Written by Michelle Askin, bloom daily planners
Here at bloom, we take pride in being a conscious company, and in giving back to make the world a better place. We have multiple give back products whose sales benefit their associated charities, donate directly to numerous charities, volunteer our time, and donate thousands of products yearly to underfunded schools and other organizations in need. Yet Conscious Capitalism always challenges us to ask ourselves, “What more could we do?”
Selim Bassoul of Middleby Corporation spoke at the 2017 Conscious Capitalism conference and changed thousands of women's lives, including my own. His idea of a “relief oven” planted a seed that bloomed into the most fulfilling project we’ve ever worked on in our own company.
Middleby Corporation manufactures residential and commercial foodservice equipment (ovens, appliances, and more). When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Middleby created and donated thousands of “relief ovens” to the locals there. Relief ovens were not a product Middleby made or sold. They were portable mini ovens developed specifically for hurricane victims. These mini ovens allowed locals to boil water and cook food safely, saving them hours of walking to fresh water sources, and keeping them safe from food and waterborne disease. The fact that this company took the time to design and build a brand new product, not to sell, but to be 100% donated, touched me so deeply. As soon as I heard this keynote, I turned to the president of our company and asked, “What is our relief oven?"
A few months prior, we received a touching letter from a female inmate named Krystal. Incarcerated in Texas, she wrote to us saying that she used to use a bloom planner, but since we recently upgraded to metal vs. plastic spiral binding, she was no longer able to have one, as the metal could be considered a weapon. Her letter detailed how much her planner had inspired her and how much hope it had given her for a second chance. We didn’t have any plastic spiral planners, but we bought wire cutters, removed the metal spiral, re-bound it with plastic, and sent it back along with a heartfelt note. We included words of appreciation, support, and our belief that good people deserve a second chance. Word spread fast. Since then we’ve sent hundreds of custom bound planners and letters of love and encouragement to Krystal’s fellow inmates. These women were my first thought when challenged with developing a “relief oven” of our own.
Flash forward to the 2018 Conscious Capitalism conference, when our “relief planner” was already in the works. As fate would have it, the keynote speakers were women from Tevelerde and the Arouet Foundation – a non profit helping women in prison transition back into the workforce. Our jaws quite literally dropped when we saw this on the schedule. I encourage you to watch the video of Arouet’s extremely powerful keynote here. Their presentation left us in tears, and we immediately rushed to hug them afterwards. An amazing relationship developed and a trip out to their Arizona offices for a focus group quickly followed.
It’s now 2020 and we have officially launched our Empowerment Planners. We are honored to have co-created this project with the amazing Arouet Foundation. They created all of the content; bloom was simply the vessel. These planners include all of the content Arouet graduates told us they wished they had when they were in prison, including lessons on purpose, values, self-love, healthy vs. unhealthy relationships, job interview tips, pre-release checklists, and so much more. This year bloom was able to provide 3,000 of these free custom planners to women either in prison or recently transitioning back into the workforce.
The amount of women in prison is skyrocketing (14x increase in the past few years). Many committed first offenses very young, 43% have been physically abused, 39% have been sexually abused, many are mothers. Incarcerated women are often at the end of a long, difficult road, feeling rejected, worthless, and hopeless. These women are often written off by society for one bad choice, and end up getting stuck in a destructive cycle of crime and incarceration because they feel there is now no other option for them. When given a second chance with rehabilitation programs like Arouet Foundation provides, recidivism rates can drop more than 70%. Arouet's own 3 year recidivism rate is 6.1% while Arizona's 3 year average is 35.9%. Many Arouet grads go on to become mentors of others in the program, paying it forward and changing the trajectory for thousands of families.
We met with the most amazing women to make this special planner. They said to us through teary eyes, “I can’t believe someone cares so much to make this for us,” “Everyone only asks about what I’ve done - about my past. No one cares what I can become... about my future.” They were all so much more than their pasts, and they all have amazing futures ahead of them for themselves and their families. We are so grateful for Conscious Capitalism for inspiring this project, and for the opportunity to co-create these planner with the amazing women of Arouet. It's an honor to get these much needed resources out to the hearts that need them most.
So, what is your "relief oven?" What is something that your company excels at, that you could modify to fit a dire need, and then simply it give away? This is bloom’s most cherished project. The relationships that have bloomed from this project have healed so many souls, including our own. Projects like this are what it means to have purpose beyond profit, and to demonstrate Conscious Capitalism’s mission of elevating humanity through business. How can you be a more conscious company? How can you make the world a better place? What more can you do?