Sustainable Wages for Survivors by Jasmine Afshar
Each year a University of Kentucky MBA student has the opportunity to work with local companies through Project Connect. Along with the Reshoring Institute, I also have the privilege of working with GreenHouse17, a local nonprofit whose mission is to end intimate partner abuse in families and the community.
GreenHouse17 offers an array of crisis intervention and stabilization services ranging from emergency shelters, legal advocacy, transportation assistance, and more. What makes GreenHouse17 unique are the opportunities that survivors have to obtain life-sustaining wages. Whether growing and arranging cut flowers from its 40-acre farm or creating and packaging candles and other homemade products – GreenHouse17 helps survivors develop new skills and gain workplace experience as they rebuild their lives and find healing.
By growing their own inputs on the farm to working with domestic suppliers, GreenHouse17 creates job opportunities in Central Kentucky. Handmade products are assembled by a team of survivors who research production methods, test varieties of scents, order casings and canisters manufactured locally, and package and label lip balms, bar soaps, and aroma salts. With scents branded with labels such as “fresh start” consumers are inspired that their purchase has allowed a survivor of domestic abuse just that – a fresh start.
“Our vision is for the farm to become an economically self-sustaining program that provides a reliable source of revenue for our agency while offering survivors small-business training and micro-enterprise opportunities.”
Although they have the option to source materials abroad, local sourcing fits their mission. Like GreenHouse17, many large-scale producers are also realizing the importance of reshoring and paying living wages. Hanna’s Candles, for example, began as an in-home candle production in the 1980s that quickly grew to full-scale production and reached $60 million in revenue in 2000. When the recession of 2008 hit, demand and sales plummeted. While there was a potential to cut costs and outsource production, Burt Hanna stated his belief that “…it’s our responsibility as manufacturers to try to keep the jobs here in America, and to figure out a way to do it.” In January 2013, Hanna’s Candles became a supplier to Walmart leading to the creation of 60 new jobs and 400% growth for the company (Eric Pardee, Reshoring Institute).
GreenHouse17 is currently a small-scale production but aspires to expand production to reach more consumers, create more jobs in Lexington Kentucky, and source inputs domestically. GreenHouse17 serves as a mini, but powerful testament to building community through the creation of life-sustaining wages. With this nonprofit as a model, larger corporations can also take advantage of Kentucky’s fertile land and dedicated community. With its location at the center of the United States, manufacturing, textile, agricultural and automobile companies alike have both the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to the growth and sustainability of their communities by bringing jobs home.
Jasmine Afshar is currently pursuing a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Kentucky and expected to graduate it May 2019. She holds an MA in Peace and Justice studies from the University of San Diego and a BS in Global Studies from the University of California Santa Barbara.
Jasmine has served as a translator in refugee camps in Lesvos, Greece and was Operations Manager of the Tiyya Foundation – a nonprofit that provided community support to families of refugees and low-income immigrant families newly resettling in the U.S. In the MBA program, Jasmine is working as a business consultant for a startup that uses technological solutions to assist governments to better support refugees and immigrants. Upon graduation, Jasmine hopes to pursue a career in consulting so that corporations or nonprofits have the tools needed to make a positive impact within their communities and the world.