This #WeWinWednesday highlights Brenda Palms Barber, founder of Sweet Beginnings. This company serves up sweet products- beautiful jars of edible raw natural honey as well as honey infused beauty products straight from the bee farms of the North Lawndale neighborhood in Chicago!
Sweet Beginnings didn’t start off so sweet. It was a long journey to get where it is today. Back in the early 2000’s Brenda Palms Barber took a position in Chicago as the executive director of the North Lawndale Employment Network. She saw the need in the community of helping those who had been incarcerated gain employment. Her goal became bigger than she imagined. After much brainstorming with a team and meeting up with a beekeeper the idea was narrowed down to making and selling natural honey products.
Sweet Beginnings goal is to make locally grown bee colonies while also offering full-time transitional jobs to formerly incarcerated individuals. Employees in the program work 30 hours a week for 90 days, then they are helped to gain full time employment with other companies. While at Sweet Beginnings they complete a process that includes tending the bees, extracting honey, bottling honey and honey-based skin products, and shipping them to stores. They also get job training, credit counseling, and other services to help them get their life on track.
Brenda sums up the program nicely “I think, at the end of the day, what I’ve seen is that it helps them to restore their self-worth. And it does that by building up their confidence that they can be of value to society. Being incarcerated is very much about stripping a person of their self-worth and reducing you to a number. It isn’t about who you are. So, a lot of folks come from prison feeling invisible. Because they’re not just Black, they don’t just have criminal backgrounds, but they’re poor. And so, it’s easy to not see them. But we see you here. So, that’s the value of our work. Many times people will tell me, ‘You guys really care about us.’ And so, if you believe that people care about you, you start to make different choices. And the other piece that’s really important to me is that they are aligning themselves with beautiful products. So when they go into a store, they are like, ‘I made that.’ There is this sense of pride in aligning themselves with something that is first rate, top quality, high end. And it’s not something that folks feel that often.”
I believe people need a chance to redeem themselves. I love honey and I love what this company is doing. Changing lives for the better…providing hope where there once was none.
Find Sweet Beginning products at Wholefoods and at www.beelovebuzz.com
Joyous living to you all,