Building Livelihoods for Women from the Ground Up

Carolyn Cesario and Julie Sullivan’s Business Provides Skill-Building to Boost Their Community
Carolyn Cesario and Julie Sullivan of Ground Up, a not-just-for-profit nut butter business that provides job training to women overcoming adversity in the Portland, Oregon, area.


Carolyn Cesario is the creative mastermind behind Ground Up’s delicious and unique nut butter flavors. She cultivated her cooking skills through her travels, food blog, and work as a freelance recipe developer. But the most inspiration came when Cesario was diagnosed with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) at 26 and had to transform her diet to one free of additives, including sugar and oil. Her homemade nut butters became her “sweet treat,” and soon friends began asking for their own jars. At Ground Up, Cesario handles all finance, marketing, social media, and product development. She has a business degree from Babson College and a background in online marketing and digital consulting.

Julie Sullivan leads sales and partnerships at Ground Up. As an avid athlete—from biking to running to swimming—Sullivan is careful about what she puts in her body and uses nut butter as fuel for her many adventures. She also oversees Ground Up’s employment training program. After working in Uganda while operating a similar training program for more than 150 women, Sullivan returned to her hometown of Portland, Oregon, looking to start a company that could similarly provide women an opportunity to get back on their feet. She has a degree in sociology and business from Whitworth University.

LIFT Economy is part of the community of businesses that have used a third-party verification of their impact. Use the free B Impact Assessment to evaluate your company’s impact on all stakeholders, including the environment, your workers, your community and your customers.

Here are a few highlights from the interview with Cesario and Sullivan:

  • How they merged their individual passions to birth Ground Up.
  • Why they choose to use their “not-just-for-profit” business as a means to make change in their community.
  • The challenges and moments of pride and dignity they’ve shared through their job training program, and how they work with nonprofit case managers and celebrate the “small successes/big wins” together.
  • A look at their recently launched cookbook: Nut Butter: Over 50 Clean and Simple Recipes to Fuel a Healthy Lifestyle.

LIFT Economy is an impact consulting firm with a mission is to create, model, and share a locally self-reliant economy that works for the benefit of all life.

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

Building Livelihoods for Women from the Ground Up was originally published in B the Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Source: B the Change

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