On Friday mornings, I look forward to a home delivery and I am never disappointed. A smiling young baker-apprentice brings me the most beautiful, yummy, freshly-baked loaves of bread, that never fail to put a smile on my face and give a sunny start to my day.
She is one of a few special young adults with disabilities that get together to bake, package and deliver ‘Friendship Loaves’ to doors all around my neighbourhood every week.
They participate in a project developed by NSW Friendship Circle and supported by Jesse’s le Petit Patissier. The Friendship Bakery is piloted by Chana and Sender Kavka, the dynamic duo that wanted to create meaningful employment for young adults with disabilities.
I was so impressed with the project, the bakers and the incredibly delicious bread, that I caught up with Sender and asked him how it all got started. Please join me for our first blog in a series to focus on the social impact that businesses are having on our local communities.
(GroupTogether): Tell me a bit about the Friendship Bakery: What inspired you to start it?
(Sender Kavka) We started The Friendship Bakery because we saw young adults with disabilities leaving school and struggling to find meaningful and engaging work. At the Bakery, young adults with special needs get to be involved in all of the steps in running a small business and get a great sense of value knowing that their products grace dinner tables each Friday night. Our Bakers take over a part of Jesse’s Bakery once a week and they create delicious braided bread called “Challah” that we then sell online and by monthly subscription. We started working with Jesse’s bakery in October 2014 and practiced for many months before we were ready to sell our products.
(GT): Tell me a bit about your wonderful Bakers?
(SK) Our bakers are delightful young adults who enjoy food, movies and spending time with family. They got involved with the Bakery through their participation in Friendship Circle’s social and recreational activities for young people with special needs. Together, with their families and volunteers of the Friendship Circle we developed this unique social enterprise to help them find interested and meaningful fun.
Our bakers are between 18 and 23. We started training them in the bakery itself by actually baking challah for friends and family; and it took us a while to discover each bakers’ strengths and to be able to create a consistently delicious product that we were able to sell. Three people work in the bakery and two in delivery.
(GT) Does everyone participate in making, baking and delivering?
(SK) It is about identifying each person’s strengths and then creating a team environment where everyone has a role to play. They all know that if one person does not do their job, then everyone is held back. On a slow week, we’ll mix up the jobs a bit to allow everyone to do a bit of everything.
(GT): What’s the most challenging issue that’s come up?
(SK) Although our product has it’s own branding, we work out of an actual bakery alongside their regular staff. We often have unexpected changes that come along with working in an busy bakery that can be hard for some of our bakers. They have been doing a great job of adapting and they actually enjoy being in a mainstream bakery!
(GT):How do you measure their job satisfaction, do you think it’s changed their lives?
(SK) The Bakery has become a huge part in the lives of our bakers. The Bakers have built a cohesive unit – they look forward to seeing each other and working together each week. They are so proud to be working in a real bakery and learning real skills. They also know that we trust them and know that they will do a good job. They are proud that people buy their products that they worked so hard to create. We know that the satisfaction they get from being in the Friendship Bakery spills over to the rest of their week.
(GT): Have they gone on to do other things?
(GT): What has been the most surprising part of your journey?
(SK) Mostly good surprises, like our awesome community of customers and the generosity of some outstanding volunteers.
(GT): What’s the next step for the bakery?
(SK) Originally, we were hoping to expand the product range, open up for spots for bakers and work towards a brick and mortar shop, maybe a café or something. While we haven’t ruled that out we are now working on creating other micro-business in partnership with existing business that focus more on each individuals’ interests and talents rather than creating a one size fits all.
To order your own wonderful, freshly baked bread or to find out more about this amazing organisation, please visit The Friendship Bakery.
The Friendship Bakery has recently entered a video of the project into the Focus on Ability competition and would love your votes. Please watch the video and register your vote for these amazing Bakers and this wonderful project. Julie + Ali
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