Digging Deep and Growing Hope


  Kelli Blackshear, EC Community Coordinator and Gradi Ellis, EC Graphic Designer and Marketing Coordinator

Drug addict/ Prostitute/ Homeless / Hopeless/ Trafficked

Freedom finder / Hero/ Life Lover

These resounding words describe the past and present characteristics of many new friends that we met while attending the Thistle Farms National Conference. We were honored to attend the incredible two-day event as representatives of not only the Entrepreneur Center but also of the Nashville Community in applause of the incredible work that Magdalene and Thistle Farms founder, Becca Stevens, is cultivating in our city but furthermore inspiring others to culminate in their own communities. She speaks truth when she tells people that there is a fine line between a priest and prostitute.

Magdalene, founded by Becca Stevens in 1997, is a two-year residential program in Nashville for women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction, and life on the streets. The program provides the women with housing, food, medical and dental needs, therapy, education, and job training without charging the residents or receiving government funding. Becca didn’t stop there though. She soon realized that even though the women were becoming clean and regaining their lives back, they were unable to get jobs because of their extensive criminal records, so in response, Thistle Farms was born. Thistle Farms is a social enterprise run by the women of Magdalene where, by hand, they create natural body products. The purchases of these products directly benefit the women who made them. Not only are the women acquiring skills from the workplace that can be used throughout their lives, more importantly they are able to continue the healing process in a supportive environment.

It is quite remarkable that a Nashville native and superstar social entrepreneur has developed such a powerful business synonymous with women’s freedom. The conference titled, “Roots: Digging Deep and Growing Hope” focused on sharing inspiration and best practices for meeting the recovery needs of women who have survived trials and tribulations of unimaginable circumstances and understanding the social enterprise mission of moving women permanently out of poverty. One of the most powerful messages spoken during the conference was how you approach someone who has been in the trenches of life on the streets. Instead of asking them, “What’s wrong with you?” Meet them where they are and simply ask, “What happened to you?” Hundreds of people traveled not only from across the country but also over the many oceans to learn the ins and outs of this incredible organization.

At the Entrepreneur Center, social enterprise is an industry vertical that we support through specific accelerator programs, pitch competitions, mentorships, and programming in order to foster a better social enterprise community in Nashville.  We would consider Becca Stevens an expert in this field and Thistle Farms a highly successful business model.  As EC staff members and representatives to the Nashville community, we were proud to show our support at this national conference and look forward to helping share their best practices to our social enterprise ecosystem.

To learn more about Thistle Farms or purchase some of their wonderful body products visit: http://www.thistlefarms.org/

Written by: Kelli Blackshear and Gradi Ellis, EC Staff