Baking for Good: Social enterprises shaping baking...

Baking for Good: Social enterprises shaping baking business

Baking is a fulfilling career choice, connecting with your community and delivering a product you’re passionate about creating. But there is a way that you can bring even more connection, joy and give back to your community—through social enterprises.

Social enterprises are organisations that provide activities that fill a need within a community or marginalised group whether that be social welfare, skills for work or other necessities.

Getting involved with a social enterprise can be beneficial outside of just the ‘feel-good’ you get when supporting groups of people who need assistance. Businesses like bakeries can offer tangible skills to groups who can then take those skills into paid work either with that business or with another in the community supporting the local economy.

Social enterprise bakeries

Two social enterprise initiatives within the baking realm that have been supporting marginalised groups are The Bread & Butter Project and Friendship Bakery.

Both initiatives have created opportunities for marginalised groups—refugees and people with disabilities—to gain skills in the baking and hospitality industry and obtain steady employment.

The Bread & Butter Project, based in Melbourne, began out of the famous Bourke Street Bakery after one of the founders and his wife visited a group of refugee women on the Thai-Burmese border. It was from this interaction and teaching the women to bake bread that The Bread & Butter Project was born when they returned to Australia.

The Bread & Butter Project chief executive officer Eva Rabanal detailed what the program provided for refugees and asylum seekers recently arrived in Australia.

“We bring them [refugees and asylum seekers] on full time on a six-month contract. We pay them to attend TAFE two days a week, where they complete the Certificate II in baking. On the other three days of the week we give them hands-on training on how to make artisan bread, pastries and other baked goods,” Eva outlined.

“We have people there to answer questions, how they catch public transport and fill out forms, and all the things that come up in life when you’re not really familiar with the country.”

Some of the team from Friendship Bakery

Some of the team from Friendship Bakery

Friendship Circle are the parent company of the Friendship Bakery based in Sydney.

Friendship bakery serves a similar purpose to The Bread & Butter Project in that it provides skills and training in baking and hospitality but to people with intellectual disabilities.

The bakery is located on the campus of a retirement village and creates a positive feedback system in the community, chief executive officer Sender Kavka said.

“What happened for us is that a lot of our young people with disabilities left school and there really wasn’t a lot of options for them… The participants really didn’t feel like they were contributing and feeling like they’re adding value,” Sender said.

“But recently, in the last two years, they [the NDIS] are really putting a focus on employment and the life benefits that an individual has when they’re connected to community and feeling like they’re adding value.”

Creating opportunities for marginalised groups will strengthen a number of factors for businesses, the individuals or groups and the wider community. But where do you start to think or look when you’re wanting to become involved in a social enterprise?

Attracting and retaining talent

A Bread and Butter staff member at work

A Bread and Butter staff member at work

As a baker, you’re good at what you do—whatever your style of baking or the products you create. The skills you have developed and honed over the years can be passed on to those who would truly need it. Offering the opportunity to teach and mentor individuals won’t only benefit them long term for employment but could also help you attract and retain talent within your business.

The benefit that the individuals obtain are now going inter-generational with many participants in The Bread & Butter Project being able to discontinue welfare, find stable employment at a bakery and provide better opportunities for their children through employment.

“Almost all our graduates have since secured sustainable employment and have been in a position to discontinue welfare. That’s the key outcome,” Eva said.

“We’ve also had studies show that the offspring of the graduates that go through our program have either attended school or university or got into employment, demonstrating that there is a positive intergenerational impact for participants of our program as well.”

The skills developed over time can help local bakeries and businesses to find new, dedicated talent to strengthen their business and the local economy. Eva said that while getting involved in a social enterprise is great, there are some guiding principles to follow and make it work for your business.

“As far as operational capacity [goes], one of the biggest things that I’ve observed is that it needs to be run with the same commercial discipline as any other for-profit business, but just overlaid with the values of the organisation,” Eva said.

“Ensuring that you’re commercially disciplined [will] ensure you are financially stable for the long term and can continue doing what you’re doing. So many enterprises don’t make it past the first year because there are obviously costs involved and some tend to be less focused financially.”

Considering The Bread & Butter Project just surpassed their 10-year anniversary, Eva and the team understand the importance of running the business with discipline to continue to benefit participants and create an impact beyond the first year.

Taking the dive

Friendship Bakery products

Friendship Bakery products

Trust and reputation are two crucial elements when it comes to social enterprise. Vulnerable groups placing their trust in you to help build a livelihood is a big commitment and one that should be honoured by any social enterprise. Creating an opportunity is the first step of many in helping an individual or group in developing life changing skills. It’s never necessarily a straight line but taking a leap of faith to create the initial opportunity is a first step.

Friendship Bakery is relatively new on the baking social enterprise scene, however the benefits for participants are already rolling in after only two years of trading.

Sender said the baking industry has been so welcoming and generous in helping train participants.

“Coming from the disability space into the bakery industry…the baking community have been so welcoming; they are a passionate and generous group of people. So many local bakeries and bakers love the idea of giving people with disabilities opportunities and have offered us so much advice and direction,” Sender said.

“Our hope is that Friendship Bakery acts as a stepping stone for people with disabilities to gain skills and experience and make it even easier to hire people with disabilities.”

Other ways that can help get social enterprise activities off the ground is by partnering with larger groups to put on events or activities.

Friendship Bakery have partnered with multiple corporate businesses to put on breakfasts and lunches to help participants use their skill in a useful way as a second step on their journey to full time employment.

“We work with the hospitality department at Macquarie to bring unique stuff into the mix for an event. We’re hoping that those kinds of collaborations will build the interest or appetite for places to actually hire people with a disability in their workforces,” Sender said.

Creating strong community ecosystems

A thriving ‘ecosystem’ for communities comes from positive feedback loops in social interactions at places like bakeries, cafes, grocers and other places of business.

Everyone has a positive memory of interacting with someone who is skilled in their role and genuinely enjoys what they do. Sender said the bakery being located in a retirement village creates a positive feedback system in that space, but also in wider communities where participants find employment.

“We play an important part in the ecosystem to be able to develop the self-efficacy of aspiring bakers, or baristas or hospitality workers. The folks come into our bakery with a range of aspirations, and we try [to develop] our skill building in a way that helps them on their next steps,” Sender said.

“Across the board, what everybody gets is that sense of social learning that you get from being in a really great environment where the customers are supporting you.”

The Bread & Butter Project operates in a similar way in that they create a guarantee of employment that can help bolster the local community.

“Part of our program guarantees that each person on the program gets work experience within a bakery, and the opportunity to secure permanent work. Given that we’ve increased our social impact in last year—enormously—we had a record number last year of 14 graduates, and this year we’re striving for that to be 20,” Eva said.

“We’re continuously seeking bakeries and or other food businesses that can employ them once they’ve completed our program.”

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