We have explored the benefits of establishing a multi-disciplinary worker co-op for former offenders in Peterborough. So, what enterprise am I suggesting for this venture? From the photo, you may know…
Why a Bakery?
- Relative low cost to start one (there are various models for running a bakery, at least from the outset, including traditional storefront, truck, bakery cart — all of which need to be explored)
- Product that can potentially reach any household, restaurant, store, school program, institution (Prison — just imagine the product being part of the daily food regime for the inmates of an institution — the hope and inspiration it could provide when the news of the source is communicated!)
- ‘Intimacy of connection’ between public and co-op workers. (Beth Weaver, in her paper mentioned in Part 6 of this series, addresses this point: “Various strategies for enhancing community co-operation and support include: holding social events for workers, professionals and members of the community, which are aimed at breaking down barriers and stereotypes; developing community facing features to the co-operatives in order to be community-inclusive i.e. running a café or shop.”)
If you watched the video on KLINK Coffee’s website, Engaging the Community (scroll down to the middle of the page) which I mentioned in Part 4, you’ll get a real sense of this notion of “community facing features”. The video opens with a customer and Melissa, one of the employees, talking about their experience of the community connection. I still am impacted when I watch Melissa’s eyes light up and the smile break out on her face as she initially, proudly talks about the product line and then, at about the 2:34 mark, about the connection with the public, her joy in watching customers’ reactions on sampling the food and the importance of the job to her (“oh my gosh, it makes you feel so good…”)
Bakeries and cafés seem to be a relatively common start-up enterprise for ex-offender social enterprises including the bakery/café run by Stella’s Circle in St. John’s and the Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco. There are several bakeries operating as co-ops within and outside of prison in Italy .
There are various examples of successful co-op bakeries including the award-winning Arizmendi Bakery in the San Francisco Bay area. It has established an association to serve as “a network, incubator, and technical assistance provider that is owned, governed, and funded by the member workplaces it creates and serves. Our primary activity is to replicate and offer continuing support to new retail bakeries based on a proven cooperative business model.” (The Replication of Arizmendi Bakery: A Model of the Democratic Worker Cooperative Movement).
A Calgary co-op bakery, The Grain Exchange, is now up and fully operating. It attributes its successful operation to the assistance/guidance of the Arizmendi Association, which included receiving recipes and functional guidance. I have been in touch with its principal who has expressed interest in providing like help to our venture.
The bakery idea inspired me from the outset. There are certainly other possibilities which could be explored. Anyone have any thoughts/suggestions?
In the concluding post, we’ll look at how this idea fits in so well with current thinking regarding community building.