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Report Back from Thistle Farms and Music City USA
The conference was a great learning experience - we took a tour of the Thistle Farms production center. It was amazing to see the potential we have for growth - their production was much more advanced: equipment for production of things that we still do by hand. There is so much room for expansion and improvement in our own storefront. We are modeled after them, so to see the possibility that we could be in a similar place in 5-10 years was really fun to think about.
We also went to the Cafe at Thistle Farms where I was reunited with the soaps I made! We had coffee and enjoyed the atmosphere - it’s a beautiful space with pictures of the ladies in their programs and a beautiful mural of their symbol - the thistle - on the walls. The Cafe is staffed by many of the women in their program.
I also attended workshops - “Framing the Fundamentals of a Successful Enterprise” with Hal Cato, the CEO of Thistle Farms. Again, wow! I could see many of the things we already do in what they presented - but of course, there is so much room to grow and expand!
I was also there to be a cheerleader for Deacon Steve and Cynthia who were presenters for a workshop called “Supporting Survivors Still on the Streets” . There were about 30-40 people there for their talk. They represented Franciscan Peacemakers and highlighted the role outreach plays in our mission. Programs from around the country had the opportunity to ask questions about our program and learn from us.
I was blown away and completely stoked by the unity of the women there. There were women from all over the United States working in organizations like ours, working toward healing survivors. The convention was attended by women and men all working for the greater good. Seeing women who were not just working in production in their social enterprise, but doing other jobs within their organizations that are critical to the mission - like marketing, customer service, sales and social work - was truly inspiring.
I also loved the food and the music - and of course selling our products and merchandise to the people attending the conference. The road trip aspect - driving with the team in a huge van all the way to Nashville and having lots of quality time together - was a bonding experience. A special bonus for me: My sister Laquita came up from Texas to see us in Nashville and spent the conference with us. She’s a huge supporter of the social enterprise - a great customer who knows and loves our story. Our cousin from Tennessee who has worked with Thistle programs in Memphis, also joined us - it was a little family reunion!
I am really grateful to all who made our trip to Nashville possible - it was such a moving experience and one that I will remember and be inspired by for a long time! I walked away feeling like nothing is impossible - even though I’ve come from some hard times and been through some things, with the right energy and support, there are immeasurable opportunities to inspire and do amazing things for the world.