Countries torn by war and conflict—think Iraq, Rwanda, or Haiti—often have little trouble attracting international assistance, but large companies willing to take risks in unstable areas are scarce. Enter Prosperity Candle (www.prosperitycandle.com), a small company that got its start in Massachusetts in 2009.
The founders of Prosperity Candle—Ted Barber, Siiri Morley, and Amber Chand—had a clear mission: partner with women from challenged communities and use business, not charity, to help these women help themselves. Prosperity Candle provides women with the opportunity, tools, and resources to create a thriving candle-making business and then imports the candles back to the United States for sale. The company started with Baghdad, a city with thousands of single women, many widowed, who have survived years of warfare and have little sustainable means of support.
One of Prosperity Candle’s first businesswomen was Wafa’a, a vibrant woman in her early 40s, widowed a couple of years ago when a mortar went through the roof of her family’s small grocery store in Baghdad, killing her husband and injuring one of her four sons. With the help of Prosperity Candle, she started her own candle business, an enterprise that Wafa’a hopes will help educate her children. Her candles are now for sale in Whole Foods and other stores around the United States.
In 2011, Prosperity Candle, a “low-profit” company that puts social benefit before income, plans to expand its mission to Rwanda and to continue selling metal candle stands made in Haiti. “We imagine a world lit by millions of points of candlelight,” the founders write, “each reflecting the resilience and courage of women who have survived inconceivable hardship and seek to create a better future.”