Presents with a Purpose: 2015’s Social Enterprise Holiday Shopping Guide

By Leiha Edmonds, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

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As we enter the holiday season, we once again encourage you to give gifts that give back by shopping at social enterprises that help individuals facing barriers to employment get back to work. For the 2015 social enterprise holiday shopping guide, we spotlight a diverse group of businesses that use their sales revenue to fund job training programs and support a larger social justice mission. From coffee to books to granola bars, you’ll find great gift options for friends and family. Take a look, learn about social enterprise, and find thoughtful gifts that support job training this holiday season!

BAM Essentials, St. Paul, MN
BAM Essentials trains young women in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with the work and life skills to succeed as they create natural personal care products. BAM believes that young women facing barriers to employment deserve the opportunity for equality, justice, and success. With an online Etsy store, you can have their products shipped to you anywhere in the U.S.!

What they sell: Essential oil products, ranging from bug spray to sugar scrubs.

Café Chicago, Chicago, IL
Café Chicago is part of Latino Union’s worker cooperative— a “worker-made, worker-run cooperative that roasts, packages, and distributes great tasting, fair trade, organic coffee.” Working with low-wage, immigrant workers in Chicago, Café Chicago provides job training and living wage employment in coffee roasting and cooperative management. Café Chicago ships their beans anywhere in the US—a perfect gift for even the most discerning coffee connoisseur.

What they sell: Amazing coffee!

Delancey Street Foundation, San Francisco, CA
Since 1972, Delancey Street has created 12 successful business ventures that employ people experiencing homelessness as well as people returning from incarceration. Participants learn skills that range from vocational training to interpersonal relationship building to welding and digital printing. From wooden furniture to ceramic dishes, Delancey Street has great gifts for your home.

What they sell: Handcrafted furniture and so much more!

Greyston Bakery, Yonkers, NY
Since 1982, Greyston has provided individuals in Southwest Yonkers, NY, with employment, skills, and resources to lift them out of poverty. Greyston’s services offer a roadmap to assist individuals and families in visualizing and realizing their paths to self-sufficiency while gaining work world skills. You don’t have to be in New York to enjoy Greyston – Whole Foods stores stock their treats, and Greyston will mail your favorite brownies and bars anywhere in the U.S. in their gift boxes. We’ll be visiting them in January to learn even more about their great work!

What they sell: Delicious baked goods! We suggest ordering the Bright Future Gift Box, which features a chocolate fudge scented candle from another great social enterprise, Bright Endeavors, which we spotlighted in last year’s #socent holiday blog.

Maryland Book Bank, Baltimore, MD
The Maryland Book Bank is an online book retailer staffed by individuals facing barriers to employment. Program participants are trained in inventory management software and shipping software while working at the Book Bank, and then they’re able to use these skills to gain employment in warehouses and inventory processing facilities. The Book Bank sells on Amazon, Alibris, and Abe Books, and if you’re in Maryland you can stop by their free children and teachers library in Baltimore!

What they sell: All kinds of books at online stores, including Alibris.

Prison Bars, San Francisco, CA
Prison Bars gives you a chance to know you’re “doing good by eating good” – and gives returning citizens a second chance by hiring and training people reentering from prison to sell organic granola bars (their ambitious goal is to have two salespeople in 50 major cities). Prison Bars is just beginning its granola bar sales this December, so you and your friends can be the first to try their bars this holiday season. A tasty stocking stuffer!

What they sell: Granola bars packed full of chocolate, peanut butter, nuts, and dried fruits, with more options coming soon.

Thistle Farms, Nashville, TN
Thistle Farms employs more than 50 individuals who are former sex workers or survivors of human trafficking, in social enterprises which include a natural body care company, the Thistle Stop Cafe, a paper and sewing studio, and global marketplace called Shared Trade. Thistle Farms includes a two-year residential program and advocacy services for up to 700 women yearly, providing education and training through speaking events and immersion workshops. From ornaments to lip balm, Thistle Farms products are perfect stocking stuffers.

What they sell: Bath and body products, apparel, and home goods.

Like what you read?
Take a look at our 2013 and 2014 Social Enterprise Holiday Shopping Guides.

Photo credit, clockwise from top left: Delancy St Foundation, BAM Essentials, Greystone Bakery, Café Chicago, Thistle Farms


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About National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity

Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity is dedicated to ending chronic unemployment and poverty. We believe that every person deserves the opportunity to succeed in work and support themselves and their families. Through our field building, we provide support and guidance that fosters more effective and sustainable employment efforts. Our policy and advocacy work advances solutions to the systemic issues that drive chronic unemployment.

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