We had the good fortune of connecting with Ellie Montazeri and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ellie, what do you attribute your success to?

Hi there! The most important factor behind the success of this social enterprise (dare I say spiritual enterprise)/mission has been feeling that it is strongly Guided….and then trying to Listen and Surrender to the Guidance.
My background is in the non-profit world and I only began this journey of balthazar & rose in my mid-40’s, right after having had my second child, Balthazar. (the Rose comes from Soraya Rose, my older daughter). Those are not the best odds considering how much time, energy and focus starting a small business takes. Still, the gentle, progressive Guidance towards the mission was irrefutable: incredible coincidences, Guidance in both meditation and dreams, and a deep level of knowing.
I am not risk averse, but this was a huge step for me to take at that time in my life. But when I started noticing that what was happening was all also related to my internal journey as well (mainly to do with forgiveness, letting go, and trust), things started to really flow. People and Partners stepped on the Path seemingly out of nowhere and synchronicities Guided the way….to “success”.
Staying grounded, pragmatic and learning everything I could from friends, family and mentors about how to go about creating a social enterprise from the ground up has been an incredible amount of work, of course, with huge challenges, tough lessons and definite dry spells: financially, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But I go back again to the Mission, the Why, and the True Purpose work that allow me to know that this is my Path. I will never give up, no matter the challenge. It is that tenacity and long term vision of Healing and of a Higher Purpose (that I may not understand fully right now) that leads to the confidence, inspiration and energy that allow me to get through the hard times, keep going, and build community and connection.
So, yes, the most important factor behind the success of this mission has been Listening and Surrendering to the Guidance: literally the “Calling” to one’s Vocation/Purpose.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?

Sure thing. Our mission statement kind of says it all: 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.
We currently specialize in multi-use, design, high end, high quality Tunisian towels (popularly known as Turkish towels).  The towels are 100% cotton, lightweight, and easy to carry. Best of all, they also function as scarves, shawls, and throws. We also specialize in beautiful artisanal olive oil soap that takes 6-9 months to dry! Our all natural Aleppo Soaps are truly products with cultural heritage and so much meaning… made by a Syrian refugee and packaged locally by Homeboy Industries (www.homeboyindustries.org) . More recently, we began designing and bringing in larger design artisanal blankets. All of our items are every day artisanal items that last, are meaningful in our lives and made with passion and purpose. Moreover, they are a perfect gift for the holidays, the conscious consumer, interior designers, boating towels, beach towels, pool towels, home decor in general, and an example of multi-use items that fit the beautiful, simple, useful lifestyle.
I think what sets us apart is our unique mission and calling. We offer gifts that give back. We work with the marginalized at every step of our social enterprise: from the making of the Tunisian Towels and Aleppo Soap to the packaging to the giving back. We give back 10% of retail sales (and 5% of wholesale) from our soaps to Syrian refugees via our partner Jesuit Refugee Service (www.jrsusa.org). As mentioned, our all natural soaps are packaged locally by Homeboy Industries, and we also give back 0% micro loans to marginalized entrepreneurs like Mohammad Bouazizzi (the reason for the Tunisian revolution known as The Arab Spring) via Kiva (www.kiva.org) with each towel sold to certain corporate clients. We truly strive to be the social enterprise that answers the questions: Where can I buy beautiful, quality Tunisian Towels, where can I buy beautiful, quality Turkish Towels, and where can I buy all natural Aleppo Soap … with authentic IMPACT?
On a long-term vision level, I think what then really sets us apart is our mission to take the Homeboy Industries model and Network to Tunisia. It will be a long and hard road, but step by step, we’re getting closer. It was a surprise even to me when that part of the mission unfolded, but it was an undeniable. To briefly recount: after being Guided to Homeboys in undeniable ways, I couldn’t understand what former prisoners and gang members had to do with this mission, but I Trusted. I told them my story (and they believed!), and we began working with Homeboys. A few months later I read an article about how Tunisia had one of the largest percentages of young men and women joining Jihad — despite Tunisia coming out of the Arab Spring as a democracy and winning the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, things were still desperate for so many. I turned to my husband and said “the story of these young men desperate for hope joining a “gang” if you will, and searching for healing and purpose reminds me of Homeboys…it would make such a great model in Tunisia”. To which Karim replied “huh, I just realized that we have the same expression in Tunisian dialect Arabic: Ould El Dar literally means Home Boy, Bint El Dar means Home Girl…and it means Kinship.”. Time stopped. I got chills.…and that was that. I knew what the long term calling was in the healing of this East-West divide I felt inside of me.
So practically, our goal is to have a meaningful impact at every level of this social enterprise in hopes of creating a circle of compassion, as Father Greg Boyle, S.J. often says, so inclusive that no one is standing outside of it.
“… 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

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?

Well, my friend Ana came to visit me from New Zealand pre-pandemic and we had about 5 days. I have 2 kids and a small business, so some days she was on her own sight-seeing…but here are some of LA experiences we had:
1. We walked to The Mint on Pico Blvd. for some music and drinks. I’m lucky to have it within walking distance from our house, and I loved supporting our local joint and showing Ana a piece of history and culture.
2. The beach! Paradise Cove is a cool spot because you can actually have your feet in the sand at your table. There aren’t that many restaurants right on the beach here in LA…and the ambiance with all the surfboards and umbrellas is so “California”.
3. The Getty Museum in Westwood. The architecture, gardens, and views from the top of the hill are glorious, as are the smaller, more quaint exhibits.
4. Awash restaurant (Ethiopian) on Pico Blvd, also walking distance from our home. It’s a hole in the wall with delicious food and family run. Just how I like it! Little Ethiopia is not far from us and it is such a wonderful cultural addition to this town.
5. A hike in the Hollywood Hills where we could catch a glimpse of the Hollywood sign, the city, and get some fresh air and nature/wild flowers.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?

Mohammad Bouazizzi : Tunisian vegetable stand owner who, desperate of taking police harassment and brutality, set himself on fire, sparking the infamous Arab Spring. His story is so moving, his face so kind…it brings me to tears just thinking of him. He showed us that the small business owners around the world matter…their success matters. That we are all connected. His story is not unlike that of George Floyd in some ways.
Rich Tafel : Spiritual Enterprise coach. I went to my then local church, the Wayfarers Chapel, to meditate on what this Calling was and whether or not to really start this business and there was, that day, this man from Washington D.C. talking about Spiritual Enterprise. It took me a while to believe it was not just a “coincidence” and when I reached out months later, there was such a connection that he became my Social/Spiritual Enterprise Coach for 3 months and life long friend. He became my Obi-Wan. He had me do intensive inner work and practical business work. He had me walk an hour a day, do the Myers Briggs test and others, mediate and talk/email often about any questions I had, and we did the hard but fun work in the books below, but mainly he taught me how to remove layers and layers of the proverbial onion in order to communicate directly with Source.
*True Purpose, by Tim Kelley (mind blowing inner work/ ego block removers)
*The Path, by Lori Beth Jones (Christian based)
The E-Myth (for small business organization), by Michael Gerber
Homeboy Industries: www.homeboyindustries.org
A place of Healing like no other right here in Los Angeles.
*Of course my most inner support system has been my family: my parents, husband and kids for their support…. and the amazing friends who have mentored me, served on our Advisory Board, and continue to be great sources of strength and kindness.

Website: www.balthazarandrose.com

Instagram: @balthazar_rose
Twitter: @balthazar_rose
Facebook: @balthazarandrose
Image Credits
balthazar & rose llc
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