North Lawndale's beelove café supports non-profit employment network

A job training program in North Lawndale is using beekeeping to change lives on the West Side

The North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), connects hundreds of employees with transitional jobs in urban beekeeping.

But it’s about a lot more than tending the hives.   

"There’s so much more," said Brenda Palms, the CEO and President of Sweet Beginnings.

NLEN created its first social enterprise, Sweet Beginnings, in 2005 which aims to promote job readiness and training. The beelove café came after.

"The reality is, we’re learning every aspect of a small business. Everything from inventory management, shipping and receiving, customer service skills, quality control management. You name it. And they’re learning these really important skills that will help make them much more competitive in the labor market," said Palms. 

FOX 32's Roseanne Tellez visited their beehives and the beelove café on South Homan Avenue and found some very busy bees at work packaging products from honey to body lotions, lip balms and candles. Money from sales goes back into the training program. 

"We have a wonderful cohort of men and women who are working here," said Palms. "They’re here to gain certifications in food handling and also forklift training. They’re also learning the importance of working together as a team and meeting deadlines."  

Since 2008 more than 600 people have been employed in transitional jobs with Sweet Beginnings. But Palms says some have developed enough entrepreneurial skills to start their own businesses.

To commemorate a successful bee season, the organization hosted an evening of local honey and beer tasting Wednesday night at Haymarket Brewery in Chicago’s West Loop.