We’re Now B-Corp Certified!

BCorp_announcement
Prosperity Candle is now B-Corp Certified—a stamp of approval for sustainable businesses. From day one, our company has been built on social impact, so we’re thrilled to have our designed to do good mission recognized by the folks at B Corporation.

You might be wondering: what exactly does B-Corp certification mean? Well, it’s not just a certification – it’s also a movement striving to support businesses that benefit and give back to society.

The B-Corp movement sets a new standard for socially conscious and responsible companies that are designed to make a difference. Think of it as similar to what Fair Trade means to coffee — B Corp looks at how the business treats its employees, distributers, consumers, and the environment.

Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B-Corps, believes that businesses should increase their positive role in society and become part of the solution, not the problem.

In his Ted Talk “On better businesses”, Gilbert discusses how today’s capitalist system works towards benefiting shareholders, when it should also benefit the stakeholders. Even though the government and non-profits do help give back to the community, they often don’t have the resources to make a dramatic difference.

Gilbert says that we need to “harness the power of business” in order to solve societal and environmental problems. It’s the same principle upon which our company was founded – check out our company history to learn more!

We are very proud to be a part of a growing community of over 800 businesses that have the same dream: to redefine success in business.

Prosperity Candle’s Environmental Impact

While our mission is focused on social impact – empowering women entrepreneurs in regions affected by conflict and natural disaster – we also recognize that sustainability issues are critical to our ability to run an efficient and environmentally sound business. With ever increasing greenhouse gases being emitted into the world, we want to be a responsible business that minimizes its environmental impact in every way possible.

Soy vs. Paraffin

This was one of the earliest questions we asked. At first glance, soy wax or beeswax seem like the obvious raw materials to use when thinking about environmental sustainability. Surprisingly, this is not always the case!

After much research, we have concluded that our custom paraffin-soy blend is the most sustainable choice we can make today. Paraffin is a material that is available regionally in large quantity, so using it means a much lower carbon footprint than with other waxes that must be shipped in.

Paraffin is also a by-product, which if not used would go into the waste stream. Further, we have found that most soy wax is sourced from agribusiness where large amounts of petrochemicals are used in carbon-intensive cultivation methods. Thus, as others have argued, paraffin can sometimes be a more sustainable option than soy when you compare total environment impacts.

Healthwise, food-quality paraffin burns as cleanly as other high quality waxes. At Prosperity Candle, we use only the highest grade candle waxes with natural cotton wicks (no lead or zinc) for a long-lasting, clean burning candle.

Sustainable Business

Our team consists of locavores in both spirit and practice. We eat produce from New England farms shares, buy local dairy products, and support artisans in our neighborhoods. But we also recognize that not everything we use can be made locally – and that there are people living in distant places who can greatly benefit from trade.


We’d also like to mention that Prosperity Candle is now a Bronze Member of Green America. Green America’s mission is to “harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society.” We have gone through their certification process to demonstrate our commitment to operating our business in a way that promotes fair trade, social justice, and environmentally sound business practices.

While working to improve the lives of women in places of conflict and disaster, we strive to minimize our carbon footprint wherever possible. We consolidate shipments, select routes with the smallest carbon footprint (we are a strong advocate of ships using wind power to reduce fuel use), minimize packaging and waste, recycle & reuse everything we can, and regularly purchase carbon offsets.

Most importantly, we are committed to tracking and continually reducing Prosperity Candle’s carbon footprint over time.

Prosperity Candle’s Social Impact

Prosperity Candle is committed to having a positive and sustainable social impact. The company was created for this purpose, and we know that the narratives are as important as the numbers.

Listening to the women share their stories, give voice to their visions, and express candid opinions about how Prosperity Candle is affecting their lives will be the first measure of our work. We pair careful analysis with these stories and opinions to better understand the whole picture, because looking at whether the women are able to increase their incomes is only part of our work.

We also want to see whether or not nutrition is improving, if women’s safety is enhanced, if more of their children are in school and receiving medical care, and how the women feel about their futures – are they hopeful? Are they taking leadership roles in their communities? Are their voices heard?


 

Our approach to measuring social impact must take into account all of these factors. And as a business that cares deeply about its environmental impact, we will be vigilant in assessing this area as well to minimize as much as possible our carbon footprint. We are committed to tracking and evaluating triple-bottom-line progress in ways that allow us to make better decisions and continually improve our model for broad and sustainable impact.

If we train a thousand women in candle-making to earn a supplemental income, we fail in our mission.

Why? Because we seek to empower as many as possible to build thriving businesses that can offer employment to others in their communities. This is the impact we seek to have. The diagram below illustrates the path we hope many women entrepreneurs will choose with ongoing support from us and other organizations.

growing-enterprises3

Questions about our mission & model? Please get in touch!

Behind the scenes: reflections on investing in photography

It took a long time to get here.

It had been the source of many frustrated afternoons and evenings. Me, sitting at my desk tweaking images in Photoshop. Ted rearranging lights. Shifting product. Reading about white balance, about whether or not to use a lightbox. And still we were failing to produce photos that captured the gorgeous, unique candles we were so proud of.

It was so disappointing. We knew we loved and believed in our product. But selling products online is all about the photography. And some of our pictures were beautiful, did showcase our gifts the way we wanted them to. Others continued to elude us. We’d re-shoot, grow discouraged, and leave the office feeling like we were failing the women who had so carefully handcrafted these candles.

It seems like the solution should be readily apparent, right? Neither Ted nor I are professional photographers. We needed a professional, with equipment and expertise far beyond what we could accomplish in our office.

But.

But we’re a social enterprise, and we take our mission very seriously. We want to do right by the women we work with. And that means that every dollar we spend, we have to spend carefully. We’re constantly asking ourselves if a specific expenditure will help us continue in our work. It’s a question that keeps us grounded, mission-aligned, and looking forward.

So the decision to invest in photography wasn’t made lightly.

We knew there was a professional photographer who specializes in product photos working right in our building. We kept returning to his webpage, marveling at his work. “That’s what our stuff needs to look like!” we’d say to each other.

And that’s how we wound up in John’s photography studio, cart full of candles, watching him swing a light into position, nudge a bowl slightly left or right, and capture our products in a way we’d only dreamed of.

The results, we think, speak for themselves.

Growing a social enterprise is no easy feat, but it’s one we love and are grateful to spend our days working on. This investment, long overdue, is an investment in our products . . . and in the women who make them. 2013 is going to be a year of growth, innovation, and change for Prosperity Candle. I can feel it.

And I can’t thank you enough for coming along on this journey with us.

Women #wagingpeace wield great power

image from twitter.com/gogirlglobal
“We are women. We want more. We want better lives. Not only for ourselves. Not only for the world. For our children.”

These words, spoken by Sabrina Saqueb, are ringing in my ears today as I answer emails and put together a workplan for the upcoming year at Prosperity Candle. Last night I had the privilege of hearing firsthand from an incredible set of women peacebuilders who are waging peace within their communities all over the globe.

It’s one of my favorite events in Boston – the annual JFK Forum in connection with the Institute for Inclusive Security’s Colloquium – because it offers a truly unique opportunity to engage directly with women on the front lines of rebuilding their countries – countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Burma, which are faced with huge challenges around security, peace and stability.

Despite these challenges, it’s hard to walk out of the room feeling anything less than immense hope. These women – Sabrina, Rajaa, Wafa, Julia, Jan Nan and Sofi – are not just talking about peace and transformational change, they are making it happen. They are absolutely changing the paradigm of war and peace with their presence and their leadership.

Each of them shared a piece of their story – how they are using politics, civil society, social media and more to bring about a new tomorrow, both for their communities, and for peace on a broader global scale. As more than one of the panelists expressed, they are proof that women are not just victims of war and conflict, but instead are agents for peace who wield great power.

Hearing the courage and wisdom in these women’s stories was deeply inspiring and motivating, and served as a powerful reminder for me as to why we are doing the work we do at Prosperity Candle. When you invest in a women, change happens. We’ve seen it over and over again with our work in Iraq, Haiti and with women refugees here in the States – the women we’re working with are hungry for the opportunity to improve not only their lives, but the lives of their family and their communities.

Access is key – whether it’s access to political leadership, access to economic opportunity, or access to a public forum to share their story and activate a larger body of support. We must all play our part in providing and increasing access for more women to come up alongside men and lead the way to peace and security.

Only then will the scale truly tip towards peace and prosperity for all.

Watch the full video of “The Tipping Point: Elevating Women in Global Security” JFK Forum panel discussion.

Image source: twitter.com/gogirlglobal

Opportunity is the change we seek

Haiti earthquake rebuildingAs the third anniversary of Haiti’s devastating 2010 earthquake passes, many are questioning the progress that has been made with billions of international aid.  With so much money and goodwill, why do 350,000 people continue to live in makeshift tents with poor sanitation and little to eat?  What has become of the promise to “build back better”?

The news stories over the past few days are heart wrenching, and paint a picture of misused resources and donor fatigue that threaten to leave Haitians no better off than before the earthquake.  The criticism is understandable given the lofty goals set and our expectations of what could be accomplished.  And the criticism is justified – after three years and with that much money, there should be far more tangible progress in the form of housing, schools, and improved infrastructure.

But such assessments tend to shortchange the value of a greater tragedy avoided.  The 2010 earthquake killed 200,000 people, made 1.5 million more homeless, and left the capital strewn with rubble.  It was among the top five deadliest in recorded history, and without the international community’s help and donations pouring in from around the world, it could have been the deadliest.  A much greater tragedy was avoided.

It must also be said – and we should constantly remind ourselves – that international development is hard work.  It is challenging anywhere in the world, and Haiti can be a particularly difficult place to implement projects with lasting impact.  Over the past year, Prosperity Candle has met with government officials, international NGOs and aid groups, businesses, faith-based missions, and local organizations.  We’ve spoken with Haitians, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, local leaders and senior members of Hillary Clinton’s staff.  Everyone wants more progress.  Everyone is trying to figure out how to build back better.  It’s hard work.

A recent article in the Economist entitled “Still waiting for recovery” describes Haiti as the Republic of NGOs that has become the country of the unemployed.  In many ways this is true, though unemployment was high before the earthquake as well.  What is now needed most, says Haitian president Michel Martelly, is jobs.  The opportunity to earn a living wage so that a family can live in a decent home, put food on the table, and pay for schooling and healthcare.

That is what Prosperity Candle is going there to do.  We focus on supporting women entrepreneurs, but what Haiti needs most right now is opportunity for everyone.  As Belo, Haiti’s most popular musician, said on a recent visit to our town, charity is helpful and appreciated, but opportunity is what will create the change we all seek.

You’re Invited: Come See (and Smell!) Our Wonderful New Space!

Ted playing with Pula, Siiri’s puppy, in our delightful new space

We can’t say enough about the Prosperity Candle tribe — that’s our name for all of you, the wonderful followers and supporters of our organization. And we’d love the opportunity to see you in person this Saturday!

We’re officially settled (well . . . we’re not fully unpacked, but what can we say? We’re busy!) in our beautiful new office in Easthampton (Suite 362 at Eastworks, 116 Pleasant Street), and we’re opening our doors to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 1st.

So swing on in and see our candlemakers in action, check out the holiday collection in person, sample all of our nose-pleasing scents, and get 15% off your purchase! Did we mention there will be fun drinks, delicious eats, and even a design-your-own-candle station (for kids, but hey, adults can take part too!)?

We hope to see you there!

Need directions to the office?

Need an invitation you can print and stick on your fridge?

Our scent menu gets a facelift (noselift?) for the holidays

We love surprising you with new designs and collections. So when it came time to select some new fragrances to add to our scented candles, we put our very best noses to the test. About a million sniffs later (and one unfortunate incident involving a very potent bottle of mulberry fragrance), we’d found our winners. Don’t worry . . . customer favorites like tea infusion are still around! Check out our full scent menu below.

Antique Sandalwood
Musky and exotic, a wonderful wood base made from sustainably harvested sandalwood blended with cedar essential oils and softened with subtle notes of violet, jasmine and patchouli.
Featured in our laksha recycled glass candle

Black Currant Tea
A subtle blend of black currant, white tea and enchanting floral overtones with a decidedly refined character.
Featured in our marrakech gold tea glass candle

Citrus & Teakwood
Sparkling citrus and exotic teak combine beautifully, offering light grapefruit and orange notes balanced with hints of earthy woods.
Featured in our vessel of light

Ginger White Tea
This infusion of citrus notes, exotic spices and jasmine is perfect with the gentle aroma of white tea.
Featured in our franjipani tea tin candle

Lemon Lavender
A joyous blend of fresh cut lemons and fields of lavender – one our favorites!
Featured in our grape soda bottle candle

Lemongrass Sage
Sage herbs and sparkling citrus notes create a truly uplifting fragrance when combined with the freshness of lemongrass – another favorite.
Featured in our artistic musings bowl candle

Magnolia Blossom
A luxuriously romantic floral fragrance with sweet magnolia, white sandalwood and soft amber.
Featured in our creme soda bottle candle

Rose Garden
The elegance of an English garden is captured in this blend of briar roses and wild flowers.
Featured in our diet soda bottle candle

Spearmint Basil
A perfect balance of refreshing spearmint and flavorful basil creates a fragrance that puts a nice spring in your step.
Featured in our eva bowl candle

Tea Infusion
A refreshing blend of teas infused with citrus high notes creates this wonderful fragrance – one of Prosperity Candle’s most popular.
Featured in our red blossom bowl candle

Verbena
Verbena and lemon zest are the heart of this wonderful blend that is reminiscent of nature’s own gardens. New this fall, and we love it.
Featured in our guancasco leaf & vine candle

Vetiver
This essence of this exotic fragrance comes from a grass native to Haiti. It is known for its soothing, relaxing properties and yields a delightfully clean, nutty base note.
Featured in our pansa bowl candle

We’re All In for Giving Tuesday . . . Are You?


Are you on board for Giving Tuesday? It’s a new national movement towards a more meaningful holiday season, one where donations and gifts that give back take the stage, at least on Tuesday, November 27th.

Giving Tuesday is also a call to action — a call to improve local communities and give back in better, smarter ways to the charities and causes that help create a better world.

We couldn’t resist getting involved. Of course, all of our cause candles will result in a 10% donation to our fantastic partners — that’s our everyday commitment. On Tuesday, November 27th, all of our other candles will give a 10% donation to our non-profit sister organization, Prosperity Catalyst.

Prosperity Catalyst is currently working on launching a Haiti initiative, which will build upon existing programs in Haiti to offer women a unique ecosystem of support while developing them as entrepreneurs. And of course, as operations kick off, their output will have a natural export market, as Prosperity Candle will be proud to offer Haitian-made candles in our online store! (Have you seen our Haitian molded figurines, by the way?)

Obviously, Prosperity Catalyst’s work is tremendously important in moving our mission forward. We’re so pleased to be involved with Giving Tuesday and hope you will consider taking part by buying a candle on November 27th.

To learn more about Giving Tuesday, check out their website, twitter, and facebook.

Reflections on returning to Haiti

Earlier this year, I wrote about returning to Haiti after 5 years and for the first time since the earthquake. I had prepared myself to be overwhelmed by what we’d see, and what we found was hard to witness – the destroyed buildings and people still living in tent cities.

But we also found the people of Haiti are as strong and resilient as ever, and full of hope for a brighter future. We were deeply inspired.

Now, as I head to Port-au-Prince and then to Cap-Haitien on the north coast to meet up with Siiri, I’m contemplating what lies ahead. We’ve just launched Prosperity Catalyst, our nonprofit devoted to providing training and support to women entrepreneurs. Siiri – making her third trip this year – has built an incredibly strong network of partnerships on the ground. And after nearly a year of planning, our vision for a candle export business owned and operated by Haitian women officially enters stage one.

Sitting here on the plane less than an hour away, I’m incredibly excited. I’m traveling with our longtime supporter and valued Board member Linda. The purpose of our trip is multifold. First, to finalize arrangements with our partners – two Haitian organizations dedicated to providing support and entrepreneurship training to women.

Then we meet with the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund to discuss a funding proposal, connect with our source for locally produced beeswax (clarified naturally with solar extractors – I love that part!), visit site locations, and participate in the opening of a new business park where a number of U.S. and Haitian dignitaries and celebrities will be in attendance . . .  including Bill Clinton, Haitian President Michel Martelly, Donna Karan, Sean Penn and many more.

We’ll also see about climbing to the Citadel, an imposing fortress built on top of a mountain in 1820. You can see the Citadel from miles away — it’s a powerful symbol of Haiti’s history. Of course, it’s crucial that we recognize and understand Haiti’s past, but here at Prosperity Candle & Catalyst, we are decidedly focused on the future.

And in Haiti, with women entrepreneurs taking leadership roles in the economy, that future is very bright.

Photo source: Carolina Azevedo, UNDP