HUMAN RESOURCES

Visible Signs of Relief

With aid from the International Rescue Committee, Boston-based Robinwood Inc. has staffed itself with war refugees from around the world.
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The Inner City 100

People

Even if Philip Celeste didn't read the newspaper, he'd be able to tell which of the world's political volcanoes had erupted just by peering out his office door. For six years Celeste has staffed his company -- Robinwood Inc. (#29), a Boston-based maker of candles and metal gift items -- with refugees from Asia, Europe, and Africa. The refugees have been aided by the International Rescue Committee, an organization created in 1933 to assist the opponents of Hitler. "It's very multicultural here -- kind of like a little Benetton ad," says Celeste, who cofounded the company with Charles Quinn. "Right now we have people from Bosnia, Somalia, Congo, and Ethiopia."

Assimilation can be tough, says Celeste. Workers must adapt not only to a new job but also to a new country, a new culture, and often a new language. Some are literally shell-shocked. "They generally start off very quiet," says Celeste. "But over a couple of months they begin to open up -- to say 'Good morning' and 'Good-bye.' They come alive a little."

Proximity to such recent suffering makes complacency impossible, says Celeste. A young man who has never seen war, he has suddenly felt war become very real. "At our Christmas party I was chatting with one of our employees and her husband, who are Kurds," recalls Celeste. "I asked if they had family here. They said, 'No, our family is dead.' I said, 'Do you have sisters or brothers?' And they said, 'No, they're dead.' And then I realized their entire families -- mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, and cousins, everyone -- they were all dead. They had died from a bomb. It's been so eye-opening."


The Inner City 100

City Lights
There are a million stories in the inner cities. These are some of them.
Winnebago Take All Team 2000 Staffing Services (#62)
Visible Signs of Relief Robinwood Inc. (#29)
In the Bank Sherman Assembly Systems (#95)
The English Impatient Crystal Window & Door Systems Ltd. (#86)
Fish Fry Clearwater Fisheries (#21)
Border Fulfillment Miratek Corp. (#22)
My Customer's Customer, Myself Integrated Packaging Corp. (#75)
Take My Franchise, Please Candy Bouquet International Inc. (#37)
After-School Special GreatAmerica Leasing Corp. (#27)
All About Eaves Aztec Roofing & Sheetmetal Corp. (#58)

Comeback Markets
Most companies have taken a pass on the huge inner-city service market. Some smart CEOs are eagerly filling the void.

Who Wants to be a Milliner?
The story of this year's #1 Inner City 100 company.

The Inner City 100 Almanac
Fast facts about the Inner City 100 CEOs and their businesses.

The List
The fastest-growing private inner-city companies.


Please e-mail your comments to editors@inc.com.

Last updated: May 1, 2001

LEIGH BUCHANAN | Staff Writer | Editor-at-large, Inc. Magazine

Leigh Buchanan is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.




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