A Simple Idea That Started Women’s Bean Project

Twenty-seven years ago, Women’s Bean Project was founded with a simple idea: that teaching women to work while actually working was the cure for poverty. The reaction from our community when we started was interest in the novelty of what we were doing, but little belief we could make much of it.

In the beginning, we were a mission that happened to have a business. As a business we were always at risk of not being able to fulfill orders, of losing money, of making big and costly mistakes. But being a mission with a business wasn’t sustainable. We had to become a real business, with an infrastructure, documentation and protocols.

We’ve had to learn to take the business just as seriously as the mission. And because at that time there weren’t many other groups running social businesses, we had to invent ourselves.

This transformation taught me that the more we treat ourselves like a business — the more we require the systems that it takes to operate a multi-million dollar consumer packaged goods company — the more the phone rings with prospective partners interested in carrying our products, and the more there is acceptance and momentum for what we do.

Our increased focus on running a better business has also allowed our mission to grow.

By being clear that sales create jobs, we can translate for our retail partners the number of additional women their orders have helped to employ.

We have accomplished all of the above while also demonstrating some of the best social outcomes in the country. From program graduation, to job placement and job retention rates, the results our women are achieving far exceeds our peers in transitional employment. And so it is from this position of strength that we are doing a refresh!

Watch for new products and an updated look and feel of our packaging in the next year, and let us know what you think!

Tamra Ryan, CEO

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