Dream Forge Offers a Cooperative Space and a Helping Hand.

by | Jan 2024

SAMANTHA SIMMONS was forced to provide the bulk of the family income when her husband became ill. She now runs a successful bookkeeping business. Ashley Beesley, the owner of Sweet Indulgence Bakery, took her personal history of surviving abuse and used her business to reach out to trauma survivors. Together, they are launching Dream Forge, an innovative, hybrid site that aims to empower women in the workforce.

Simmons and Beesley knew each other via the Central Virginia Business Coalition (CVABC). Simmons said, “We both knew we wanted to start a third entity. We knew we needed to go nonprofit with this because of the greater community need that we both saw. We really wanted it to become supportive community outreach.”

Dream Forge is a physical space that Simmons and Beesley look to rent out for many purposes. “We want to do programs, as well as a collaborative workspace,” said Simmons. It will be a blend of the bookkeeping expertise of Simmons and Beesley’s skill at running a bakery. “We’re going to have a ghost kitchen designed for in-house bakers or food trucks to rent out. It’s just turned into this giant thing,” she concludes with justifiable enthusiasm.

“I’m really excited about all the programs we intend on implementing and the plans we’re working on,” said Beesley. There will be programs that will partner with high schools. It will pull in 15- and 16-year-olds to come in and work in all the different businesses in this collaborative space. Whether it’s filing, being an apprentice, or whatever it might be, the goal is not so much what they’re doing. The goal is to teach skills that will instill confidence because confident children are less likely to become victims of abuse.

“We both understand that the rebuild process is multi-faceted, and it can’t be put inside a box,” Beesley concludes. “There’s a box, but it’s got flexible sides!”

This is a crucial matter to Beesley, who has faced many struggles. “If I had someone who came along and told 15-year-old or 16-year old me that I was more than the situation I was in, that I was a child of God, I was loved, and I did not need to find my approval in [mankind], I probably would have taken a very different path than what I did that got me in that situation that I had to fight so hard to get out of.” Beesley is positioned to help others run a profitable business and be mindful of making the community better.

“Sweet Indulgence does a lot of community outreach. We’re not a nonprofit but a for-profit bakery, but most of our profits go back into the community. The idea is to have that community support there. Teaching people how to do that effectively and not hurt your bottom line is important. That took me a long time to learn because I had a hard time saying no. You just want to say yes to every person who comes through that door. That’s not financially sustainable.”

Beesley said, “Dream Forge’s current focus is to get our offices and kitchen spaces rented out so we can bring this income in and start implementing these programs.” Simmons envisions classes in social media, small business accounting and strategy, and a mentorship program. There will be lots of assistance from CVABC. “We’re both moms, and with that comes a special sensitivity to women in the workplace. Most of the women in the workforce today are moms. I can’t count the times we’ve brought our children to work with us,” said Simmons. Dream Forge will have a safe room for children to hang out. Safety for all is a chief priority, according to Simmons. “Everyone will have their own spaces and their own doors. All the doors will be locked, and everybody will
have a lock and key code. Everything is secured. We’re able to offer that security that we as survivors so badly needed.”

Dream Forge looks to be up and running in 2024. “We’re looking for those who want to partner with us right now and help us get started,” said Simmons. “We know exactly what we want to implement for the most part. Ashley and I are incredibly flexible because that’s what life has required of us. We can pivot.”

Difficult circumstances can be inevitable. Going through it alone, though, is not an inevitability. And this is where Dream Forge steps in. GN

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