Facing a lack of opportunity for income mobility, low education and job experience levels, and an expensive housing market, the impoverished in Denver struggle to break the cycle. Without stable housing, a high school diploma, or job skills, women in poverty face nearly insurmountable obstacles to stability and sustainability, preventing them from finding stable employment and, in many cases, providing for their children.
Women’s Bean Project exists to transform the lives of chronically unemployed and impoverished women in Denver through employment. Women work full-time in gourmet food and jewelry manufacturing while also participating in special programming that teaches interpersonal and basic life skills. When they get to Women’s Bean Project, women are usually out of options, coming from half-way houses or homeless shelters. That’s why immediately upon hire, a case manager helps each participant stabilize and gain access to critical needs, like housing, child care, and transportation. Once a woman starts working, about 70 percent of her time is spent on the job learning job skills like punctuality, attention to detail, and taking direction. The other 30 percent is spent learning soft skills like problem solving, planning and organizing, and communication.
More than provide women a job, Women’s Bean Project addresses the long-term behavior that has led to unemployment. Recognizing the complexity of a lifetime of unemployment – the average age of women hired is 38 – Women’s Bean Project helps women break down barriers and transform their lives over the 6-9 month program. With business operations and program services all in one place, Women’s Bean Project can provide case management services as necessary. At the end of the program, women seek a full-time job, more education, or even further training. With the opportunity to learn the basic skills of employment, identify their talents and gifts, and work toward attainable employment goals, women transform over the course of the program. And, the impact reverberates; changing a woman’s life most often means changing her whole family.
Josepha “Jossy” Eyre grew up in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation. Jossy’s close encounters with starvation and trauma left her with a deep-seated sense of hopelessness. When she found that same hopelessness in homeless women in Denver, she started Women’s Bean Project to give women the opportunity to break the cycle. Twenty-eight years later, Women’s Bean Project employs around 80 women a year and sells products in nearly 1,000 retail locations nationwide. About 70 percent of women graduate the program and go on to find jobs, and 93 percent are still employed a year later. As Tamra Ryan, CEO for the past 14 years, shares, the best part of working at Women’s Bean Project is “getting to watch transformation happen.”
Women’s Bean Project is a 2017 S+ Catalyst. Through participation in the Catalyst Program, Women’s Bean Project receives training from industry experts in organizational development, branding, measurement and growth, and strategic relationships to amplify their impact and strategically expand their reach.