When a Dreamer Becomes a Doer

A “doer” takes dreaming to the next level.    Champion of ChangeU Tamra Ryan is one of those doers.  In this blog post, previously published on the website of Women’s Bean Project, Tamra shows what it takes to do more than just dream.  She shows us that being a doer is what is needed to change the lives of those most in need of doers.


My Dream for the Future of Women’s Bean Project
by Tamra Ryan

What did you dream of when you were 25? What did you imagine for your life? What were the possibilities of your future? At 25 we all dreamed of the promise of our futures. Most of us had no idea how things would turn out. I know none of the women who come to the Women’s Bean Project dreamed of addiction or incarceration for themselves. They didn’t dream of losing their children or being rejected by one employer after another because of their backgrounds.

When the women who come to the Bean Project were 25, they believed their futures were bright and full of opportunity. Then, something happened to pull them away from their dreams.

Twenty five years ago Women’s Bean Project was founded on a dream, a vision for the future. And in many ways we have fulfilled that vision. We have helped hundreds of women in our community create new lives for themselves and their families.

But even as we get better at what we do, there is still a sense of urgency because there are so many more women who need our help. Just as we all had dreams for our futures when we were 25, I have a dream for the future of the Bean Project.

  • I dream of a day when we don’t have to turn away any woman who comes to us asking for a chance to change her life.
  • I imagine a time when Women’s Bean Project struggles to find enough applicants to fill all of our open positions.
  • I dream of finding Bean Project products in thousands of stores across the country–the tangible evidence of the women whose lives have been changed. At 25 it is good to remember why we exist.
  • Women’s Bean Project believes in the power of work.
  • We believe that having a job helps a woman create hope, improves her self-esteem and makes her believe she is worthy of a better life.
  • We believe that work is fundamental for women, their families and our community.

We believe in the power of work to restore the dreams that have been lost. Women’s Bean Project creates employment for women because through employment we are able to change lives. The most fundamental way out of poverty is reliable work for adequate pay.

But what I’m talking about isn’t just jobs. It’s about all of the other things that come from gainful employment:

  • Increased pride and confidence
  • The ability to set and work toward goals
  • The opportunity to provide financial and emotional support to one’s family.

A job just isn’t a job.

  • It is hope.
  • It is a symbol of worth.
  • It is the promise of a future. Employment at Women’s Bean Project brings back that spark, that smile, that time of promise. That’s why we exist. Employment changes lives.

I am confident that, after all we have learned in the past 25 years, and with your help, we are positioned to remain an essential part of the community. The demand we see is daunting, but I remain hopeful. When a woman improves her life it affects us all. Her success is our collective success.

  • We have employed over 700 hundred women, each with an average of three children. This is thousands of lives that have been changed.
  • We have decreased time in prison. Employment related programs such as Women’s Bean Project have been shown to have the greatest effect on reducing returns to prison. The number one indicator of re-arrest is being unemployed in the year prior to the arrest.
  • We have stimulated the economy. According to the Social Enterprise Alliance, based on research conducted by economists, the economic stimulus of a job created by social enterprises such as Women’s Bean Project is over $80,000 per year. For the 60 women employed at the Bean Project each year, this equates to about $4.8 million in economic stimulus. As we move into the next 25 years, our focus at Women’s Bean Project will be:
  • To ensure every woman who wants to change her life can.
  • To ensure our community is full of self-sufficient mothers so that children don’t grow up to repeat the cycle.
  • To ensure that we reduce the need for public assistance.
    When I look to the future, I ask, what would it take to accomplish these goals?

Our products are the tangible proof of our cause, but product sales only cover 70% of the cost of employing the women in our program. That’s because there are so many other needs, in addition to job readiness skills, that a woman must have met before she can truly work toward self-sufficiency.

  • She must have stable housing and quality childcare for her kids.
  • She must have the ability to set and work toward goals, organize her and her family’s life and budget to cover her basic household expenses.
  • Most important, she must have the confidence to believe she is worthy of a better life.These are the intangibles Women’s Bean Project provides. They cost money to support, but their value in a woman’s life is immeasurable.

The Bean Project teaches women with little or no computer skills the basics they need to function in the job market. We teach them the importance of coming to work every day, on time and we help them learn to take direction, manage conflict and pay attention to detail.

We teach the skills so women can earn a living for themselves and their families. We have the answer to breaking the cycle of poverty and chronic unemployment and we are only limited by our resources.

Let’s ensure that the dreams of the women we serve can be rediscovered and realized. I invite you to join us in helping women create brighter futures for themselves, their families and our community.

Tamra Ryan is the visionary leader, spokesperson and CEO of Women’s Bean Project based in Denver, Colorado. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Judith M. Kaufmann award for Civic Entrepreneurship and Regis University’s Social Entrepreneurship Award. Tamra has also been recognized as an Outstanding Alumnus of the Colorado Leadership Alliance (2006) and as one of the “up-and-coming most influential women in Colorado” by the Denver Post (2012).  Tamra is the author of award-winning The Third Law which explores what is required for chronically unemployed and impoverished women to create new lives for themselves. Please read more about Champion of ChangeU Tamra Ryan, as well as Women’s Bean Project, at http://www.womensbeanproject.com/what-we-do/leadership-and-staff/ .  You will find Tamra’s TEDxMile High talk under the Videos tab on the main ChangeU menu.

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