an increase in women and minority representation, which means it more closely resembles the make-up of the country’s population than ever before. Gender parity is encouraged by requiring all parties to put forth candidate pools that are at least 40% women. Then it’s up to the people.

They voted for 39% women (compared to 20% in the U.S. Congress, despite a 51% majority in our population), which means 138 in Spain’s lower parliament, and some 90 in the Senate. Fantastic.

And if some of those 228 women have newborns and choose breast milk over formula, what should they do? Pump all day behind closed doors, excuse themselves from meetings for a nursery visit, postpone running for office?

At Prosperity Candle, we created options. How a woman and her partner manage their family life is their choice. Our job is to make it as easy as possible in the workplace. It really isn’t that hard. We have a small nursery with screens for optional privacy, and set a clear policy that welcomes babies and supports nursing mothers.

The result is no stress, no fuss. Some days a baby is here, other days infants are with the father or another caregiver. Whatever works best. It doesn’t negatively impact or change anything. In fact, it’s a non-issue.

Which is what breastfeeding should be… a non-issue. At the office, in public, anywhere. Let’s stop calling it indecent, and stop labeling women anti-progressive for nursing at work.

Just get over it.

 

 

From Haiti To Haiti, With Determination

Haiti_earthquake

On January 12th, 2010 a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, taking 230,000 lives, injuring 300,000 and displacing over 1.5 million. Six years later, families and the country are still struggling to recover.

Here at Prosperity Candle, and for the thousands of people who have volunteered to save and help rebuild lives there, the devastation that befell this Caribbean country just a few hours’ flight from Miami is much more than images. We’ve worked in Haiti both before and after the earthquake.

So when Prosperity Candle was ready to expand to a new country to support women artisans and entrepreneurs, we knew it would be Haiti. Beyond donations, we wanted to reach out to help Haitians build a brighter future in the way our social enterprise was created to do. Together with our sister nonprofit, Prosperity Catalyst, we went there and invested in a women-owned candle enterprise.

Three years later, we are continuing that effort with something new and entirely unique.

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Concrete candle holders made with rubble from the 2010 earthquake, symbolizing light from darkness and a brighter future ahead. Designed and individually handcrafted in partnership with Stone Soup Concrete, 10% of proceeds are donated to support women entrepreneurs and civic leaders in Haiti.

But today  through January 12, 2016 we are donating 100% of the proceeds.

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Already these candles reside in homes from London to LA, given as unique and meaningful gifts this past holiday. The response has been incredible. Each begins with blocks of concrete we handle with deep awareness of the lives lost, and even deeper determination to help those still in need.

Turning these blocks into smooth candle holders is a slow process done entirely by hand from start to finish. No two pieces are exactly the same depending on the material we receive. Each arrives with a story card and matchbox with inspirational quote. You can view the Haiti Rubble Series in our Limited Edition Collection.

For wholesale inquiries, please visit the Haiti Rubble Series on our wholesale site.

If you are interested in supporting Haitian women more directly, we encourage you to visit Prosperity Catalyst, a Boston-based nonprofit that incubates and launches women-led businesses in distressed regions, creating opportunities for women to achieve economic empowerment. Its vision is a world where all women have the opportunity, capacity and support to become powerful catalysts for social and economic change.

Thank you. Together we can – and will – create a brighter future for all.

Thinking about those left behind

Iraqi women entrepreneurs not refugees

LIGHT THE WAY FOR WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS

As the refugee situation from Syria, Jordan and Iraq reaches a critical point, communities in European Union countries and Turkey are overwhelmed, fences are going up to block the surge and anti-Muslim/immigrant sentiment rise, we are thinking about those left behind – the families who can’t or won’t leave despite the danger and hardships.

Prosperity Candle’s work in Baghdad is aimed at helping women and families who are still there under threat of violence…

Read full article by Cori Urban for The Republican, published on MassLive

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

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Today is Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, a day to recognize and celebrate women entrepreneurs around the world. And, more importantly, to support them!

That is exactly what we do. That is, actually, why we exist.

Whether helping widows in Iraq to start their own candle businesses to sell in local and international markets, women in Port-au-Prince to create the first candle export cooperative in Haiti, or inviting Burmese women refugees here in the United States to join our social enterprise team – Prosperity Candle and its sister nonprofit Prosperity Catalyst were created in 2010 to empower women through entrepreneurship.

Which is why today is such a special day for everyone here, and all the women artisans we work with. Women’s Entrepreneurship Day was founded by Wendy Diamond after volunteering to help provide microcredit to low income women in Honduras. She returned to start a movement whose first day of recognition was last year on November 19, observed in over 140 countries.

We hope you’ll take a moment to celebrate the women entrepreneurs in your life, and help spread the word through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.  Be sure to use #WomenWOW.

How does Fortune Magazine describe Women’s Entrepreneurship Day? As “a global movement to celebrate and support female founders and shed light on some of their challenges… to mobilize a global network of female business owners, entrepreneurs and change makers who support and empower this community of women entrepreneurs and their businesses.”

We’ll go one step further. Women’s entrepreneurship and equal opportunity for women and girls in all aspects of life – business, education, civic leadership and more – will create a brighter future for everyone, everywhere.

More information about Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

More information about Prosperity Catalyst

More information about Prosperity Candle

Contest! Dalai Lama’s “Force for Good”

Win a candle and Daniel Goleman’s newest book, A Force for Good

Dalai Lama A Force for Good Daniel Goleman

We’re so inspired by this book, and so incredibly honored to be cited as the leading example of companies “heightening the ethical standards of business” – alongside giants like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Warby Parker – that we’re celebrating by giving away a bunch of copies for free.

This jubilation is not just about being recognized for our values and commitment to social good (although after years of hard work, that feels really nice)… we love what the Dalai Lama has to say.  And Daniel Goleman expresses this vision in a thoroughly engaging way.

But here’s the best part:  you too are a force for good. We all are. Where and when has your compassion compelled you to do more than empathize, to take action?

Share it! Send your best message or photo on Facebook, TwitterInstagram or Pinterest of being a #ForceForGood, and get a chance to receive a free copy of A Force For Good by Daniel Goleman (Hardcopy or Audiobook) and a beautiful, handmade Prosperity Candle with your fragrance choice.

All our small acts add up to a big, positive impact – bigger than the scalenegativity that dominates the news. We love how the Dalai Lama says that no matter how much bad stuff happens around the world, it is far outweighed by acts of kindness and generosity.

So how do you do #RealGood?

The Dalai Lama is an optimist. He sees the good in people, and recognizes that change and a brighter future for everyone is within our grasp if we turn our compassionate energy outward. Such compassion resides within each and every one of us… it’s simply a matter of allowing ourselves to express it in all aspects of our lives, both personal and professional.

We love the phrase “a force for good.” It encompasses everything we believe in, every decision we make at Prosperity Candle. It describes the best in all of us.

So join our contest, comment on Facebook, tweet us your message, share your photo on Instagram or Pinterest. Let’s shout out to the world what it means to be a force for good!

That eligibility stuff

Contest open through July 31, 2015 (but feel free to spread the word any day of the year).

Winners announced on August 4th, so stay tuned our on social media pages.

No purchase necessary to enter or win this contest. One (1) contest entry per person. Entrants must be over 18 years of age and a legal resident of the United States. Void where prohibited. Entries on all social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) will be considered valid, and all entries must have a current e-mail address to be eligible (we’ll contact you by email for your design and shipping information).

Prosperity Candle never shares or sells your address or personal information.

Be A Force For Good, Says The Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama Daniel Goleman A Force for GoodLast Monday evening I made my way to Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, MA to hear Daniel Goleman talk about his new book, A Force for Good. I was very much looking forward to an impassioned reading from the celebrated author of Emotional Intelligence.

What I got instead was a surprising peak into who the Dalai Lama is, and his vision for the world.

Rather than promote his book, Daniel Goleman shared stories about Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama – Buddhist monk, spiritual and political leader of Tibet, refugee, Nobel Peace Prize winner, BBC fanatic. A humble man who has traveled the world sharing wisdom seasoned with impish humor.

But the anecdote that really stuck with me was one that spoke of unbound optimism.

No matter how much trauma the media heaps upon us every scaleday, the Dalai Lama notes, such misery in the world is far outweighed by acts of kindness. If one could place both on an old-style scale, compassion would triumph over cruelty and callousness.

That observation forms the foundation of his optimism. Compassion resides within each and every one of us. The challenge is how to harness it, turn it outward, and take action. It is not enough to feel empathy for those less fortunate, he says. We must each become a force for good.

I love that phrase. A force for good. It’s so powerful and forward-moving, applicable to every aspect of your life. The opposite of complacency and self-interest. It speaks of a brighter future for everyone, everywhere.

Halfway through the book you encounter a chapter called “Economics as if People Mattered” that talks about the B Corp movement and using business as a force for good – a particular passion of mine. Solving the world’s social and environmental problems is a daunting task, yet solutions are entirely within our reach. But only if businesses jump in with both feet, led by or leading consumers.

And I don’t mean dipping a toe in the socially responsible pond. That respectable but entirely inadequate time has passed. The world needs individuals, communities, businesses, investors and institutions to hear the Dalai Lama’s clarion call, recognize the need and opportunity, and turn compassion into action.

That is the vision he shares with us, told through stories of people taking bold steps in the right direction. Prosperity Candle is one of the businesses mentioned, alongside Patagonia, Greystone Bakery, Warby Parker and Ben & Jerry’s… which is very cool.

But what really matters is whether this vision will take root and grow. Change will not happen because of decisions made by governments, the Dalai Lama says. Real change can only take place when we allow our compassion and values to guide our decisions and choices.

“As human beings, equipped with marvelous intelligence and the potential for developing a warm heart, each and every one of us can become a force for good.” – Dalai Lama, February 8, 2015.

A resounding YES!FFG-Cover

Join the movement

More about A Force for Good, and the audiobook version

More about the Dalai Lama

More about Daniel Goleman

More about the B Corp movement

Related article about Prosperity Candle as a B Corp and “force for good”

World Refugee Day, Helping Kids Far Away

World Refugee Day SOS Childen's Villages

On their way from Ohio to a family vacation in Maine, Lori and Megan stopped by Prosperity Candle’s studio to say hello and meet the women refugees who make their candles. What a joy for us and, as we discovered, for kids in Zimbabwe and Nepal.

You see, Lori and Megan’s candles aren’t just any candles… they are custom-designed for SOS Children’s Villages, an international organization with a single, inspiring goal: every child has the opportunity to grow up with love, respect and security in a supportive family environment. One of their values particularly resonates: courage to take action.

That sums up how Lori and Megan spend many of their weekends. A year ago Lori called to ask if we could design a candle she and Megan could sell at fairs as a way to raise awareness and money for SOS Children’s Villages. Wanting to do more than donate, they were looking for a product that could generate support through purchases. Ideally one people would enjoy and return to buy again and again. We loved it.Custom candle for SOS Children's Villagess

Profits from every sale are donated to help vulnerable children and families around the world. Whether due to political strife in Tibet, earthquakes in Nepal, economic collapse in Zimbabwe, or war in Syria… SOS Children’s Villages is there to provide safe havens and services. Lori calculates that with every 100 candles sold they can sponsor a child in need.

She is the editor of a physics journal and her daughter Megan is in 5th grade. Both care passionately about children who through circumstances beyond their control don’t have a loving home with access to education, healthcare and support. So they took action. And as a result, SOS villages in Zimbabwe and Nepal are being sponsored.

This Saturday, June 20th, is World Refugee Day. It is a moment to reflect on the plight of refugees everywhere who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and much more. For a powerful video about kids in a refugee camp, this UN Web TV video is worth watching.

Refugees_KosovoAt Prosperity Candle we recognize this day because our U.S. candle-makers are women from refugee camps, some having spent over 15 years in temporary housing with no access to education, jobs or proper medical care. And they are the lucky ones, those few who have been given the opportunity to build a brighter future for themselves and their families somewhere else, far from the tragedy that befell them. They, too, are taking action every day to create new lives.

We hope you’ll join us on Saturday to pause for a moment, reflect on all that you are grateful for, and think about ways to help others in need. Perhaps refugees in your area. And then, like Lori and Megan, take action.

More about SOS Children’s Villages

World Refugee Day on facebook

UN Refugee Agency

Lori’s SOS Candles on facebook

 

 

 

 

Prosperity Candle Goes To Turkey Designing Pottery For Iraqi Widows

Turkish Ceramic Artisan

In the town of Kutahya southeast of Istanbul a group of artisans is working on our designs. They are among the best in the world, continuing a long tradition of crafting beautiful ceramics entirely by hand – the perfect vessel for a unique candle.

The ceramics are not for us, though. They are for widows in Baghdad. Prosperity Candle is going to Turkey to source pottery for the first women-owned candle enterprise in Iraq.

It may come as a surprise to discover we started there. In 2009, Prosperity Candle launched an initiative in Baghdad to support women’s economic independence through entrepreneurship at a time when bombs were exploding every day. Women were advised to stay home, safe from market violence and a culture that was turning increasingly restrictive.

In a small town in western Massachusetts, three friends gathered in a dining room to assemble 50 “business-in-a-box” kits, complete with candle-making equipment, training supplies and an Entrepreneur’s Guide translated into Arabic. Our founder’s 2-year and 4-year old daughters helped, making sure each box had every component the women in Baghdad would need.

Then we flew to Turkey to train the first Iraqi woman – Iptesam – on every aspect of candle-making, from preparing the wax to packaging the final product. And in record-keeping, quality control, and marketing. She returned to Baghdad to train 4 others who in turn trained more than 40 Iraqi women.

We were completely self-funded, passionate, and in hindsight a little crazy. Some months later we participated in a business plan competition and earned 3rd place. Afterward, a judge told us that our idea was so bold that we might have won, except no one actually believed we could ship out of Iraq.

Just two weeks later, our first candles left Baghdad… 1,948 pillars handmade by Iraqi women, mostly widows. We waited for a lull in the bombs, loaded a truck, and shipped. The candles were delayed in Erbil, then again in Dubai, and yet again in New York. But they arrived in time for Mother’s Day 2010.

Suffice it to say that the very first pillar we held was an emotional moment. From Baghdad to small town USA. From her hands to ours.

This vision to help women in regions of conflict build brighter futures through entrepreneurship – to not just survive, but actually thrive – was now tangible. We had a lot of work ahead to fully realize that vision, but the launch was successful. We had done what others had said was impossible.

Today, as we prepare to return to Turkey with Mimi, an extraordinarily talented product designer, we feel fortunate to be working with some of the same Iraqi women from 2009. Strong, determined, inspiring women like Lamya’a, Nazhat, Hiyam and Intisar.

This time, however, they will joined by hundreds of their sisters. Won over by the original project, the U.S. State Department has asked us to scale up the initiative to include 600 widows with their support.

That is the impact we seek. One community, one woman, one candle at a time.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Prosperity Candle’s origins, check out Our Story.

 

 

Contest! What Makes Your Mom Unique?

Mother's Day Contest

Someone once said every day is Mom’s Day. It’s true. But it’s still nice to recognize all your mom has done on one day in particular. This year, it’s Sunday, May 10th.

In celebration, we’re holding a contest with the chance to thank your mom in a very special way… 2 custom candles of your own design. One for her, one for you!

Simply join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest and tell us why your mom is unique. Be sure to include the hashtag #BecauseOfYouMom in your post, tweet, comment or photo. We’ll announce a winner on Thursday, April 30th.

Good luck – we hope you win 2 unique candles!

If you haven’t checked out our new Design Your Own Candle feature yet, it’s really cool. It makes the perfect Mother’s Day, birthday, any-day gift.

Over 4,000 possible combinations of beautiful vessels, wonderful fragrances, and 3 scent levels. You get to choose… and we’ll make it, just for you. Because your home is unique, and every room has a purpose, an aesthetic, an ambiance. Now you can create a candle for each one, exactly as you like.

All our candles are soy blend with cotton wicks. No dyes, no enhancers. Just a clean burning candle, individually handmade by a woman artisan and supporting equal opportunity around the world. Fair trade, too!

Be sure to order by May 1 for Mother’s Day as it takes a few days to make custom candles.

Contest Eligibility

No purchase necessary to enter or win this contest. One (1) contest entry per person. Entrants must be over 18 years of age and a legal resident of the United States. Void where prohibited. Entries on all social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest) will be considered valid, and all entries must have a current e-mail address to be eligible (we’ll contact you by email for your design and shipping information).

Prosperity Candle never shares or sells your address or personal information.