Lighting the Way for New Moms

photo by Anjali Pinto

Bright Endeavors is a job training program that teaches young moms in Chicago core professional and life skills while employing them to create hand-crafted, artisan candles.

Bright Endeavors was founded in 2007 by two female entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity to build a job training program for women in Chicago. New Moms, a local non-profit, quickly became the number one referrer of participants to the program. In 2010, New Moms officially acquired Bright Endeavors as its job training program to complete its wraparound service model.

There are three periods when the brain develops most rapidly; early childhood, adolescence, and upon becoming a new parent. Together with New Moms, Bright Endeavors’ work intersects all three periods to unlock new opportunities for moms and children, particularly those who have faced institutionalized racism, bias against adolescent moms and urban poverty – all factors that are barriers to employment for young moms of color. 

Based in West Garfield Park on the West Side of Chicago, Bright Endeavors creates soy wax candles, artfully hand-poured by young moms ages 18-24 in a paid job training program. They have employed approximately 650 young moms since 2010. 

As a social enterprise, Bright Endeavors works to challenge conventional models by prioritizing shared prosperity. Young moms gain critical, paid work experience, and all revenue from the sale of the hand-crafted candles directly supports New Moms’ programming and operations.

Throughout the paid, transitional program, the Production Assistants are in control of setting and pursuing their own parenting and career goals while engaging with a supportive network of peers and coaches. The coaches partner with each young mom to identify their Executive Skills, a series of cognitive abilities that determine how we plan, how we react to things and how we get things done. Knowing our Executive Skills strengths and struggles is valuable because it allows us to focus on goals that align with our strengths and use strategies and supports that accommodate our struggles which ultimately can support both personal and professional growth. 

Production Assistants also work to identify next steps after the program, which can include securing a permanent job and/or furthering their education. When young moms leave Bright Endeavors, they have a model for how employers should treat their employees. As a result, Bright Endeavors values working with employment partners who have strong diversity, equity and inclusion principles and understand the needs of young families. Top industries for employment include healthcare, transportation and light manufacturing. 

Ultimately, Bright Endeavors and New Moms know that when you support the life of a young parent, it has a ripple effect on their children and to their communities. Creating pathways for young moms toward stability allows them extra bandwidth to handle the stress of being a working parent.  

Bright Endeavors is continually inspired by the young moms in the program, but one particularly meaningful story belongs to Tanya. Tanya was an all-star in the job training program and inspired everyone around her with her heart and tenacity. In 2020 Tanya was officially hired to join the Bright Endeavors as a seasonal operations assistant. It was so special for the Bright Endeavors team to see her journey come full circle and to have the opportunity to work with her again.

Another story belongs to Chanel, a graduate of Bright Endeavors, who aced her interview. A year later, she was promoted and is now saving to buy her first property. Bright Endeavors is proud to be a stepping stone in the lives of many young moms.

photo by Anjali Pinto

To learn more about Bright Endeavors, check out their member directory profile.

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