Five years ago, we launched the Providence Granola Project as an experiment in helping newly arrived refugees find work.
Refugees from places like Burma, Bhutan, Iraq, and the D.R. of Congo were settling in Rhode Island after fleeing their homelands. They came without resources, extended family, or friends. Sometimes they spoke no English and only knew America through TV and movies. Yet they had taken refuge right here in our community. (We thought, wow, how great is that!) And more than anything else they wanted to work. Jobs meant laying down roots, supporting their families, and becoming new Americans.
Our idea was to build a company around refugees. We would make artisan granola and provide paid, part-time jobs. Whatever job needed to be done, we would train someone do it. Every position would provide practical, experiential education. Then by simply buying or seeing a product, our community would learn about and meet refugees.
Okay, even to us it sounded a little crazy.
The amazing thing is that it actually worked. In the last few years we provided 28 refugees from 10 different countries with their first job in America. Not bad for some bags of granola. Most of our employees moved into the job market or management with Providence Granola. We found ourselves at farmers' markets and restaurants, hotels, campuses, churches. Eventually we started shipping it all over the U.S. A few bags even made their way to Canada, Germany, South Korea, Switzerland, Jordan, and Sudan! So far we've made about 12 tons of the stuff with every single bag mixed, baked, hand-packed, sold, and shipped by refugees.
Last year we grew to the point where we were too big to be organized by volunteers so we moved under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3) non-profit called Beautiful Day Rhode Island. Which means we’re getting serious. We now have a mission to mobilize refugee employment through business innovation. We intend to produce beautiful, delicious, healthy products that will help welcome and integrate refugees into our community.
Like Our Granola, Love Our Beautiful BarWhile granola has been a great introductory product for us, we don’t want to be stuck in a bowl for breakfast anymore. We want to be on-the-go and anytime. Which means, of course, granola bars. We know that launching an on-the-go granola bar won't be easy--but we're well on our way. After about 40 tries, we finally settled on a recipe that we think might just be good enough to be called beautiful.
Like our granola, this bar is all-natural and mostly organic. It has no GMO’s and is sourced with local honey and Cape Cod cranberries. We're especially proud that this bar is gluten free (although produced in a facility that processes wheat and other allergens). Soon enough, we’ll start branching out into other flavors.
We think you’re going to love it.
Most importantly, we're excited about the potential of this bar to expand job-training opportunities for refugees. For this campaign we've set our sights on producing at least 5000 prototype bars. This alone means 3 more new hires and 1 newly promoted manager. Over the next year we intend to hire and train 18 new employees as they onramp into the regular job market.
Our Strategy: Your Partnership
Producing bars comes with some unique challenges. Bars need to be uniform in texture, shape and weight--which means we'll need custom made pans. (We ordered some, and the company gave us a discount when we told them what we do.) We're already working on new packaging solutions and labels. A gluten free product requires new sourcing, kitchen protocols, and dedicated equipment.
This is where you come in. About half of your tax-deductible contribution will go towards start-up production and launching costs. The other half will go directly towards training new staff to make the bars.
But that is only the beginning: one of our biggest challenges is getting these bars into the hands of people who will love both our granola and our mission. If you're one of these people, then your friends are probably like you. Most of our perks include a shipment of bars.* When yours arrive, you can give them to your friends! A QR code for this campaign will be right on the bar and then some of your friends will order their own box to give away.
This is exactly the kind of personal, grassroots effort that has brought Providence Granola to life. It's proof that there are a lot of amazing people out there.
* While we're thrilled that Indigogo is an international platform, we're reserving shipments to the US for this campaign. Our international friends can still donate--just direct your prototype Beautiful Bars to a US address. Email us if you have questions.
Other Ways You Can Help
We get it that money is tight for many of us and some people just can’t contribute monetarily. That's okay. You can still help.
Some simple ideas:
- Send a "shout-out" to all of your friends, Facebook buddies and Twitter pals. Share this campaign's URL in your message.
- Link to this campaign on your web page or blog.
- See if an organization or faith-group you belong to would be willing to put us in their newsletter or on their web page. You have our permission to post a link.
- Print out a page of the campaign and post it in places you visit: the break room at work, a coffee shop, your local health food store, your gym.
- Sample our bars at your church or temple or community group. (We can send a box of mini bars--just email us.)
- If you're local, volunteer alongside one of our employees at a farmers' market. Hand out samples and and tell customers about our campaign.
- Coordinate a massive flash mob event with fireworks, dancing, and spandex... okay maybe not, but you get the idea.
Whether you contribute to this campaign or not we encourage you to keep learning about refugee resettlement. Rhode Island is not the only community settling refugees. The US commits to settling up to eighty thousand annually. Many thousands more are settled in countries like Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Denmark, and The Netherlands (the major host countries) and other across Europe and South America. No matter where you live, refugees are probably being settled near you and you have a chance to welcome them. That's one way to do something beautiful.
Please feel free to visit our website at beautifuldayri.org to learn more about our long term goals of designing replicable models for mobilizing refugee employment (yes! maybe there could some day be a granola project near you!) or building a kitchen incubator where refugees and other under-resourced people can find support to launch their own businesses. We'd love to have you follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks so much for you interest and partnership.
We are thankful and proud to have these fine businesses and non-profits publicly endorsing our Beautiful Bar campaign: