SEA’s storytelling initiative is all about individuals impacted by social enterprises across the United States, and how social enterprise can change lives.

Social enterprises work to create opportunity for all, develop the skills and abilities of underserved communities and create solutions to the world’s most intractable problems. By bringing social enterprises from all across the U.S. together, SEA hopes to shine a light on the collective impact that social enterprises have on people every day. Here are just a few of the stories of opportunity made possible by SEA members.

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    Story

    Ebonee

    Pioneer Human Services
    Ebonee

    : By the age of 12, Ebonee was living independently on the streets of Seattle. The need for money, food and shelter drove her into learning the street trade of hustling and surviving.

    After being incarcerated, she was sent to a Pioneer Human Services work release and learned that Pioneer Industries hired and trained formerly incarcerated individuals. Ebonee was hired and learned every machine she could get her hands on in the plant. She then applied and was accepted into the aerospace manufacturing apprenticeship.

    “I figured if I committed myself to a life of self-destruction in the past, I could now commit myself to a positive lifestyle and conquer this program. When I graduate, I will be the first journeywoman from Pioneer. I feel very blessed to have such an opportunity, and I am really focusing so I can excel.”

    In addition to Pioneer’s aerospace manufacturing apprenticeship, Ebonee is in college getting her Bachelor of Applied Science in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. She has a 4.0 grade point so far.

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    Abram

    Pioneer Human Services
    Abram

    : “In prison I started to recondition my brain that I needed to study, find an apprenticeship and earn legal money. My past life was done – I couldn’t do it anymore.”

    In the federal reentry center, Abram heard about Pioneer Human Services’ job training and aerospace manufacturing academy. After being accepted and graduating from the programs, Pioneer Industries hired him on the manufacturing floor and he was selected for the four-year aerospace manufacturing apprenticeship program that he will be graduating from as a master machinist/journeyman.

    “Several people went out of their way to mentor me and help me along. When Pioneer offered to give me a shot at the aerospace apprenticeship it all clicked – this is what I had been planning for when I was in prison. Now I had the chance to earn good money and move up in my life using my brains.”

     

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    Story

    Katie

    Women's Bean Project
    Katie

    : Born into a family of untreated mental illness, at Katie 17 ran away with the first man who showed her affection. After giving birth to a little boy, her husband’s sole control of their income left them homeless. She found the courage to make changes and found work at Women’s Bean Project. “When I felt there was no hope and I had no strength left, the amazing people at Women’s Bean Project picked me up off the floor. The incredible support and compassion shown to me by every colleague and member of staff was powerful enough to keep me staggering forward. They cheered me on every step of the way to getting housing, taught me to love myself enough to not let an unhealthy relationship exist in my life, and prepared me to find employment elsewhere. Pushing me to always dream bigger. I have never had a truer family than the one that I have at Women’s Bean Project.”

    A 2015-2016 graduate of Women’s Bean Project’s transitional employment program, Katie learned so much more than professional skills. “At Women’s Bean Project I learned that, sometimes when you find yourself in a dark place you feel like you’ve been buried, but in reality you’ve been planted. A dark place is nothing but an opportunity to grow, and this is exactly what I’ve done.”

     

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    Story

    Jahenda

    Digital Divide Data
    Jahenda

    : After joining Digital Divide Data’s work-study program in Kenya, Jahenda was, for the first time in her life, making some money to support herself as well as her mother and brother, when they were in a bind.

    “I learned how to manage my salary,” she said. This was very important to her, because she wanted to learn how to live on her own, how to be independent. “Our work as women is often viewed as looking after our children or looking after our husbands. But if we women stand up and say ‘yes we can,’ then we can do anything. What a man can do, I can do it even better,” she added, determined. “Even the presidential seat—we can do it.”

    Since September 2014, Jahenda has been studying for her Bachelors of Education Science in Chemistry/ Biology at Kenyatta University. After she graduates in 2018, she wants to earn her Master’s degree. Her plan is to teach at high school and eventually at the university level—and maybe, who knows!—go after that presidential seat.

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    Robert

    Chrysalis
    Robert

    : Though Robert was determined to find work after being released from prison for a first-time offense, a string of rejections from potential employers threatened to derail him. Homeless, unemployed, and ready for a change, Robert came to Chrysalis in search of a second chance.

    The path to a new life started after Robert completed Chysalis’ series of job preparation classes and worked closely with volunteers to develop a resume and improve his interview skills. His diverse work history made him a great candidate for the transitional jobs program with Chrysalis Enterprises, and he quickly landed a temporary front desk position with SRO Housing. During this time, he continued his job search and, today, Robert is working full-time as a welder.

    Being given a second chance and a renewed sense of hope means that Robert can finally envision a future that isn’t determined by his past. In his own words: “Chrysalis gave me a chance when nobody else would. You just have to keep trying. No matter how many times you get turned down, you can’t give up.”

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    Story

    Ray

    ACHIEVE Human Services
    Ray

    : “If I had not started working at ACHIEVE Human Services, I would not be the man who stands before you today. Through this Agency, I have been provided a chance to exhibit my good qualities, and I have also been given a chance to express my knowledge in certain areas – writing, reading, working on computers, etc. ACHIEVE demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, that there are always options for the temporarily incapacitated. ACHIEVE has provided me with an opportunity to believe that the only opinion I should care about is my own, and that belief is what led me to finally become a published author.”

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    Story

    Gary

    Greyston
    Gary

    : Employers would not look past Gary’s 10 years in prison to realize what a hardworking employee he could be. He spent years looking for a job to no avail, so he was overjoyed to be offered an opportunity – no questions asked – at Greyston through Open Hiring. Gary is proud to be a part of a team producing brownies for Ben & Jerry’s and Whole Foods Market and feels that he’s become a true team player, learning how to communicate well. Gary feels working at Greyston has also helped him with emotional, spiritual and physical stability and to overcome his fear of failing. “The opportunity has changed my life. I highly recommend that people who are looking for a chance look up Greyston and see how you, too, can become a team player!”

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    Story

    Larry

    Cleanslate
    Larry

    : Arrested for driving without a license, Larry had hit a few bumps in the road. He struggled with identifying his strengths and feeling like he wasn’t enough. He knew he was a hard worker, having spent years in the landscaping industry, yet wasn’t whole. As Larry says, “my wings were clipped.” After coming to Cleanslate, looking for a second chance, he got his wings again. He gained experience in graffiti removal and power washing, which fits neatly in his wheelhouse of skills. When asked what song describes his journey, there is no surprise that it is Fly like an Eagle by Seal. Spread your wings, Larry!

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    Story

    E

    BRANDED Collective
    E

    : As a survivor of human trafficking, E reflects on her work at Branded Collective: “We want people to understand where we’ve been. I try to balance everything I have to do and it’s not easy. Trying to find the balance between being the house mom, everything I have to do for myself, therapy, time with my loved ones and people who need support… It’s a lot – I get overwhelmed a lot. However, I’ve learned faith and patience. I found my faith in jail and I was taught a whole lot of patience. Now I know that everything happens at exactly the right time. Quit trying to rush it, just chill out.”

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    Story

    Nichole

    Human Technologies
    Nichole

    : Before Human Technologies, Nichole described herself as vulnerable, in pieces and unsure. Now, working in Human Technologies‘ Environmental Services division, Nichole feels much stronger having a foundation of steady work. She happily describes herself as determined, happy and grateful. “There was a time when I didn’t know where my life laid ahead of me. I had to learn who I really was, set goals and learn what I wanted in life.” And her life is definitely much brighter and fulfilled these days.

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    Story

    Geneva

    Bright Endeavors
    Geneva

    : “I had just completed a Certified Nurses Assistant certification, but I learned I was pregnant and I felt like I couldn’t go anywhere. I felt like I couldn’t find a job…I just couldn’t do it.”

    Since coming to Bright Endeavors, Geneva says that she has changed: “I’ve learned a lot of personal and professional skills: I’m confident, I bring my resume to interviews. Now during job interviews, I research the company beforehand, look the interviewer in the eye, and ask good questions in the interview…I’m stronger now than I was when I started. I’m doing things I never thought I could do.”

    Geneva loves making candles. In her role as a Finishing Specialist, Geneva cleans freshly made candles, affixes labels, and signs each candle she makes before passing it to Quality Control Inspection.

    Once her baby is born, Geneva is excited to pursue her professional goals: “I want to be a social worker. I want to help families come back together so that no child feels outcast. I hope to begin with little steps first, moving to larger steps.”

    Geneva continues, “Without this opportunity, I’d be home, sitting down, waiting for something to come to me. Bright Endeavors gives me a support system, and sees my value and worth. Now I have goals and aspirations. Now I know how to take care of myself so I can take care of my daughter.”

    She smiles. “It’s going to be hard, but I’m ready.”

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    Story

    Chelle

    Thistle Farms
    Chelle

    : Chelle is a 2005 graduate of Thistle Farms, a community of women who have survived prostitution, addiction and trafficking. She has experienced growth alongside the organization.

    “When I started, we were 5 women working at one table. Now I manage Accounts Payable for our $4 million budget. I started in manufacturing but over time I learned skills like Quickbooks and Peachtree. It is an amazing feeling to be trusted with the checkbook. It gives you your confidence back. Who knows, maybe I could be a banker now! I wish every woman on the streets could experience Thistle Farms – feel the love that can heal them. This is the place where we get second—and third and fourth—chances. I’m living proof. But the most important part of my life is that I’m a mother and a homeowner; and that my kids, Devione, Debria, and Devonte and I are together.”

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    Story

    Fernando

    Nisolo
    Fernando

    : “My experience with Nisolo has totally changed my life. I used to work 12, 14, even 16-hour days making shoes. I rarely saw my family. After 5 years of marriage and with a 2 year old son, I had to migrate to Argentina since my job in Peru didn’t provide me with a consistent working schedule and a stable salary. I worked abroad for four years without seeing my family. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and I often felt alone. A year ago I came back to see my family and was thinking about returning to Argentina until a neighbor told me about Nisolo… My job here has improved every area of my life. Now my family has healthcare and my son is receiving a better education than he was before. I also get to spend more time with my family. It’s great to work with a company that values family.”

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    Story

    Zeke

    Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative
    Zeke

    : Laid off from his previous job in the food industry, Zeke has found a living wage and his passion at Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative. “Working for Our Harvest is not like any other job I have had before. Here it’s a family. It’s a friendly environment to work in… you get really close to people. Here, I learned about sowing more jobs for people. Here, I learned about sowing and weeding and it opened my eyes about eating healthy. The healthy food we provide helps us and our customers get the fiber and nutrients we need.”

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    Felix

    Nisolo
    Felix

    : As a newer jewelry maker at Nisolo‘s partner workshop in Kenya, Felix plans to use the craft to eventually pursue bigger dreams: “It wasn’t originally my desire to come work in brass jewelry, but after graduating high school, I found myself here through a friend. In the rural area where I come from, it is hard to find a job so when you find one, you take it. Slowly brass-making became something I enjoy, especially casting. Already, working at this company has allowed me to complete driving school and soon, I am going to be the best driver in Kenya! Next, I hope to go to school to learn how to be a mechanic.”