Carol’s recent post, “Thinking Outside the Cell: How One Social Enterprise Transformed a Community” on Bank of America’s Small Business Community, is a fantastic story of a company doing good in a tough neighborhood. Carol begins:

While the economy is improving, certain communities remain behind the curve in terms of employment and opportunities.  For example, while national unemployment hovers at just over 4 percent nationwide, in Chicago’s North Lawndale community, unemployment is around 23 percent.

However, in every challenge there is opportunity. Brenda Palms Barber, the CEO of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, decided to take things into her own hands.  “As a frustrated leader of a nonprofit with a mission to improve the earnings potential of the North Lawndale community through innovative employment initiatives, I knew I had to provide our participants with the second chance they so desired and greatly needed,” she said. “If the employers in North Lawndale would not be willing to hire our program graduates, then it was in my and my team’s own hands to create a way.”

Palms Barber helped create Sweet Beginnings as a social enterprise that trains the formerly incarcerated for jobs in manufacturing, food service, customer service, hospitality, retail and more. They do this in part through their beelove® brand of certified, natural urban honey and honey-infused skincare products. As they say on their website, the company is “where your purchase transforms lives.” Sweet Beginnings’ growth allows them to employ traditionally difficult to train individuals, and to empower them with financial and life skills to help build independent and more meaningful lives.

Employees at Sweet Beginnings start with job readiness training, which is provided by Sweet Beginnings’ non-profit parent company, the North Lawndale Employment Network. Currently, Sweet Beginnings has eight employees, all of whom spent time in prison.

You can read the rest of the post here.