Through honey and love, today’s FACE of Memphis is changing the lives of women in her city. As the first executive director of Thistle & Bee, Jordan Boss is helping to build a business that will employ survivors of prostitution and human trafficking as well as create a residential program where healing can take place. The end goal is to restore the dignity of the women they serve. Today, we are honored to introduce you to Jordan Boss.
Where were you born and what was your upbringing like?
I was born in Parsons, Kansas, where I was raised alongside my younger brother by our mom and dad. My grandparents also played a big role in our upbringing. We were and are a close family, and I was privileged to be exposed to many activities: dance, theatre, choir, church mission trips and sports. My family truly gave us every opportunity to explore what made us “tick.”
What brought you to Memphis and why have you stayed?
My husband Steve is in the Navy, which brought our family of three to Memphis a little over two years ago. Now, as he nears retirement, we plan on making Memphis home long-term. We appreciate the kindness and generosity of the community, the short distance to home and Central BBQ!
How did you get involved in the nonprofit career field?
When I was in college at the University of Kansas, I became involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters. I learned that I had some skill in fundraising and then learned that fundraising could be a career! After college, I went right into nonprofit work. Twenty-one years later, it is still the right fit for me.
What is Thistle & Bee?
Thistle & Bee is a nonprofit organization that serves women who have survived prostitution and sex trafficking. We provide a living wage as women work in our social enterprise and in our clinical program. The social enterprise is centered on beekeeping and the manufacturing of honey. Working alongside the resident beekeepers, we are all learning how to care for bees and harvest their honey. We also sell a premium granola product that is sweetened with honey.
What drew you to Thistle & Bee?
I have worked for some years with the homeless community and felt a special connection to the women I worked with — many who are mothers like me, willing to do anything to put food on their table and take care of their children. The women who we serve at Thistle & Bee drew me to the position. They are resilient, determined and strong. I knew they could teach me a lot — and they do every single day. Raising awareness about trafficking is also important. A person should never be for sale.
What is the most popular product Thistle & Bee makes?
Our most popular product is the honey that we harvest from the bees! The staff has learned to care for the bees and harvest the honey to sell. It is an amazing relationship made up of pure love — an idea somewhat foreign to the women we serve. There is pure love in every jar, and it just happens to taste really good too!
What has been the most exciting part of your role as executive director of Thistle & Bee? And what has been the most challenging?
The most exciting part of being Thistle & Bee’s executive director is being first in the role. We are still a young organization, so we are building a business and a clinical program as we go. We have a lot to accomplish, so there is never a dull moment. What has been the most challenging? Same answer!
Describe your typical day.
I’m not sure we have “typical days,” but here goes: I am an early riser, so usually try to answer and send emails first thing. Then I work on getting my family and myself ready to head out the door. Most days start with a coffee meeting with a volunteer or community partner. If the leadership staff and I have not already touched base for the day, we try to do that before 9 a.m. when the rest of the staff arrives. The rest of the day depends on the day of the week – some days are meeting-heavy days, some are production days, some we work outside at our amazing partner, St. Columba Episcopal Conference Center. Some days I work in our space at Calvary Episcopal Church, organizing or fulfilling orders. We are all hands-on, all of the time.
What are your top three words of advice?
Love always wins.
What is the first place you take out-of-towners when they visit you?
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be …
… to heal people’s internal pain.
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
Ten years ago, I was almost pregnant with my son. It was a very different time. If I could give advice to myself 10 years ago, it would be that family is all that matters. I knew it then, and I know it now. At the end of the day, when we look back, it is all about family.
What is something people might be surprised to know about you?
When I was my son’s age, I was in the stage play Annie for my summer break. It was the best summer ever.
Also, I got in trouble in high school for writing and publishing a newspaper story about the need for condom machines in the bathroom. Since I am not from here, I could go on, but probably need to protect my reputation!
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I wouldn’t call him an accomplishment, because he is his own accomplishment, but my greatest moment of feeling accomplished was when my son was born. Joaquin is a very intelligent, bright and caring young man at nine years old. My husband and I are constantly in awe of how perceptive he is and how he views the world with such hope. We look forward to seeing where life takes him!
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
I have been fortunate to be surrounded by incredible women and men along my journey. A theme I have heard from most of them close to me: “Always be you.” Love me or leave me. I live by those words of advice.
What are three things you can’t live without with the exception of faith, family and friends?
Coffee, pen and paper
Thank you, Jordan, for sharing your story with us! For more information about Thistle & Bee, visit www.thistleandbee.org.
And thank you to Abbey Bratcher for the gorgeous photos!
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