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Women’s Bean Project is cooking up a variety of products — and a better future for participants

  1. The Economy

Women’s Bean Project is cooking up a variety of products — and a better future for participants

Food is only the beginning of the empowerment Women’s Bean Project brings to the table.

Women’s Bean Project workers packing in a factory

Only a few years ago, Brooke found herself in a tough situation that many other women before her had. After moving between prison and halfway homes, her job options were limited. She had a 6-week-old daughter to take care of, and wanted to create a better life for them both. She was on the precipice of taking the first job that would hire her, likely one that wouldn't make ends meet. That's when she discovered Women's Bean Project Denver. 

The Colorado-based Women's Bean Project is a transitional employment program that helps women who struggle to find and keep jobs, often due to chronic addiction, imprisonment, and/or homelessness. Women are hired to work on the production of soups, baking mixes, coffee, and a variety of other food products. Rather than simply hand out jobs, Women's Bean Project works to address the root causes of chronic unemployment, supporting employees outside of the kitchen to improve their confidence as well as their practical work skills. 

Women’s Bean Project workers packing in a factory
Women's Bean Project produces soup and baking mixes, spice blends, instant meals, and much more to be sold via their online marketplace and in grocery stores nationwide.

These experiences help women like Brooke recognize the skills and talents they have to offer, empowering them to envision and go after the future they want for themselves. 

"Since I have been at The Bean, I have learned many skills like leadership and communication, and many character traits like humility," says Brooke. "Being on a routine has kept me balanced. This has allowed me to become a Lead Production Assistant, prepare to test out for my GED, and gain the self-confidence I needed. I know now, I can do anything."

Woman with a graduation cap holding a baby
Brooke and her daughter at Women's Bean Project's facility in Denver, celebrating Brooke's graduation from the program.

Women's Bean Project helps address layers of employment challenges 

When caught in cycles of addiction, incarceration, and homelessness, women can be particularly vulnerable. They are often single mothers, or have experienced abuse. There are compounding factors that can make it generally more difficult for women to get hired. 

All of this and more is why Women's Bean Project tackles more than just job skills. Women in the program spend 70% of their time working on the production, packaging, shipping, or other processes that go into manufacturing their food products. The other 30% of their time, which is also paid, is spent towards strengthening and empowering themselves, an equally critical step in ensuring a healthy and stable future. 

This may look like: 

  • Trauma workshops
  • Classes in financial literacy
  • Computer skills classes 
  • Various other "self-improvement and healing activities." 

"We address the whole person," says Tamra Ryan, Women's Bean Project's chief executive officer. "We call it the 'bean' job and the 'you' job. Everything we do is focused on helping someone overcome the things that often get in the way of getting and keeping a job."

In Women's Bean Project, women are handed the tools to build the life they want

One-time assistance may help women get on their feet, but it doesn't lead to sustainable, life-transforming change. The women in Women's Bean Project work to nurture their confidence and self-reliance, alongside obtaining practical workforce skills. At the end of their time in the program, they have the ability to support themselves and their families for life. 

"I now have the confidence to accomplish goals, advocate for myself and to focus on a long-term career; not just a job," says Rebecca, a graduate. 

Creating a workforce of capable, confident women isn't just about helping the women themselves. It also enriches the larger communities they belong to.

"The seeds of hope in one woman weave threads of success that expand to families and communities with a reach that touches individuals worldwide," states Women's Bean Project's website. "From participants and customers to vendors, donors and volunteers, their transformations make a difference."

A growing community of women have been empowered through Women's Bean

Ninety-three percent of participants obtained full-time jobs after graduating from Women's Bean Project, and 95% are still employed one year later. 

Over 1,000 retailers sell the women-led organization's products, including gift shops and grocery stores across the country

"I didn't know what other job skills I had or what I would be capable of." says Tanya, a graduate. "Working at Women's Bean Project, I learned that I am a leader and that I have a voice, along with learning that I'm capable of so many different things. I have a lot of great qualities about me that I can bring not only to a good job but to my relationships and to my life."

Women's Bean Project is supported by Stand Together Foundation, which partners with the nation's most transformative nonprofits to break the cycle of poverty.

Learn more about Stand Together's economic progress efforts.

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