What I really love about working on the Local Producer Loan Program is that we are helping people with a passion for what they do to grow their business. By providing a low interest loan, we make capital available to them to expand their operations and bring fantastic local products to our shoppers. This month we’ve taken it one step further by providing a loan to a social enterprise — an organization that uses business principles to solve a pressing social problem.
Our newest Local Producer Loan recipient, Thistle Farms, is the non-profit business run by the women of Magdalene, a residential recovery program for women who have survived violence, prostitution and addiction. Here’s how they describe what they do:
Magdalene, founded in 1997 by the Rev. Becca Stevens, invites women with a criminal history of prostitution and addiction to stay two years in one of our six homes rent free, in a community with other residents and no live-in staff. During their stay, we provide a plan that is individualized for each woman that includes medical care, therapy, education and employment. We offer this to women as a gift, never charging them a penny.
Magdalene and Thistle Farms receive no government funding but instead rely on gifts we receive from individuals, private grants and the sale of Thistle Farms products. Thistle Farms began in 2001 as the social enterprise of Magdalene. Through Thistle Farms, the women of Magdalene gain much-needed job skills and learn responsibility and cooperation. Our dream is that people will come to see Thistle Farms as a humble but powerful business synonymous with women’s freedom.
Thistle Farms employs 32 Magdalene residents or graduates who make natural bath and body care products by hand. And the products they make are absolutely magnificent. Thistle Farms uses all natural ingredients and earth-friendly practices wherever possible. The products are made with ingredients like cotton wicks, soybean-based ecowax, olive and coconut oils, sunflower seeds, and essential oils. You can choose from a variety of bath and body care items such as hand-poured fragrant candles, body balm, hand lotion, salt scrubs, and all-natural hand soap.
Thistle Farm products are available in our stores in Tennessee and Georgia. Thistle Farms plan to use the proceeds from their loan to purchase equipment and materials that will allow them to expand their operations and produce more products. Thistle Farms believes that love is the most powerful force for change in the world. We couldn’t agree more.