Building an upside-down company
Our newest employee, Iman, is really great at communicating with body language. He laughs. He sings under his breath. A Somali proverb claims that anyone who has 5 fingers can talk —Iman is the living proof. Though he’s never been to school, he takes initiative to helps others relax and learn. So we recently hired him to coach each new trainee through their orientation. He’ll be teaching and modeling the skills that are even more basic than English for entry-level jobs: confidence, team work, initiative, tenacity.
What I know for a fact is that Iman is the gentle caretaker of his bedridden adult nephew. He lives in a typical multi-family Providence apartment with a painted porch, hardwood floors, and a chirping smoke detector. And centered on his dining room wall, framed and draped with a string of plastic flowers, is a Rhode Island-esque scene: blue water, a few happy clouds, a gracious sailboat - only the painting is hung upside down. Iman is far from a cynical person but this still seems symbolic. I tried to ask, though some ideas are too abstract for 5-fingered communication.
What I can imagine is that there is no end of things that feel upside down to someone who used to herd animals, then had to flee and face the terrible choice of being separated from his two daughters or save his nephew’s life. I shudder to imagine how I’d handle it if our situations were reversed. I’d be deeply fearful about a travel ban on Somali refugees and how that might impact my daughters’ refugee applications. I only hope I’d be so open, kind, welcoming, and resourceful.
My visit to Iman’s home made me think: one way to describe our organization might be that we’re building an "upside down” company. Our mission isn’t about profits but about people. Our product isn’t just granola but relationships and the opportunity to contribute and belong. Yet we continue to grow and gather insights towards building a model that could serve resettlement communities elsewhere.
None of this would be possible without so many of you investing in our training and outreach programs, purchasing our products and inviting us to your events. Thank you for being our customers and partners in mission. Thanks for making it possible to do things like hire Iman to do exactly what he is best at. We’d love your (tax-deductible) donation during this season so we can continue to train refugees (23 this year) and employ some like Iman. You can give online (one-time or monthly) or sign up for #TeamGranola.
Happy Holidays for all of us at Beautiful Day!