Back in 2008, Keith Cooper started a small food venture with a friend and recent M.B.A. grad, Geoff Gordon and started a small granola compnay. It was all kind of crazy–risky, adventurous, exhausting, satisfying (which apparently is the kind of ride most entrepreneurs seem to enjoy). While we’re proud to be part of Rhode Island’s fantastic food scene and locovore movement, the real story for us has always been refugees. Rhode Island has a long history of welcoming strangers and outcasts. Nevertheless, especially in the 21st century, refugees face overwhelming challenges.
And yet—if you’ve interacted with refugees first hand, you’ll know this—most refugees are exceptionally hard-working. Many are entrepreneurial and eager to learn new skills. They’re grateful, considerate, have a keen sense of justice, and are eager to claim Rhode Island as their home and make a contribution here. We want them to have that opportunity. Moreover, we’re convinced that empowering refugees land on their feet and become self-sufficient could be a crucial part of enabling other high-risk populations to find their way.
So far, the Granola Project has provided about 28 refugees (including 6 who were not literate in their own language) with their first job in the United States. Nearly all have subsequently found other work.
Our goal is to make the world’s best granola. But our inspiration is the people we work with. With the help our many granola fans, newly arrived refugees are receiving a first job, training, and the confidence to look for full-time employment. This, we’re convinced, enriches us all.