Having conceived of Prosperity Candle in 2008, we thought it made sense to begin with a pilot project, which was successfully completed in June 2010. The goal was to field-test our custom candle kits, and make sure our model is sustainable and offers women in places of distress the opportunity to thrive.
So in March 2009 we partnered with Women for Women International – a remarkable organization dedicated to helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives – to implement a year-long pilot in Iraq. We started by training their staff, who subsequently taught 4 Iraqi women in Baghdad how to make candles using our equipment and guide. These first “chandler-entrepreneurs” field-tested the kits and then became our trainers for 50 more women entrepreneurs.
Throughout the pilot, these women (whose stories you can read at Voices) have dedicated themselves to learning the art of the chandler (candle-maker). Attending training workshops and practicing at home, they have acquired skills to make high quality candles for local and export markets. In February 2010, we conducted a comprehensive quality review, and in April we shipped the first Prosperity Candles for sale in the U.S. We were so pleased to offer beautiful, high quality pillar candles handmade by mothers and daughters of Iraq in the spring of 2010 for our Mother’s Day launch. Mother’s & customers throughout the world were thrilled with these gifts that provided a strong woman-to-woman connection.
Needless to say, we are ecstatic. As of today, 50 women in a place of conflict have been given the opportunity to start their own businesses. All will be able to earn an income that is above the minimum wage in Iraq, and some of the most skilled candle-makers have the opportunity to earn twice that amount – close to the average wage in Iraq – simply by investing in more candle molds.