By: Logan Fahey, GM
I am often asked how the idea for Towards Employment’s first social venture took shape.
It all started two years ago when I first met TE’s Executive Director, Jill Rizika. At the time, I was working with The Dalton Foundation—a philanthropic organization dedicated to social enterprise. I instantly identified with Jill’s passion for working with those who needed a second chance or—as we like say—“those with barriers to employment.” Not only did I fall in love with the mission of TE, but I also deeply admired its successful record of carrying out that mission in a thoughtful and results-driven manner.
Soon after I got to know Jill and the TE team, we began to think about how the right social enterprise could be a great tool to help grow the organization and advance its mission. TE had originally looked into the possibility of founding an employment-focused social enterprise in the woodworking or grounds maintenance business, but neither concept ever came to fruition.
At the end of 2014, I left The Dalton Foundation and accepted a position at Towards Employment. My sole focus at TE would be to create a social enterprise that provided jobs for TE graduates, generated revenue to help support TE, and engendered greater awareness and support for the TE mission.
We looked at every single business from lawn care to call centers to trucking. After thorough research, we ultimately decided to pursue the concept of an Artisan Bakery.
So…why a bakery?
The process of creating a social enterprise should be approached like that of any business endeavor. To be successful, a business must meet a need in the market—in other words, it has to attract a consumer base. When we discovered that there were no genuine artisan bakeries in Downtown Cleveland, we knew that we’d finally hit on the perfect concept. Given the area’s growing residential population and downtown workforce, we predicted a bakery would be a natural fit—and our market research confirmed this prognosis.
We asked ourselves what we actually knew about the baking industry and quickly realized the answer was absolutely nothing. So, we immediately sought out the best teacher in the business—world-renowned European baker Maurice Chaplais. He has traveled the world building successful artisan bakeries, and his years of experience were instrumental in helping us implement the very best baking techniques, culture, and retail model. With the potent combination of Maurice’s expertise and our eager workforce, we were finally ready to embark on the journey of launching Bloom Bakery (“Bloom,” by the way, is the golden brown color of a well-baked loaf of bread—but it also represents the ultimate goal we have for our employees—to blossom and to thrive.)
Social enterprise only works when you have the right entrepreneurial team in place, and it should be treated like every other business in the marketplace. We believe Bloom must compete head-to-head with every other business in Downtown Cleveland, and we fully intend for it do so. Our social mission already makes us stand out from the pack—but we want our handcrafted, daily made breads, pastries and deli sandwiches to make us the definitive frontrunner.
We are eager to launch this February and hope you’ll come out and try our products!