All posts by Kaitlin Hasseler

Playing to Win with Event Appreciation Gifts that Shine

This past week I was thrilled to be able to attend the annual Center for Women & Enterprise’s Business Leaders Conference, with a theme this year of Play to Win.   Not only did I get a chance to listen to some great workshops (like sales guru Frank Belzer’s presentation on having a winning sales strategy) and connect with some inspirational women business owners, but I also was able to promote and celebrate our fantastic partnership with CWE and one of their conference sponsors, United Technologies.

Center for Women & Enterprise conference custom candle sponsored by United TechnologiesEvery one of the 300 attendees received a custom designed Prosperity candle tin in their conference tote bag. 

It was a perfect opportunity for United Technologies to affirm their commitment to women-focused enterprises, since every candle supports a woman entrepreneur rebuilding her life!

And it is also exactly the kind of visionary corporate partnership we are looking to build upon, as we continue to grow the movement to shift the gift and transform communities through business and event appreciation gifts that are designed to do good.

A huge thanks to our friends at the Center for Women & Enterprise and United Technologies for being so forward thinking in their commitment to changing the playing field for women, both locally and across the globe!

Center for Women & Enterprise, United Technologies, and Prosperity Candle partnership on custom candle for event gift

From L-R: Jodi Baier of Center for Women & Enterprise; Aprile Ricardi of United Technologies; and Kaitlin Hasseler of Prosperity Candle, showing how a non-profit, for-profit and social enterprise can play together to win!

The perfect fit for non-profit appreciation gifts: A testimony from Root Cause

We continue our series focusing on why our partners and clients choose to work with us this week with a guest post from our partner, Root Cause, an awesome non-profit doing incredible pioneering work around social impact research and fostering innovation across sectors (just like us, they are driven by a passion for shaping the future of social problem solving!).

They recently ordered custom candles as appreciation gifts for event speakers, major donors and key stakeholders, and had the following to share about the experience:

“I am always on the hunt for special gifts to give our clients, partners, vendors as a thank you for their support and work. The tricky part is finding a gift that clients will actually use.  

Root Cause custom candle design

As a non-profit focused on advancing solutions to today’s toughest social issues, it’s also important that gifts are branded well, inexpensive, and socially conscious.  

While the appreciation gifts and promotional products you give out may seem insignificant, I have to say that it makes a huge difference to our clients when they receive something that is thoughtful, innovative and clearly represents our values. The value it adds to the relationship is anything but insignificant!   

Prosperity Candle gives me the opportunity to support their innovative social enterprise while giving beautifully designed and scented candles that delight my key constituents. 

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One of the many services we provide at Root Cause includes investing in social enterprises; providing them with free consulting services and access to key funders and investors to strengthen their performance and impact.  When I purchase Prosperity Candles, I feel confident that these gifts will look awesome AND align with Root Cause’s mission and brand.  

We’ve even incorporated Prosperity Candle as a featured vendor for our Peer Performance Exchange in order to spread the word on how our clients and partners can make a real impact with gifts that give back.”

– Tania Green, Marketing and Communications Manager, Root Cause

 

Join Tania and Root Cause in making the significant choice to give appreciation gifts that reflect your mission aligned values!  Learn more about our  custom candles and gift sets here.  

The perfect fit for corporate gifts: A testimony from Triangle Manufacturing


Here at Prosperity Candle, we spend a lot of time encouraging companies and organizations to shift the gift, in order to reflect their values and have their message endure.

This time however, we’d rather you hear directly from one of our customers on why they chose to give Prosperity Candle products for their 2012 holiday client gift baskets (while it may seem early to be talking about the holidays in August, many companies select their end of the year gifts in early fall!).

At Triangle Manufacturing Inc., a medical manufacturing company and family run business for over 50 years, we are truly grateful for the opportunity to work collaboratively with our clients, employees and partners and share in our mutual success.

Triangle Corporate Gift Basket Holiday 2012

So when it came time to select a unique holiday gift representative of what we stand for, Prosperity Candle felt like the perfect fit. We deeply value quality and entrepreneurship as that is how my father, our Founder established our humble beginnings back in 1955.  

The beautiful gift baskets were created by local Burmese refugee women working at Prosperity Candle’s new manufacturing space in MA which included our own custom Triangle candle.  In the true spirit of honoring our partnerships, we sent each of our clients and valued partners a basket to celebrate the power of opportunity and our ability to expand it. It contained the work of woman in distressed regions and circumstances around the world who, through a supportive entrepreneurial experience manage to learn, grow and find a meaningful path to prosperity.

In return we received heartfelt notes of gratitude about the beautiful products and the positive impact made on behalf of another. It was a wonderful way to thank the people we value in our business and lives.

Neal Strohmeyer, CEO of Triangle Manufacturing

Join Neal and Triangle in making the distinctive choice to give gifts that give back this year and order your custom candles and gift sets today!

Trinkets and Trash: A Thrift Shop Swagventure

The below is a special guest post by our intern, Maggie Simms.

In the two months I have been interning with Prosperity Candle, I have learned a lot and been exposed to many new ideas. However, one topic that arises more than others is the hotly debated issue of “bad swag.” And no, that does not refer to the kind the Justin Bieber aggressively flaunts, although I think he could learn some things as well. The bad swag I hear all about is the type that companies give out as corporate gifts.

While it might seem harmless that a company gives its employees, clients, guests etc. unflattering T-shirts in gaudy company colors, the real crime here is the missed opportunity! Why spend more, when you can spend better? Not only can you give things people want, but this is a great opportunity to give socially responsible gifts that give back and give you a brand boost! Instead, most of this $17 billion industry ends up in the garbage.

As a fun office challenge, my supervisor had the bright (candle pun intended!) idea of seeing how much of this bad swag we could find that people had disposed of. Inspired by the fact that our office is in the Boston Globe, we thought it would be interesting to do some investigative journalism to build a very tangible example of just how much is wasted.

Although previous company experiences showed people desperately wanting to trash their swag, I had no intention of dumpster diving. My plan focused instead on exploring local thrift shops, where in the immortal words of Macklemore, “One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come up.”

What was supposed to be something of a Where’s Waldo challenge turned out to be more like a game of I-Spy with a three-year-old…“I spy everything in this room.”

I wish I could give exact numbers of just how many T-shirts I found, but I lost count before I even made it through the orange section. There was an abundance of cups, bags, mirrors, teddy bears, and even a rather lonely looking ashtray. I finally understood how detrimental this bad swag was! I wondered why all companies hadn’t taken a step back to rethink their gifting options.

My friend and I ended up spending the day wandering through thrift stores, and it became a competition as to who could obtain the most bad swag in the shortest amount of time.

Although a seemingly cheesy way to spend an afternoon, it turned out to be a blast, but most of all incredibly eye-opening. I encourage any reader to try this activity next time they plan to shop at a thrift store.

Feel free to follow these quick and easy steps to complete Maggie’s Bad Swag Challenge:

  1. Find a friend (or a few).
  2. Look up where the local thrift shops are (perhaps while listening to a version of Macklemore’s Thrift Shop on your iPod).
  3. Once there, fan out through the store to see who can find the most swag in the given amount of time.
  4. Compare to determine who found the gaudiest, most interesting, or worst item of bad swag.
  5. Take a picture of the “winner” to send to us! We’re starting to collect the worst offenders to feature in a “Bad Swag Hall of Shame” campaign and would love to include your finds!

Not only will you have fun on this Swagventure, but it will open your eyes to just how much is wasted! These items have become so commonplace, that they almost go unnoticed. But when you take the time to actually look, it becomes impossible not to see it.

We look forward to seeing what bad swag you can find!

Spotlighting our Moms in Honor of Mother’s Day

Today’s Sunday Spotlight couldn’t be more delightful for me personally – in honor of Mother’s Day today, we are putting the spotlight on some very very important people who have contributed directly to Prosperity Candle’s growth and development – our mothers!! As you can see in the tributes below, the Prosperity Candle team is so thankful for the many ways our mothers have impacted and influenced our lives. And don’t miss our sister non-profit Prosperity Catalyst’s lovely Mother’s Day portrait (where you may spot some familiar faces!!).

spolight_moms_tedTed Barber
Prosperity Candle founder and president

My mom Louise has influenced me in so many ways it’s hard to imagine who I’d be without her strength in tough times, her intelligence and clear thinking, her groundedness and practicality, her patience and faith in all her children, her progressive ideas balanced by fiscal prudence, and the strength of her convictions – especially when it comes to helping others and doing right by the world. When I have a challenge before me, my mom has always been there with not only attentive listening, but also thought-provoking questions and smart advice. From my mom I’ve learned how to be a good friend, parent and citizen, as well as how to create a business that contributes to your community.

spotlight_moms_kimKim Hutt
Director of Online Marketing and Sales

My mom Debbie instilled in me a real sense of opportunity. When she was in high school, she wanted to be a journalist, but her guidance counselor told her she should pursue a more ‘feminine’ profession, and that her dream was unrealistic. Perhaps remembering this rejection, she was always open to my childhood fantasies — even the most unrealistic ones! I think about that now, working at Prosperity Candle. I want the children of the women we work with to feel that same boundless optimism, that feeling that opportunity is all around them. It’s something I still carry with me today.

spotlight_moms_kaitKaitlin Hasseler
Director of Partnerships & Business Development

Gracious and tenacious – two words that encompass all that my mother Susan has been and is to me. She is a beautiful example of the complexities of the human spirit, and has been a guiding force all throughout my life. She is a powerful leader, who has taught me, and shown me through her example, how to lean in and embrace my voice and my passions. I am deeply thankful for all the ways she has instilled in me a respect for others, a desire to make a difference in all I do, a heart for travel and exploration, how to be an advocate and an ally, how to listen more fully, how to put my faith into action, and how to believe in myself at all times. The woman I am today is directly a result of my mother’s influence, and I am so grateful for her! I look forward to many more adventures together (hopefully including some more on different continents!) in this crazy journey of life.

spotlight_moms_emmaEmma West
Sales & Marketing Intern

From the homemade bread fresh out of the oven to raising three children, I praise my mother for her immense care. My mother’s thoughtful gestures towards neighbors and nurturing ways as a parent has demonstrated the importance and beauty in showing compassion for others. With my love for traveling mixed with my mother’s influence in doing good for others, I excitedly plan to learn all I can regarding international development. I have seen the incredible social impact a business can have in working with Prosperity Candle and seeing the revived lives of the Burmese refugee women. In the years to come, I hope to channel my mother’s compassion and make a difference in the lives of others.

We’d love to hear about all the ways your moms have inspired you — please share with us on Facebook, Twitter, or here in the comments!

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts: Working to Change the World Right Now

Sunday Spotlight: A new blog series shining a spotlight on the relationships and partnerships that have allowed Prosperity Candle to grow and prosper.

Isn’t that a powerful message? Here at Prosperity Candle, we couldn’t agree more – what you do, what we do, right now, matters so very much. And it’s incredible to have partners that are true leaders in this movement. The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts (responsible for this banner), led by the visionary Carla Oleska, is one of these partners indeed.

The vision of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts is to empower women and girls to reach their full potential in a world that is just and fair for all. They focus on three major strategies to bring this vision to life:

  1. mobilize and support women’s philanthropy because philanthropy is a powerful tool for social change
  2. make strategic grants to nonprofit organizations that work with women and girls toward progressive social change in Western Massachusetts
  3. advocate for system improvements for women and girls through research, education, and collaboration

Since beginning their work in 1997, the Women’s Fund has awarded two million dollars in grants, funding nearly 100 programs and investing in more than 80,000 women and girls in four counties in Western MA. This is an impressive feat and one worth celebrating.

And celebrate they did! A little over a month ago, the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts held a beautiful evening gala in honor of their 15th anniversary, bringing together more than 650 advocates, supporters and champions of women’s rights within the greater Western MA community.

The theme of the evening was “Redefining What’s Possible” and during the program, they presented a set of Standing on Her Shoulder Awards, recognizing 16 local changemakers who have spent their lives asking themselves “what can I do right now to change the world?”

Prosperity Candle was honored to have the Women’s Fund select our pillar candles as a recognition gift for the awardees. The candles the Fund selected were handpoured by our women artisans in Iraq and then had dried flowers pressed upon them from a local artist in the Valley, creating a beautiful gift displaying the interconnected world we live in.

Carla even took time during the program to share the story of our candles and our broader mission, speaking eloquently to how the candles represent the global sisterhood that exists among us.

We love aligning our gifts with partners and events that have such a clear and proven vision for change.

Learn more about the Fund’s tremendous vision for change here:

And may we all take a cue from the Women’s Fund of Western MA this week, asking ourselves “what can I do right now to change the world?”

PAX World: Investing in Women, Eliminating Gender Inequality

Sunday Spotlight: A new blog series shining a spotlight on the relationships and partnerships that have allowed Prosperity Candle to grow and prosper.

This year, we’ve really been digging into our “Shift the Gift” campaign, where we engage with organizations and corporations interested in aligning their gift giving with their values (we’re determined to shift a percentage of the $17-19 billion promotional product industry towards sustainable gifts that build transformational business opportunities for the women we’re working with!).

So it seems quite fitting to give a shout out to one of the first companies who joined us in gifting with impact, far before we had created a catchy slogan and solidified a business strategy. This week’s Sunday Spotlight is on PAX World, one of the leading investment management companies dedicated to delivering competitive long-term performance to investors through sustainable investing.

PAX World indeed has a distinguished history of innovation (beyond being one of the first to design custom candles with Prosperity Candle!) having launched the first socially responsible mutual fund in America in 1971. They are also credited with being among the first investment managers to integrate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) or sustainability factors into investment analysis and decision making.

Not only have they long integrated diversity analysis and other gender criteria into the company research they conduct for their mutual funds, but they also offer a specific fund, the Pax World Global Women’s Equality Fund (PXWEX), which is the only mutual fund in America whose focus is on investing in companies that are global leaders in advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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And if that wasn’t enough, they also were one of the founding signatories of the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles, a set of principles for business offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

CEO Joe Keefe sums it up best: “Eliminating gender inequality and empowering women are finally being recognized, on a global basis, for what they are — urgent moral and economic imperatives. This is as true for businesses and investors as it is for broader economies. Gender equality is fast becoming an investment concept . . . We have a choice in the way we invest. We can take advantage of opportunities or we can ignore them. We can be part of the solution, or part of the problem. When it comes to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, it’s time for investors to become part of the solution.(Read Keefe’s full comments in a paper on Gender Equality as an Investment Concept and check out PAX’s complete statement on gender equality here)

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PAX World’s commitment to gender equality and transparency is really quite unparalleled in the financial services industry, and therefore made them a natural customer for our custom candles, as they are a perfect mission-aligned gift to give to clients and as event takeaways. PAX is able to clearly showcase their branding/messaging alongside their commitment to women’s empowerment, with each candle directly strengthening the livelihoods of the women we work with.

We are proud that PAX World is choosing to be part of the solution in the gift giving space – putting their marketing dollars where their investment dollars are already going.

Learn more about PAX World’s innovative investment strategies here.

If you are interested in joining PAX World in becoming part of the solution by shifting your corporate gifting strategy, contact us today.

Girl Rising: Breaking our hearts, giving us hope

A few weeks ago I saw a film that both broke my heart and gave me hope. Girl Rising shares the story of 9 young women from different countries around the world through creative reenactments and vignettes.

The film traverses the globe, sharing the diverse stories of Suma of Nepal, who was forced into bonded labor at age 6, and Wadley, a plucky and boisterous young Haitian girl who is denied education after the earthquake, and about Ruksana, a girl in India who dares to dream despite the poverty surrounding her (learn about all 9 girls here).

It’s never easy to be hit with the stark stories and statistics of the gender inequity that still permeates our communities. In fact, it can be utterly paralyzing when you realize just how endemic violence against girls and women is and how few rights so many girls face around the globe.

It’s impossible not to seethe in one’s seat as you watch Yasmin, a young Egyptian girl valiantly paint herself as a superhero as a way to cope with her rape, and as Wadley is banned from school because her family doesn’t have the fees to pay, and as Amina (name was changed for safety purposes) recounts how she was sold as a young teen to her husband so her brother could have a pick-up truck.

This is not the world I want for my sisters.

Luckily the film is not without hope. One aspect in particular that I deeply appreciated was how it uplifted and highlighted the importance of men and boys as allies, not just as perpetrators of violence. Azmera’s brother in Ethiopia stops her pending marriage, Ruksana’s father provides perhaps the most heart-warming scene of the film when he brings her to the art shop to celebrate her passion rather than punish her, and you feel a sense of relief when the police officers affirm and comfort Yasmin, vowing to find her rapist. It can be easy to just lump all men together as the problem, when in fact, the truth is that the violence can only truly end when men and boys join the movement.

The film serves as a call to action for all of us, male and female – asking each of us in the audience to rise up alongside these beautifully courageous girls and to do what we can to change the narrative.

It also serves as a powerful reminder as to why I am doing my work with Prosperity Candle. We must continue to find sustainable and tangible ways to offer women and girls access to opportunity and power. Economic independence is a key piece of this. In both Wadley and Ruksana’s story, we see the distressing effects of economic insecurity and poverty. Without adequate income, their families are unable to send their children to school, despite their deep desire to. If Wadley’s mother and Ruksana’s parents had had a stable and secure job paying above a living wage, the story would have been much different. This new narrative of prosperity is the one that the women we work with – Awatif in Iraq, Landie in Haiti and Moo Kho here in the US – are accessing through candle-making. They, and their children, are able to not just survive, but thrive.

Don’t miss your chance to witness the strength of the human spirit and power of education to change the world during Girl Rising’s limited release (just one week – April 19-25th!!) in Regal Cinema theatres across the country, starting today. Find a theatre in your area and buy tickets now.

And join with us in rising alongside 9 super girls, and their 66 million sisters who deserve rights, education and the opportunity to flourish.

Prosperity Candle & UMCOR: A Best in Class Relationship

Introducing Sunday Spotlight: It’s always nice to be recognized for one’s good work. Too often we can get caught up in the challenges and obstacles we face daily, and don’t take enough time to appreciate the successes and accomplishments that make all the stress worth it. That’s why we wanted to launch a new blog series that features some of our strongest partnerships worth celebrating. As we leave winter and enter spring – a time of growth and birth and thriving new life, it’s the perfect time to shine a spotlight on the relationships and partnerships that have allowed Prosperity Candle to grow and prosper.

This past weekend, I had the immense pleasure of receiving and celebrating an award with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) at the Religion Communicators Council Convention in Indianapolis. In front of the nearly 100 attendees hailing from many different faith traditions and organizations, the awards committee lauded our partnership with a Best in Class for PR award.

The judges were impressed with the creative and comprehensive approach our two organizations have taken together, including UMCOR purchasing 5,000 custom UMCOR candles to give out at last year’s General Assembly, their communications team directing their membership to our website to purchase gifts for the holidays and beyond, and Prosperity Candle then donating back a percentage of the candle sales back to UMCOR’s hunger programs.

It was an unexpected, yet truly appreciated, honor to receive. We couldn’t speak more highly of our partnership with UMCOR, and were delighted to hear Jay Rollins, UMCOR’s Director of Communications, describe it as “a match made in heaven” in his acceptance remarks.

In fact, ‘best in class’ is how I would describe everything about the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Here at Prosperity Candle, we deeply resonate with their mission of providing “humanitarian relief when war, conflict, or natural disaster disrupt life to such an extent that communities are unable to recover on their own to assist the most vulnerable persons affected by crisis or chronic need.” Their work in more than 80 countries for over 70 years is worthy of note in a field that is cluttered all too often with shallow and seemingly opportunistic development projects.

And their unfailing, continued and enthusiastic support for our work and products is really remarkable. They understand the direct mission alignment between purchasing products from the women we work with and their missional call to help the communities and individuals of greatest need. They have been quick to see the value and need for a transformational development approach of both trade and aid.

Not only do they hold the title for our largest customer to date, they also were the first grantee partner for our sister non-profit Prosperity Catalyst.

And they are also not proprietary of our (now award winning!) relationship. While it’s nice to be set apart for an innovative partnership or idea, they understand that the key to our mission – the key to creating more sustainable job opportunities for women, who are then able to provide for their families and transform their communities – is through increasing our exposure, our customer base, and ultimately, our sales. In fact, the reason I was at the RCC convention was because Jay invited us to exhibit, in order to encourage other RCC member organizations, from the Baha’i’s to the Seventh Day Adventists, to become partners in our work.

Now that’s a true class act.

To learn more about UMCOR’s work, go to www.umcor.org.
Learn more about the Prosperity Candle/UMCOR partnership here.

One Billion Rising: Why I’m Still Rising

Last Thursday was a Valentine’s Day for the history books. In a culture that emphasizes finding your one and only Valentine, I’m proud to say I had 1 billion Valentines.

As I shared previously, dance is a central love in my life so this year I gladly traded the overpriced dinner reservations, schmaltzy Hallmark slogans and slightly stale candy hearts for a day filled with dancing, celebrating, story-telling and public disruption, in honor of the One Billion Rising movement.

Not only did I have the privilege of engaging in one of my deepest passions, but I was also privileged to be invited into the stories and lives of my sisters who have lived through unimaginable violence.

From the first event I participated in – a flash mob at North Station while trains of people poured into Boston at the height of the morning commute – One Billion Rising very quickly became more than just amusing unsuspecting commuters and sharing startling statistics. Two survivors of domestic abuse who just happened to be in the station at that time came up to us afterwards, thanked us for making public an all too often silent issue, and shared their stories.

As I listened to the heart-breaking details of what these women experienced, and thankfully had overcome, it became even more crystal clear why I was rising. One Billion Rising is about creating and claiming a public space for the voices and stories of women who far too often are left voiceless and powerless. As Eve Ensler, the movement’s founder, so eloquently says, “One Billion Rising has broken taboos, lifted the veil of silence, and inspired a radical outpouring of support to reveal the worldwide system of patriarchy, which sustains the violence.”

It was indeed a radical day of collective movement – through flash mobs, public performances, and organic dance parties on the street, and collective movement building – with people in 207 countries rising up in shared outrage about the epidemic of violence against women and girls. In fact, it’s hard to find adequate words to express the feelings I experienced watching my sisters and brothers rising throughout the day across the globe, from Boston to New Delhi to Bukavu to Capetown, and thousands of cities in between.

“Pure raw unbridled joy” was the best I could summon on my Facebook wall as I went to bed Thursday night.

That is what I experienced on Thursday. But what’s more important perhaps to share is what I’ve experienced since Thursday. Coming together physically and virtually was deeply moving and motivating and achieved GREAT things for public awareness (see an awesome recap of outcomes here), but as the One Billion Rising organizers are quick to say, it was only the beginning.

It is not the end of a struggle but the escalation of it, and now the question becomes what next. V-Day is asking all of us who rose around the globe to take a simple pledge, to do one thing in the next year to end violence against women. It could be a simple action, or a monumental one; personal, or political; quiet or loud, but these actions – taken together – will create change.

I am pledging personally to continue to rise by finding more concrete ways over the next year to use my passion for dance as a tool for empowerment and healing.

As a company, Prosperity Candle pledges to use our platform in the international development and social enterprise spaces to further the discussion around how sustainable job opportunities allow women the freedom and economic independence to leave violent situations.

We also pledge to keep our Prosperity network informed about tangible actions they can take to continue to rise and keep the movement going.

One immediate action here in the US is to ensure the re-authorization of Violence Against Women Act – which provides funding and legislation to address domestic and sexual violence. In fact just in time for OBR, the Senate passed VAWA last week, and it is now being considered in the House. Contacting your elected officials and stating your support for VAWA is a simple and significant action step to take this week.

Did you rise up on Valentine’s Day? Did you make a pledge to take action? Share your experiences in the comments below and please post your photos and thoughts on our Facebook page!