Sweet Beginnings, LLC. is a wholly owned subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network. It offers full-time transitional jobs to citizens returning from incarceration in a green industry—the production and sales of all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey under the beeloveTM brand. The company manages apiaries (bee farms) throughout Chicagoland including in North Lawndale, at O’Hare International Airport, Roosevelt University Schaumburg campus, and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County Trailside Museum.
Not only does Sweet Beginnings respect the earth in the production of its products, it provides important transitional job opportunities for community residents who struggle with barriers to employment. Sweet Beginnings workers make beeloveTM products, package and ship products, track inventory, fill product orders, sell at retail outlets such as Mariano’s and Whole Foods, perform quality control, and harvest honey. Though these are transitional positions, Sweet Beginnings employees demonstrate all the qualities required of them in a permanent job, including punctuality, workplace etiquette, interpersonal communication, independent work habits, and how to effectively work in a team.
Sweet Beginnings is a high quality, sustainable social enterprise that offers a unique product and a unique solution to overcrowded prisons. Since 2008, Sweet Beginnings has employed more than 400 men and women committed to turning their lives around. The recidivism rate for former Sweet Beginnings employees is below 8%, compared to the national average of 40% and the Illinois average of 55%.
The success of Sweet Beginnings has been recognized by many funders, media outlets, and government entities.
Some of its most recent awards include the Chicago Neighborhood Development Award, Special Recognition (2012); the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award (2014), and the Impact 100 Chicago Impact Award (2015). Sweet Beginnings is recognized as a thought leader in the social enterprise field, invited to participate in initiatives such as “Benefit Chicago” in which the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Chicago Community Trust will invest $100 million in the social enterprises of nonprofit organizations.
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A beautiful film directed by Kristi Jacobson captures the story of Sweet Beginnings where we hire citizens returning from incarceration.