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Our Story and Mission

Welcome to Balthazar & Rose


Mission Statement: Balthazar & Rose is a social enterprise that strives to bring beautiful, simple, useful gifts from the East to the West. Our mission is to make a positive impact by bridging cultural divides with products that are socially responsible and embody powerful significance: working directly with artisans, protecting the cultural heritage of ancient products and providing economic opportunity for people on the margins of society.

 

Balthazar & Rose was a calling that came slowly, growing in strength and clarity every year.

Around the time of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, I felt a deep resurfacing of a divide that I had experienced in me ever since the Iranian revolution of 1979. I am Iranian-American. My husband is Franco-Tunisian. If you know a little about the Arab Spring, you’ll remember that the story of Mohammed Bouazizi, sparked not only a revolution in a corrupt Tunisia, but also helped to topple several dictatorial governments….from Libya to Egypt to Syria and beyond. It also led to the path towards democracy for Tunisia. After a few tumultuous years, Tunisia narrowly escaped the fate of Iran and has since won the Nobel Peace Prize of 2015 for coming out of the Jasmine Revolution and Arab Spring as a democracy.

Tunisia is a beacon of hope….but is still hanging on by its nails.

The story of Mohammed Bouazizi, a vegetable stand owner who could not make ends meet and who was driven to suicide out of a lethal lack of hope….is not just the story of one man. Look at how the ripple effects of his desperation touched us all. It is the story of economic systems that erase the vulnerable from society and forget to function with compassion. Having read “Half the Sky” and discovered www.kiva.org shortly before a 5 month stay in Tunisia with my husband in 2012, my time in Tunisia became one of reflection, deep personal growth, and a search for my own purpose and power to help change what I could.

At the surface, yes, b&r was inspired by travel to my husband's country (Tunisia) and from a love of simple gifts from other cultures that fit effortlessly and purposefully into the California lifestyle. But on a much deeper level, it was a product of having the blessing of time to leave the rat race, spend time in nature, and truly learn how to discern, listen, and surrender.

Now, 6 years later in 2020, not only are we part of the Global Homeboy Network (with the long term mission of taking the Homeboy Industries model to Tunisia), but we are on the (red) campaign, partnering with the Jesuit Refugee Service and giving 0% loans to marginalized entrepreneurs via Kiva (with certain Corporate Gifting purchase partners). Our goal is to have a meaningful impact at every level of this social, dare I say spiritual, enterprise: from the making of our artisanal goods, to the packaging, to giving back a % of sales and profits….we hope to create a circle of compassion and as Father Greg Boyle, S.J. often says of this circle:

“Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”

Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion

And as for our products to date? Our towels and soaps are a match made in heaven. Both are wise, ancient traditions that come to the modern world with thoughtfulness, purpose and meaning. Both are of superb quality and haute de gamme products in their respective worlds. We are so proud to bring these treasures to the United States and to share their special stories, the lives they touch, and not to mention their incredible beauty, simplicity and usefulness.

Aside from helping in our own small way to support the economy of newly democratic and fragile Tunisia, it is our honor to also engage with our local community in the packaging of our soaps.  Our ultimate goal?  To one day build an earthen factory for our artisans, a space of healing modeled after Homeboy Industries, and to be able to hire more people in life who need a second chance and a fresh start.

Thank you for walking on the path with us.

Ellie Montazeri, 

Founder