As summer approaches, our calendars fill with vacations, weekend trips to the beach and plans with friends and family. It can also be an opportunity to take a short or long-term missions trip or even a service project for a day. Whatever the length or cause, that experience has the potential to change not only your outlook, but your career or how you run your business.
Bridgewater Candles started in 1998 in in Spartanburg, South Carolina creating clean burning candles and other fragrance products. From the very beginning they had a vision of wanting the business to be more than just a means for profit. Their vision was to be able to give back and even the employees enjoyed being able to make a difference. What started as giving to a number of non-profits, grew into a long-term partnership with Rice Bowls™. Today, they are committed to the Light a Candle • Feed a Child™ program. Bridgewater donates a portion of each jar candle sold to Rice Bowls™, a non-profit whose mission is to feed orphaned children worldwide. Each candle sold provides an orphaned child with food for a day. To date, they have helped provide more than 5.5 million meals.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
President of Bridgewater Candles, Bob Caldwell Jr. reflects on how Bridgewater went from giving to charities and non-profits to partnering with Rice Bowls™ and making feeding children a part of their long-term mission.
In the late 1970’s the pastor of our church visited India and Ethiopia during the terrible famines that were occurring at that time from which thousands were dying of starvation. Upon arriving home, he felt a deep desire that he must do something to help alleviate the extreme suffering he had just experienced. He came up with an idea for a plastic piggy bank in the shape of a rice bowl that could be distributed to collect money to alleviate world hunger. My parents were one of several couples he approached to consider a contribution towards the purchase of the bank mold and first shipment of “Rice Bowls”. Then, he had his entrepreneurial “Uh-Oh moment”. He realized he had no warehouse, no method for taking orders, no marketing plan, and no plan to ship orders, but two truckloads of plastic rice bowls scheduled for delivery. At that point, Dad realized our business had a warehouse, a marketing team, a customer service department, and an order fulfilment system. Since the founding of Rice Bowls in 1980, our business has donated much of the back office support to Rice Bowls, reducing their overhead and allowing more of the money raised to go towards the mission of Rice Bowls. Overtime, Rice Bowls shifted its focus from famine relief to providing for the food budgets of children’s homes around the world. We realized Rice Bowls was a perfect partnership through which we could clearly connect the giving dots for our employees. It was an organization and cause our employees were already familiar with and an organization and cause to which we had been deeply committed to for over 25 years.
In 2010, we re-branded Bridgewater with a give back component and the Light a Candle • Feed a Child™ program was born. For every container filled candle we sell, we donate $.75 to Rice Bowls. On average, $.75 will provide 3 meals. So, for every container candle purchased, an orphaned child is fed for a day. It’s pretty cool and humbling to look down our candle production lines and know that each candle on line represents the life of a child who is being transformed through something as simple as a candle.
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Bob shared some advice for those that want to start a socially conscious brand or company.
Focus on designing great products first and foremost. As a socially-focused entrepreneur, it is easy to fall into the trap of making social impact the primary focus of the business. Never forget that it is a business first, and your ability to have social impact as an entrepreneur will be directly tied to the marketplace success of your products. Work to create products which consumers will enthusiastically seek out with or without the social mission attached. While the mission absolutely rests at the core of the socially-focused brand’s DNA, within the marketplace the social mission should be the cherry on top that closes the sale, not the sole basis for the sale in the first place.
Be a light. From the words that you speak to the actions that you express, we each have an opportunity to represent Christ in all that we do. At your work, school, or in your group of friends, you might be the only Christian. Ask the Holy Spirit how you can be a light to others. Be obedient if there are things that He is challenging you to turn away from.
Have you been on a trip or service project that has changed your perspective? Ask God how He wants to use that experience. It might be volunteering on a regular basis or it could be something similar to Bridgewater where your company gives back a portion of its proceeds. God has given each of us unique skills, talents and passions that He wants to use to bring others to Christ.
Give gifts with a meaning. When you have the opportunity choose a brand or product that gives back to a cause you care about, give it as a gift for a birthday or just because! You can even include an encouraging note saying why you appreciate their friendship