Beautiful Day seeks to build onramps to employment for recently-arrived refugees.
We currently own a social enterprise--an artisan granola company. We nourish the health of our community by providing first jobs and on-the-job training for highly vulnerable populations while producing delicious locally-made food products. We are making plans for our own granola kitchen that can double as an incubator to help refugees start their own businesses. Our ultimate goal is to develop a transferable model that could serve vulnerable populations facing daunting job-entry barriers.
We chose the name Beautiful Day because we seek to empower people, whose lives have been shattered, to move forward one day at at time.
One of our convictions is that refugees who desperately want to work should have that opportunity. Refugees don't flee their homes and all they’ve known and loved in hopes of receiving a welfare EBT card. They want to work. Many of them have already endured the very worst the world has to offer. Some have spent decades in camps on their journey to America. For them, a job is a sign of arrival and belonging. A job means they can finally start supporting themselves and their families. Jobs lead to learning and cultural understanding. Jobs build confidence and improve mental health. Jobs open the door to integration.
We believe that refugees are incredible gifts to our communities, yet we’re deeply concerned about the lack of hands-on job-training available to them. While cities like Providence invest resources in resettlement, the lack of onramps into work threaten to leave refugees hidden and marginalized.
So we decided to do something about it.
How We Got Started
In 2008, Keith Cooper teamed up with a friend, Geoff Gordon, to start a social venture. Keith was a refugee educator with an appetite for cooking gourmet food in large quantities. Geoff was a new entrepreneur with an MBA. Neither knew anything about social ventures—it just made sense that the only real way to discover how to onramp refugees into the job market was to employ them.
So the Providence Granola Project was born. They incorporated as an LLC. A visionary social service agency in their neighborhood (Amos House) agreed to let them use their kitchen.
The big surprise was how well it worked. Their first employee, Evon, became their chef and eventually their kitchen manager, and job-trainer. Their second, Berita, a mother of 9, with no formal schooling, no English, and no first-language literacy, moved on to a full time job within 4 months.
In fact, almost every person they hired—despite daunting job-entry barriers—transitioned into the job market. As expected, the workplace proved far more effective than the abstract classroom as space to teach job skills. Revenue from granola sales made training more cost-efficient. And the granola itself attracted a cult following. It won a Best of Rhode Island award, was mentioned in the New York Times, and connected with a lot of fans who (at least initially) knew nothing about refugees.
In 2012, as the Project outgrew its ability to be managed by volunteers, Keith gathered a board of directors and started a non-profit. While Beautiful Day currently owns and operates the Granola Project, our goals are much broader. In time, we hope to open an incubator kitchen to support refugee entrepreneurs. Our ultimate goal is to develop a replicable model that could energize employment for refugees and other hidden, vulnerable populations across the country.
Our Board of Directors
Keith Cooper (Executive Director)
Janet Isserlis (President)
Geoff Gordon (Treasurer)