Recently we had the opportunity to talk with Tamra Ryan, CEO of The Women’s Bean Project and learned about the amazing work this women run social enterprise is doing. The mission of the project is to
to break the cycle of chronic unemployment and poverty by putting women to work learning transferable skills producing gourmet packaged foods.
“The challenge with poverty is that all too often it’s a self perpetuating cycle.” says Ryan. “The cycle can end when you create role models within family units.”
The women that come to WBP for help are severely impoverished
with backgrounds ranging from organized crime to histories of incarceration and addiction, WBP has given thousands of women a second chance at life over the years by raising them up and giving them a purpose.
“Most of these women don’t even know anyone who has a job other than selling drugs, certainly not real full time employment,” comments Ryan. “ If you change a mother’s life, you change the life of a family.”
When women are released from prison into a halfway house, it’s a challenging transition period. Trying to get a job and move from the halfway house into being a part of the community is something they cannot do alone. This is where WBP can help them move from welfare to a sustainable job.
Over a period of six to nine months women work for the Bean Project and learn the basic life skills and job readiness skills needed to get and succeed in a career entry-level job. Some of WBP’s accomplishments to date include:
- WBP boasts a 70% program graduation rate
- 100% of graduates are placed in career-building entry-level jobs
- 89% are still employed after one year of graduating
- 41% obtained a GED/ESL Tutoring while employed at WBP
- 53% obtained housing while employed at the Bean Project
- 75% obtained health, vision and dental care while employed at WBP
Breaking that cycle of poverty changes the family for generations to come. “Intergenerational poverty is a common theme, we have seen three generations of the same family come to WBP, if we can break that cycle then we see some amazing success stories,” says Ryan.
Once such story: GLORIA
When her husband left her (about 13 years ago) taking the children, she hit rock bottom. She was in an abusive situation, living in a homeless shelter and drinking and doing drugs. Gloria came to WBP and graduated the program. A local employer gave her a chance and took her on as a receptionist. Now she manages a clerical department of five other women. She is getting a college degree, bought a home and a car and gives back by public speaking to encourage others. And the best of all she is reconnecting with her sons.
As Ryan often says, “The power of believing in another person, gives someone the power to believe in themselves.”
Founded in 1989, Women’s bean Project is an anomaly in the business world. It is a business, one that packages and sells bean soup mixes and other dry food products to stores (1,000) across the US and online. But tucked inside this business is a human services organization designed to provide a safe and accepting work environment where impoverished women can learn the skills required for gainful employment.
Tamra Ryan, CEO of WBP is very insightful on the topic of second chances. You can find out more from her Tedx talk and book: The Third Law.