Love Heals EveryBODY: Behind the Scenes with Thistle Farms

“Handcrafted with Love by Women Survivors”

Two years ago, in the developmental stages of Sisterhood Shopping, we were sitting at a conference and every woman received a gift. Inside each gift was some lip balm and body butter from an organization that was determined to help women off the streets, give them new hope, and help them restore while developing strong economical skills. It was an overwhelming feeling to be able to include this incredible organization-Thistle Farms in our Fall Sisterhood Shopping boxes two years later.

We spend a lot of time working and learning about our partners and we want to make sure that you also are given the opportunity to learn more about the stories and the women behind your box! Despite a busy holiday season ahead, Thistle Farms was gracious enough to take some time and discuss their story about how they started and the impact each purchase has:

(SS): I am not only obsessed with my Thistle Farms products, wearing my Body Balm now, but I would love to know more about the idea that Love Heals EveryBODY and how this idea developed into an organization that has provided 9,000+ nights of supportive housing for women, 825+ hours of counseling and therapy for survivors and has employed over 1,300 women survivors. Can you tell me more about how Thistle Farms started and how the mission statement was developed?

(TF): We began in 1997 when founder Becca Stevens realized that women on the streets had few, if any, options for long-term, safe housing to recover from the trauma and abuse they had experienced. She opened one home with four women under the name Magdalene. But as the women began to heal and flourish, felonies on their records made finding vocational training and employment difficult to find. In 2001, Becca began a cottage business, under the name Thistle Farms, making natural candles and body balms to provide survivors much-needed jobs and income. Our mission statement, our guiding principles, and the belief that love is the strongest force for change in the world, were really formed in the early days by Becca and the first residents. These concepts continue to guide us today. 

(SS): Wow, I love that Thistle Farms supports the restoration of hope and is helping women start new lives through sustainable income and job development. It seems like Thistle Farms started even before the idea of the products was formed. Can you dive deeper into the problem that Thistle Farms is trying to solve?

(TF): Thistle Farms provides a safe community for healing for survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction. We offer women a two-year residential program, provided at no cost to them, jobs to help them gain economic independence, and a life-long sisterhood of support.

“Women who have survived trafficking, prostitution and addiction deserve a second chance at life. When you support Thistle Farms, you help women survivor’s heal.”

(SS): It is so empowering to know that each product is helping support women life-long and not just until they move on to the next step in their lives/careers. Now, I have to ask, the cost and effort of managing an organization that looks to restore hope and economic independence for all women survivors has got to be daunting. Are the moments in the organization’s lifetime that help morale and induce motivation to continue the mission even on difficult days?

(TF): Every woman still on the streets is a motivation for the employees, residents, graduates and volunteers of Thistle Farms. We light a candle daily to remember friends still lost and to light a path for the next woman who needs to find her way home.

(SS): I love the idea that you are all in it together; everyone believes and embodies the mission of the company. As a company, what is the biggest challenge you face in taking on this mission?

(TF): At Thistle Farms we are always faced by the unique trauma that the survivors in our program have experienced: childhood neglect and abuse, violence, homelessness, poverty, and addiction. Another ongoing challenge is the difficulty of finding safe and affordable housing for our graduates. We are always looking for new solutions, and new ways to support the long-term emotional and economic health of the survivors at Thistle Farms, in our sister communities across the country, and for our global partners.

(SS): How incredible that your biggest challenge isn’t about product/pricing/inventory, the challenge is because when you say long-term you mean long-term. The long-term support even after graduation of the program. Women who enter Thistle Farms have the safety of knowing they will be supported for life. Can you share with us some of the success stories of the company or the women behind Thistle Farms?

(TF): We are grateful and proud of the graduates of our program who are in leadership positions throughout the organization. Their strength and wisdom provides role-modeling to new residents, leadership for the whole community, as well as a constant reminder of staying focused on our mission. Just a few of these graduates include managers and directors in Sales (Katrina Robertson), Events (Dorris Walker), Residential/Clinical team (Shelia McClain), Manufacturing (Gwen Cockrill), Accounting (Chelle Waller) and Regina Mullins (Education & National Network).

(SS): Thank you so much for sharing a behind the scenes look at this incredible company and providing some insight on the women behind our new products. Is there anything else that I did now touch on that you want to make sure people know about Thistle Farms?

(TF): Purchasing a Thistle Farms candle, lotion or body balm, is a powerful and meaningful choice. By doing so you are providing housing, medical care and therapy for survivors, as well as a safe work-environment, skills, and income to help them prepare for the future. It is a healing act for a woman to make a product and it can be the same for you when purchasing and using it. We really do being that love heals. And each person who purchases one of our products is saying they believe it too.

I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share Thistle Farms’ story with us. At Sisterhood Shopping, it is our mission to share the impact your box is making on the lives of women around the world. If you love your Thistle Farms Body Butter as much as I do, check out the Thistle Farms website for even more amazing products. Remember, holiday shopping is in full swing and this holiday season you can shop with an impact and bring love, hope and support to so many!

Paola Berisso