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Sweet Beginnings Embarks on Expansion into New HQ

Sweet Beginnings, LLC, has been supporting new beginnings for returning citizens in North Lawndale for nearly 13 years. Now, as the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) enters its third decade of service, it’s in the midst of its own rejuvenation – centralizing their operations into one facility. They have purchased and are renovating of a 20,000 square-foot headquarter facility that will unify their existing and future programs and social ventures.

The vision for the facility is extensive and is constructed with the community in mind. The plan includes a Worker Bee Café, that will offer sweet treats and beverages made with bee love© honey. A Sweet Beginnings production facility equipped with glass partitions will offer café guests and visitors the opportunity to experience the product creation first-hand. The space will also serve as a retail location for their raw honey and honey-infused skincare products, and in the next five years, Sweet Beginnings plans to scale-up their transitional jobs program from 40 to 100.

“Our organization has grown and expanded to include five locations, presenting challenges that limit our ability to leverage important synergies that naturally occur between our programs,” said Brenda Palms-Barber, CEO of Sweet Beginnings. “Thanks to our Benefit Chicago loan our new building will increase our production capacity and advance our goals of long-term sustainability.”

Brenda Palms-Barber
Brenda Palms-Barber, Sweet Beginnings CEO, discusses plans for NLEN’s new HQ.

New social venture keeping the community at the center.

For NLEN and Sweet Beginnings, staying in North Lawndale was critical in their search for a new location. Their new facility resides in a place with deep community roots. The structure is the former New Orleans-based Liberty Bank, which closed its branch in North Lawndale in September of 2018. Before that, the facility was the site of the Community Bank of Lawndale, founded in 1977.

In tandem with Sweet Beginnings, NLEN plans to create a new small-scale social venture to manage, market and lease the commercial banking space and provide the community with space to convene.

“The new NLEN and Sweet Beginnings headquarters in the heart of North Lawndale is a reminder of the power of community and collaboration,” said William Towns, Executive Director of Benefit Chicago. “It’s incredibly important for the residents of North Lawndale to see this organization and their work as an anchor in their community, this new facility helps them see that.”

With the recent loss of Liberty Bank & Loan, there is a renewed need for a community bank in North Lawndale, Wintrust Bank hopes to fill that void by leasing the commercial space in this mixed-use facility to operate and meet community needs.

As this venture gets underway, the prospects are promising, and only time will tell where a fully-funded $10 million capital campaign will take this local initiative.