From their website: "Prosperity Candle is a social enterprise, designed from the start to do good in the world. We invest in women entrepreneurs to help end poverty. Candles are more than a beautiful product - they can create the opportunity for families to thrive. From pillars made by Iraqi widows, to repurposed glass votives from Haiti, to unique rice bowl candles poured by refugees resettled in the U.S., every candle is handmade by a woman artisan rebuilding her life. Each tells the story of a brighter future for us all."
Case Western Reserve University - Weatherhead School of Management
“We believe every product is an opportunity to help make the world a better place.” Prosperity Candle is seizing the opportunity to make a positive difference in the world by being a low-profit LLC with the highest priority of serving their corporate mission. According to Co-Founder Ted Barber, they have “prioritized social good over all else. Not only do we actually adhere to this, we are legally bound in creating positive change because our highest priority—written in our bylaws—is social responsibility, changing lives for the better. We created our business around this principle.”
Prosperity Candle officially began in 2010 with the idea of creating a business to help women to earn a living wage in war-torn areas of the globe. They began in Baghdad, to many nay-sayers telling them they cannot do commerce in war-torn areas. In fact, they were awarded second prize in a competition of businesses that do good for their communities and were told they didn’t win first prize because their plan to ship from Baghdad was unrealistic. Two weeks after winning second prize they shipped from Baghdad.
They started out training women in Iraq how to make candles along with the “how-tos” of shipping and customer service. They intentionally wanted to train the artisans to be independent businesswomen, so they were not dependent on Prosperity Candle for their livelihood. Prosperity Candle gave the women artisans the option of continuing to work with Prosperity Candle or selling their products to local markets, opening up options for the artisans that they hadn’t dreamed of before. Today they work with 100 artisans in Baghdad and about twelve in Haiti, which was their second location of training after the earthquake. In addition, they employ eight employees in Western Massachusetts, all of whom are refugees from Burma and Bhutan. “Living wage” in Massachusetts means double the minimum wage, which currently is $10/hour.
They turned retail business on its head by investing in their people and their customer service, and letting marketing take care of itself.
Co-Founder Ted Barber was inspired as a child by his parents’ main street business, where he witnessed first-hand how his parents used their business to benefit their community. For example, they provided a job for a high school kid with learning disabilities who was having difficulty getting his first job. Ted’s parents treated their business as if it were a community member with its own responsibilities to the community. So even though providing a job to the high schooler might not have made the most sense for the business, it made the most sense for a member of the community.
While working on his first business in Eastern Europe, Ted observed that it didn’t take much to use resources of a business to help people because—sadly—the bar of business has been set so low. Business was set up as a win-lose type of interaction: “The better I do, the worse you do.” He saw the intangible benefits of simply strengthening relationships to keep factories from shutting down. With the proper tools of business, he noticed that a person could significantly impact families’ lives simply by not being a jerk.
Volunteering in public service work in Ghana, West Africa, changed the course of his life. Barber recalled, “The bar for business is set so low that it doesn’t take much in business to transform a life.” It was in Ghana he met Rose, someone who inspired him so much that he still keeps a photograph of the two of them framed in his office. “Rose was so inspiring. She decided to improver her life and the life of her children. You can see it in her eyes. With just a little bit of help, she knew the cycle of poverty would be broken with her.” Seeing this fire in her eyes helped him see that the passion to help others was suddenly there.
The overall impact of the business is huge in the lives of the women they’ve trained in Iraq and Haiti, as well as those who are currently employed in Western Massachusetts. For many, it is their first jobs outside of the home, some of whom are now their family’s only source of income.
Being a business that does good in the world is a way of life at Prosperity Candle. It is written in their operating agreement that social responsibility is their highest priority; they have a legal obligation to abide by prioritizing social good over all else. They not only actually adhere to this; they are legally bound by this commitment. Ted Barber believes that “when you create a business, one of the highest priorities is changing lives for the better.”
Most of Prosperity Candle's customers are large corporations that buy the handmade candles as gifts for their customers. By supporting Prosperity Candle's mission, they know that they are contributing to a better world at the same time.
What began as a way to help women receive a living wage in war-torn areas of Iraq, later helping in Haiti in response to the earthquake, Prosperity Candle has expanded to focus on refugees living in the United States, specifically in Western Massachusetts. In fact, it is these U.S. refugees that are the only actual employees of Prosperity Candle.
Prosperity Candle’s philosophy is that “equal opportunity for women will create a brighter future for all.”
Ted Barber, Founder
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