From Shelters to Success: The Power of 10 Bean Soup

Women’s Bean Project is a Denver based social enterprise that changes women’s lives by providing stepping stones to self-sufficiency through dignified employment.

Women’s Bean Project was founded in 1989 by Jossy Eyre, who was inspired during her volunteer work at a day shelter for homeless women. She noticed that while the shelter kept women safe, it did not help them make sustainable long-term, positive changes that would enable them to break out of poverty. To help the women achieve independence and self-sufficiency, she realized she needed to provide an opportunity to experience the dignity of work by learning how to get – and keep – a job. Jossy invested $500 of her own money and employed two women from the shelter to make and sell 10 Bean Soup for that holiday season. After generating $6,100, Jossy realized the concept of teaching women to work by making nourishing products had the potential to cure poverty. This was the beginning of Women’s Bean Project.

Today, Women’s Bean Project has served over 1,000 women and sells over 50 products. They firmly believe that all women have the power to transform their lives through employment. Through their work at Women’s Bean Project, women learn to stand tall, find their purpose and break the cycle of poverty. Because when you change a woman’s life, you change her family’s life.

When a woman with barriers to employment begins in Women’s Bean Project’s program, she first goes through a basic needs assessment, which helps her address factors like housing, transportation, childcare and healthcare. These elements are critical to her ability to show up and learn at work. As an organization, Women’s Bean Project strives daily to meet women where they are and to provide them with experiences that will lead to success. One example of their continued growth is the recent implementation of equipment to semi-automate their production. The women now have the opportunity to operate, clean and manage equipment – a transferable skill that provides employees with relevant experience when they transition into their next job. Women’s Bean Project also recently increased their relationship with the corrections system by piloting an in-reach program into the women’s prison in Denver so that they can reach women at critical transitions and hire them immediately as they exit the prison. These are just a few examples of how WBP works to adapt to the community’s current challenges and opportunities. As long as there is an employment gap for women in their community, they will continue to serve them.

As a nonprofit addressing chronic unemployment and a retail company selling food products, social enterprise is core to Women’s Bean Project’s identity. The two elements of their work are inextricably tied, and each mission fuels the other. Without the food manufacturing business, they don’t have jobs to hire women. Without their transitional employment program, there exists no reason for the business to exist. Even the sales of their products go directly back into the program and nonprofit. Women’s Bean Project believes the social enterprise model can provide sustainable ways to address some of our society’s greatest challenges.

Shop Women’s Bean Project’s delicious products in our Holiday Gift Guide!

To learn more about Women’s Bean Project, check out their member directory profile.

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