In a city teeming with suit-run music labels and healthcare companies, it’s easy for even the most established social enterprises to be overshadowed. But by no means are these organizations any less powerful. Here are some of our favorite Nashville businesses that are rejuvenating our philanthropic spirits.
This Franklin-based holistic ministry hatched a five-tiered approach to bettering the lives of people in Honduras and Haiti by providing invaluable spiritual, educational, medical, agricultural and refuge support where it’s desperately needed. At the Mission Lazarus vocational school in Honduras, young men and women learn artisan skills like sewing, leather making, and carpentry. Even better, many of the wares they handcraft (mostly swoon-worthy leather goods) are sold in the organization’s online store. Y’all, these modestly priced leather bags are on par with the ones celebrities spend thousands of dollars on.
Thistle Farms is run by the women of the Magdalene residential program for survivors of violence, prostitution and addiction. But despite their painful pasts, they work together to produce bath and body care products that heal and soothe. In addition to manufacturing various lotions and balms, the women handle packaging, marketing and sales in addition to administration duties (along the way learning the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities that accompany a normal job). And it all comes full circle: Profits from Thistle Farms products go directly back to the women who made them.
Buying screen-printed t-shirts from Project 615 supports the nonprofit’s partner ministry, Set Free, which houses about 40 homeless people in the Nashville area. All the tees have a local tie-in, and the designs are artsy and cool— one features Willie Nelson’s mug, another is splashed with the names of popular neighborhoods, and one simply lists our first-name-basis music heroes: Johnny, Merle, Willie, Waylon, Hank. Head to Project 615’s blog to put faces to the Set Free residents their money has helped: Keith, for example, is clean and sober for the first time in 20 years; Ray had been contemplating suicide and is now fully functioning and full of hope.
One by one, seemingly every edible item in the world is being converted into a healthier, all-natural form. Everly has tackled the powdered drink mix market, whipping up delicious no-calorie flavors in ecofriendly packets—think Crystal Light without the artificial crap. Here’s how their model works: For every packet of Everly purchased, the company donates money to ColaLife, which manufactures oral rehydration salts in Zambia. Those are then are sent where they’re needed most: remote communities in developing countries where dehydration stemming from drinking contaminated water is an all-too-common cause of death. The salts are sold by locals, who make a modest profit while putting the lifesaving packets in the hands of family caretakers. So, not to knock Whole Foods unsweetened ricemilk, but Everly products are good for you and for thousands of people in other countries.
A conversation with a stranger at a grocery store was the impetus for this two-year-old jewelry social enterprise. Owner Gracie Moakler was so inspired by a woman named Ronza who had overcome unimaginable odds that she went home and learned how to make a HOPE-stamped metal necklace for her new friend. Moakler then taught Ronza how to craft the pieces, and word spread. She now employs a small staff of women with similarly tough pasts (drugs, prostitution, homelessness), and the result is an online store full of beautifully stamped metal necklaces and earrings, personalized packaging, and—what else?— a heaping dose of hope.