Prosperity Candle Tackles Challenges of International Development

Kaitlin Hasseler attends SVN fall conference, enjoys focus on building authentic relationships among attendees

Friday November 30, 2012 -- Camille Jensen

In parts of the world that rely upon international aid, many businesses see only risk, yet Prosperity Candle sees the opportunity to train a new breed of entrepreneurs.

Since launching in 2009, Prosperity Candle, a for-profit business, has worked with more than 100 women rebuilding their lives after conflict and natural disaster to build scalable and sustainable candle enterprises.

Partnering with non-profits or working with women directly, Prosperity Candle provides kits and training on candle-making, while focusing on how to bring the products to scale on the global market.

Kaitlin“It’s a great space to be in because over and over again the challenges you see in the international development community center around this major challenge of economic opportunity,” explains Kaitlin Hasseler, Prosperity Candle’s director of partnerships.

“It’s been really exciting and really affirming to be in a space where we can partner and meet this need (for economic development) that exists.”

The company recently expanded to work with women refugees from Burma and Bhutan living in the United States. As the company grows, 27-year-old Hasseler says they have plans to expand to Haiti, Rwanda, and Afghanistan.

While many would say Prosperity Candle should be a traditional nonprofit, Hasseler says it was significant that the company chose to be a for-profit business.

“For us, it was important to say that this is a viable business model. That women are making products that are high value, high quality, and should be included in a marketplace,” she says.

“It’s connecting to that idea that you can do good and do well, that people don’t just have to donate to make a social impact, that the purchases you make can make that impact, too.”

Prosperity Candles are available online and in some stories in Boston. Hasseler adds the company is working on several significant larger retail partnerships for 2013.

Hasseler received a scholarship to attend Social Venture Network’s (SVN) fall conference as part of the Bridge Project, an SVN initiative to support more women, minority and next-generation social entrepreneurs.

According to Hasseler, the four-day event Nov. 14-17 in Rye Brook, NY, provided her with opportunities to meet with a number of entrepreneurs and professionals that provided advice and support for Prosperity Candle, from a marketing professional who wants to help with the messaging and exposure, to potential product buyers.

“It’s a series of connections that are made, and the opportunity for people to hear your story in person and say either ‘this is how I want to participate, or 'this is who I can connect you with,' ” Hasseler says of the conference.

She says she was struck by the passion SVN members bring to their work and the movement, and the conference's focus on building authentic relationships among attendees.

“People do business with you because they like you and they trust you,” she says. “I think it’s great, because our work is so mission driven, to be in a space where the mission matters so much.”

When reflecting on what she’ll take away from the conference, Hasseler says it’s the relationships and connections to a larger network.

“It’s knowing we’re not the only ones committed to this, and knowing that when we face stumbling blocks, there are people to help me and my community through that.”

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