Tag Archives: impact

Celebrating 9 Years of Impact

Prosperity Candle's impact over the years include Iraqi widows, Haitian women, female artisans in Kashmir, and women refugees from Burma and Bhutan, all making fair trade soy blend ethically handmade candles

This month marks 9 years – nine! – since the idea of empowering women in places of conflict through candle-making first took shape over a cannoli in a pastry shop in Northampton, MA. As 2017 winds down and we reflect on the journey so far, we are feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude.

It hasn’t been the easiest path. Prosperity Candle was conceived in 2008 as the financial meltdown was growing here and spreading across the world. The economy was teetering, conflict in Iraq was never-ending, and few people were supportive our idea.

Amber, Siiri and Ted had worked for years with women artisans in Afghanistan, Rwanda, Sudan and Kosovo – all places of conflict. They saw how the long shadow of war placed an especially heavy burden on women who were the least likely to receive economic support.

So they decided to do something about it. But it had have the potential to change a life for the long-term, to help someone create a brighter future for herself. Beyond charity, it needed to invest in women as entrepreneurs to enable them to not just survive, but truly thrive.

Prosperity Candle's certifications for fair trade, women owned, B-Corp, handmade by refugees and Best for the World

Our founders sought deep and lasting impact, and to foster independence that could have a ripple effect across a community. After much searching and a few bad ideas, it turned out that candles and candle-making were perfect for what they wanted to do.

The journey from that pastry shop to today has many twists and turns, and a few moments of doubt. If you’re curious, read The Full Story.

The short version is that we overcame a bunch of challenges, and today the vision of creating economic opportunities for women extends to refugees here in Western Massachusetts. We are incredibly honored to work with these resilient individuals, mostly from Burma where they endured suffering and loss as they fled for their lives.

Ma Kaing a Burmese woman refugee who now helps make fair trade soy blend candles at Prosperity Candle

Like Ma Kaing who joined our candle-making team a few weeks ago. She came to the U.S. through UN and federal resettlement programs after living for more than 10 years in a refugee camp. With her brother and parents, she was forced out of her home and village by a military regime, leaving behind everything she knew and cherished.

Life in the refugee camp was safe, but hard. Ma Kaing took care of her parents, forgoing an education and spending most of her time growing food. When she and her husband arrived in the U.S., they had one wish: that their children go to school and receive the education they had been denied.

At age 36, making candles is Ma Kaing’s first job. Last week, she received her first paycheck.

Prosperity Candle’s studio is a small but happy space in a repurposed mill building that once housed Stanley Home Products, maker of brushes and cleaners. With wood floors and 12-foot tall windows that look out to a mountainside, it’s a beautiful place to work.

But what makes it special is the sound of laughter… women artisans pouring and packaging candles, sharing in their own languages, celebrating the everyday joys of life. They are a continual inspiration to us. The hardships they have faced and overcome are beyond our imagining, yet here they are making one another laugh.

As we prepare to enter our 10th year, we would like to express our gratitude to you for helping to make this social enterprise possible. Your purchase of candles and gifts, and sharing Prosperity Candle’s story, is the reason we are here today and still growing our impact. You are the reason we could give Ma Kaing a living wage job.

Here is the impact you have supported:

Prosperity Candle impact on women artisans in Haiti Iraq Refugees in the U.S. living wages and fair trade

Prosperity Candle giving in donations and loans and investing in women entrepreneurs around the world for fair trade

Prosperity Candle and fair trade artisan made handcrafted good purchased and total candles sold

From all of us here in the studio, a huge thank you for helping spread light far beyond your homes. And an equally big thank you to our partners, new and old, who support our mission. We are continually energized by your work, and by the many other social enterprises helping to solve problems and create a more equitable world.

To everyone who has been there along the way, lifting us up when times were tough and celebrating the milestones, you are truly the best.

Here’s to doing all we can to create a brighter future for everyone, everywhere.

 

Peace Joy Gratitude soy blend fair trade candles ethically handmade by women artisans at Prosperity Candle

Prosperity Gifts Top the Huffington Post’s Gifts that Give Back Guide for Mother’s Day

We’re biased, of course, but we love the trend of highlighting gifts that give back in gift guides!

Prosperity Candles tops the Huffington Post's Gifts that Give to women in need Mother's Day gift guide

Our team is delighted to have been amongst the Huffington Post Impact’s top 10 picks for gifts that give to women in need this year. Their Mother’s Day gifts that give back suggestions are spectacular. In addition to featuring Prosperity Candle’s Mother’s Day gift collection (complete with beeswax candles, artisan candles, spa products, chocolate, and tea gifts) they highlight unique gift options from Oxfam, the International Rescue Committee, and eBay’s World of Good (where Prosperity Candle gifts can also be found!).

In their words, “When you shower your mom with the love –- and chocolate, jewelry and flowers –- that she deserves on May 13, you can also use that moment to honor a struggling woman in need living worlds away.”

We couldn’t agree more!

Prosperity Candle tops the list of Mother's Day gifts that give back, curated by the Huffington Post

 

Social enterprise – what does that mean?

We are often asked this question, and the answer we usually give is a business created to do good in the world, to effect positive change, to solve a social problem and serve a social purpose.  Others often think of it as a hybrid organization, a “business with a nonprofit soul.”

As the Social Enterprise Alliance so aptly puts it, “The common good is its primary purpose, literally ‘baked into’ the organization’s DNA, and trumping all others.” .Love that.

Recently we saw a definition that really resonates: social enterprises work to build a more balanced, sustainable world by applying market-based strategies to today’s social problems. 

Well, that definitely sums it up better than we usually do, so much so that we put it on the back of our business cards.

So how is Prosperity Candle a social enterprise?  We seek to create opportunities for women survivors of conflict and disaster to earn above a living wage.  Our idea is that to survive is not enough.  We want to help women in some of the most difficult circumstances thrive.  It’s a big word – thrive.  And we’re working hard to measure up to it.  But this is our goal, our passion and purpose.  It is the problem we are trying to help solve.  Prosperity Candle exists solely to realize this mission.

We know we have years of hard work ahead of us, but that is what we all signed up for.  To make a difference and have a sustainable impact.  To work for the common good, like so many others in both the public and private sectors.  It is what we choose to do with our lives.  That, we think, is what social enterprise is all about.

If you’d like to hear more, here is founding partner Siiri Morley talking about the importance of fair trade and moving beyond survival – to the idea of thriving.