With Mother’s Day fast approaching, we couldn’t be happier to shine the Local Business Spotlight on Thistle Farms, a social justice enterprise championing women survivors. I had the privilege of sitting down with founder Becca Stevens to learn more about the founding of the business, the mantra behind all their endeavors, and plans for the future. Stevens was every bit the philanthropist you would imagine at the helm of such a company – steadfast in her beliefs, confident yet humble, and unwavering in her pursuit of a more just world.
Stevens traces the origins of Thistle Farms back to the simple philosophy that when women heal, communities heal. She had seen trafficking, prostitution, and addiction wreak havoc on Nashville communities – and wasn’t about to wait for somebody else to intervene. Seeing housing as the most immediate need – “[asking why we’d start with housing] is like asking why people need food” – Stevens hatched a residential recovery program, Magdelene House, for women survivors. Soon after, she enlisted the help of a nearby chapel on the Vanderbilt campus as a space for program participants to create candles they would sell under the Thistle Farms brand. To this day, the candle is a symbol of the Thistle Farms mission.
“We light this candle for the woman on the street, to light the way for women to find their way home. What I find so humbling and amazing is that, in 20 years, that candle hasn’t gone out. We now light the candle still, every week in our Zoom meetings.”
In addition to candles, you can find essential oils, soaps, home decor, apparel, and more for sale on the Thistle Farms website. All these products are of course ethically sourced and made from high quality natural materials that Stevens herself swears by.
Along with other Nashville social enterprises like Nisolo and Able, Thistle Farms has grown into a social enterprise powerhouse – but still, Stevens knows there is more work to done. When asked if she could have imagined the success that the company has now when she first started, she gave us this gem:
“You know…it’s not surprising to me at all. I think it’s a great idea. It’s so simple. If you see lavish love and economical sense come together you can scale and grow a business on a global level. That seems very sane to me. And sometimes it seems strange to me that we aren’t bigger, competing with these really huge brands.”
Every purchase you make from Thistle Farms is helping a woman find a sustainable source of income while on their road to recovery. While many of Thistle Farms’ employee residents are right here in Nashville, they also help sell goods produced by refugees all across the globe. Additionally, Thistle Farms has inspired over 50 sister communities across the United States, hoping to utilize their unique residential recovery program. To be clear though, Stevens sees Thistle Farms as more than just community, it’s a movement, “deep-rooted, and exponential.”
To learn more about Thistle Farms, check out our full interview with founder Becca Stevens below: