Brenda Palms Barber offers ex-cons in Chicago a honey of a second chance
Sweet Beginnings, a growing business on Chicago's West Side, provides just released prisoners with job experience making honey and other products.
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"I don't consider myself an ex-felon. I look at myself as a tax-paying citizen," he says.Skip to next paragraph
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Sweet Beginnings products are available online and in 35 Whole Foods stores across the Midwest, Mark Shale boutique stores, and from the grocery delivery service Peapod. They will soon be in Hudson News outlets at Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports. The company rings up about $100,000 in annual sales today, with a projection of $2 million in five years.
Despite its humble location in North Lawndale, amid empty lots of rubble and the hum of Interstate 290 a block away, the beekeeping concept will likely expand to other cities, particularly Denver and Boston, which are interested "in pollinating the model," Barber says.
While she lights up when thinking about the future possibilities of her start-up business, what really makes Barber buzz is reaching out to local companies – from grocery stores to a five-star hotel in downtown – to establish relationships that help her beekeeping staff transition to full-time employment elsewhere.
"We are creating more jobs. That's what brings me incredible joy," she says. "Just awesome, over-the-top, out-of-chair joy – just joy."
•For more: www.sweetbeginningsllc.com.
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