PHOENIX - A Phoenix-based, nonprofit bath and beauty products company is run almost entirely by people who used to be homeless.
Just B - B Just produces a line of soaps, shower gels, lip balms and candles.
The company is operated by Lodestar Day Resource Center and is one of 16 agencies housed on the 11-acre Human Services Campus in Phoenix, which aids the Phoenix metropolitan area's homeless community.
Officials tell The Arizona Republic that Just B - B Just seeks to end the cycle of poverty and homelessness by employing homeless individuals and then training them in business, social and life skills.
"Everything in some form that we do, at least the final processing, is done right here in downtown Phoenix," said Michael Tapscott, special projects manager at the resource center. "Truly, 100 percent goes back into the non-profit company that hires homeless individuals and trains them."
Tapscott hopes getting Just B - B Just products in retail outlets spurs growth.
"I want them to participate in making successes and failures," he said of Just B - B Just's four employees and numerous volunteers. "They're truly running a company."
Tapscott said Just B - B Just is "a true non-profit business that provides both an immediate and long-term solution to homelessness."
"We believe that the long-term solutions towards ending homelessness are educating people in business, life and social skills," he added.
Every product of Just B - B Just is produced, at least in part, at the Human Services Campus. Tapscott said the skills the company teaches go beyond selling grooming products.
"Selling soap is the same as selling cars, as selling computers. Essentially, there's no difference," he said.
Just B - B Just employees learn about profit-margin statements, computer skills and other employable skills, according to Tapscott said.
"When you live on the streets, you're no better or worse than anyone else, but you learn a different skill set -- survival," he said. "So when people come on to Just B, we try to teach them the skills that most of us were taught by our parents and early employers that we don't even think about."
The earliest days of Just B - B Just began about three years ago. A product was first presented at a private corporate event, where it was a hit.
Since then, Just B - B Just products have been sold at farmers markets, other private events and some small businesses. The positive response encouraged Lodestar Day Resource Center to contact Whole Foods Market.
Theresa Sarna, marketing supervisor of Whole Foods, said supporting a company that provides jobs for the homeless aligns well with the grocery chain's mission of supporting socially conscious businesses.
"For us to bring Just B into the stores is a no-brainer. It just made sense. It's a perfect partnership," she said. "It's something our customers can purchase and get a great quality product while directly affecting their local community."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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