Women gain experience, confidence from the Ground Up


Employees at Ground Up learn basic work skills that provide a foundation for a totally new future

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Southeast Portland business is helping women invest in their futures — from the ground up.

The business — which is literally called “Ground Up” — makes nut butters and offers employment opportunities to women overcoming adversity. The business provides mentorship and job skills training in various fields, including sales, marketing and how to work in a commercial kitchen.

The women learn every aspect of processing nut butter, even how to label each jar before being shipped out or delivered to local stores by B-Line trikes. Ground Up makes nut butters using cashews, almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts. All of the products are gluten-free and dairy-free.

Julie Sullivan, co-founder of Ground Up in Portland, March 11, 2020. (KOIN)

Julie Sullivan co-founded Ground Up after working in Uganda, where she realized the need for job opportunities for women.

“I really saw a business as a powerful tool for good,” Sullivan said. “So we work with a ton of local nonprofits in the city and saw there was this gap in employment and that women overcoming adversities wanted to work but lacked the skills, experience or confidence to be hired by an employer.”

She teamed up with the Portland Rescue Mission, Central City Concern, Outside In and other nonprofits to hire women who wanted to re-enter the workforce after adversity — women like Tiffany.

“I pretty much lost it,” Tiffany said. “I was living in shelters and not going to see my son anymore so my life was Negative City. Being here at Ground Up, I started getting my positivity back and my confidence back.”

Tiffany is now employed fulltime as the fulfillment supervisor and production assistant manager at Ground Up.

Most women work at the business for six to nine months, after which time they are able to find a fulltime job elsewhere. For many who work at Ground Up, the basic work skills they acquire provide a foundation for a totally new future.

“Just telling someone ‘I believe in you, I want to give you a chance despite what’s happened in your past’ is huge,” said Tiffany. “And the confidence that comes from that — it’s not so much about the job; it’s the confidence that comes.”

Nut butters from Ground Up in Portland, March 11, 2020. (KOIN)

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