“I was making split pea soup and bought a packet of beans from my local grocery store. The tag on the beans said, ‘Lovingly handmade by – April’. I immediately thought of Women You Should Know as the women who put the packets together have experienced ‘chronic unemployment, poverty, or difficult life situations’ and are employed by this nonprofit – Women’s Bean Project – to help them out. What a great idea to help empower women and get them back on their feet. Jossy Eyre, founder of the Women’s Bean Project, is definitely a WYSK in my book.” – WYSK reader Danielle in Louisville, CO

We wanted to know more about Jossy and WBP, so we did a little research. This is what we found out and it proves once again that it only takes one woman to make a BIG difference.

For the last twenty-three years, the Women’s Bean Project of Denver, CO has been dedicated to helping local women in need become economically independent by teaching basic job readiness skills and life skills through work in their on-site business. The Bean Project gives these women a place to work so they can earn immediate income. In addition, it helps nurture their talents, provides support services that increase employability such as GED and computer classes, and teaches the skills needed to get and keep a job. The tools gained during their stay at the Bean Project empower women to create better lives for themselves, provide their families with hope, and contribute to a stronger community.

Women of the Bean Project

The women hired at the Bean Project to produce the goods that are sold nationwide have histories of poverty and unemployment; they lack hope and self-confidence; most do not have a GED or high school diploma; most are single mothers and have been on public assistance; many are recovering from experiences with substance abuse and incarceration. One of the many things about the Women’s Bean Project that impresses us is 70% of the women who make it through the program find employment. PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer did a great video piece on the organization that we highly recommend watching.

And now to the woman who started it all… Jossy Eyre founded the Women’s Bean Project in 1989 as a result of her volunteer work at a day shelter for homeless women. Jossy saw that while the shelter kept women safe, if could not help them make lasting changes in their lives. She bought $500 worth of beans and put two homeless women to work – the first step in building the social enterprise the Women’s Bean Project is today. Their training opportunities have expanded dramatically over the years, and annual operating budget has grown from $6,100 to over $1.5 million. Their product offerings, which are available for purchase online, have also grown to include salsa mixes, spice rubs, coffee beans, and jelly beans in addition to soups and chili, along with gift baskets, baking mixes and much more.

About Women’s Bean Project Founder Jossy Eyre

Jossy_EyreAs a child during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Josepha “Jossy” Eyre (Masters of Social Work 1986) faced starvation, terror and the unspeakable trauma of losing siblings during the bombardment – all veiled in secrecy by adults too afraid to speak openly. The experiences left Eyre with a profound sense of hopelessness, something she recognized among the homeless women she encountered years later as a volunteer at Denver’s The Gathering Place. How, Eyre wondered, could she help these women achieve independence and empowerment? The answer came in 1989 in the unexpected form of beans when Jossy founded the Women’s Bean Project. The highly successful project has been replicated in cities nationwide. (Source: University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work).