Hot Bread Kitchen~Preserving Traditions, Rising Expectations - USA

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Hot Bread Kitchen~Preserving Traditions, Rising Expectations - USA

United StatesUnited States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Hot Bread Kitchen(HBK) works to build a world where immigrant women are not forced to the periphery of society, but accepted into mainstream culture and honored for their contributions. Due to a lack of English fluency or professional networks, immigrant women are often forced to work in the informal sector. Through our job training and business incubation programs, we help them attain the necessary skills to earn high-wage positions and launch their own businesses in the culinary industry. To fund our training programs, we produce a line of multi-ethnic breads, inspired by our bakers. As a result, our work and our products help to “br-educate” consumers about the valuable contributions of immigrant communities.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Today there are a greater number of foreign-born workers in the labor force than ever before, with women comprising the majority of migrants to the U.S. HBK targets its workforce development program to the 5.7 million female immigrants who live below the poverty line in America. Many of these women have skill and passion in the culinary arts but lack formal job training and as a result, are limited to low-paying jobs such as domestic work and childcare. HBK transforms communities by training women with passion and experience in the culinary arts to run profitable, scalable companies and by training and placing future food business managers. While skilled baker jobs have traditionally been held by men, we open up these more desirable, higher paying jobs to women thereby increasing women’s wages significantly. For example, a head baker salary is approximately $59,000 compared to only $22,485 for domestic workers. HBK invests substantial resources in outreach and recruitment to guarantee that we reach a varied pool of applicants who are most in need. We prioritize diversity and aim to create a team of bakers that is as multicultural as NYC. Hot Bread Kitchen has created a line of artisanal breads that is inspired by our bakers (e.g. Elidia’s Mexican handmade corn tortillas and Bouchra’s Moroccan M'smen). By allowing our bakers to shape our product line, we encourage them to bring their cultural identities into the work place. This practice increases bakers' confidence while fostering an environment of acceptance for our diverse staff.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

HBK is innovative in a variety of ways. Our business model is based on the goal of self-sufficiency, where the bread produced in our training programs is sold to fund the training itself. The training we offer is unique because it is paid, personalized and industry-specific. HBK serves clients with limited access to workforce and micro-enterprise development programs. HBK’s training, uniquely capitalizes on our participants’ passion and skill in the culinary field to open professional opportunities. We are also unlike other workforce development programs in that we pay our bakers for class time, making our programs accessible to those who cannot otherwise afford professional development. We provide intensive, industry-specific and comprehensive training; tailoring our support to each participant. Unlike other workforce development programs we also have an on-site small business incubator to support entrepreneurial candidates. While there are other kitchen incubators in New York, our program is the only one to provide business support and a variable cost structure to accommodate low-income entrepreneurs. We also provide our clients access to a network of customers and distribution channels that HBK has nurtured as we have grown our own line of breads. These relationships are invaluable to micro-entrepreneurs in the culinary industry. As a small business ourselves, we have crafted our programs with an acute understanding of the challenges that food entrepreneurs face. HBK employs replicable business practices that may be emulated by program participants.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Hot Bread Kitchen fulfills our mission through Project Launch, our workforce development program and HBK Incubates, our small business incubation program. Project Launch is an intensive on-the-job paid training program in artisanal baking and English fluency for foreign-born and low-income minority women. Participants in Project Launch receive up to 35 hours per week of on the job bakery training, 16 hours of customer service training and three hours of English fluency classes. By providing paid training, we make professional development accessible to low-income women who previously could not take time off work for educational or professional training. Graduates of the program (tenure will average at about nine months per baker) are placed in management track positions in the culinary industry or advance into HBK Incubates to launch their own businesses. For those transitioning into professional positions, household wealth is immediately improved, with salaries increasing 106% on average. HBK Incubates helps graduates of Project Launch and other food entrepreneurs transform small food ideas into scalable food businesses. We do this by providing commercial kitchen and equipment rental at sliding-scale rates and offering support with business scale-up. Lasting one to three years, food entrepreneurs undergo product development and 40 hours of supervised production as well as training in: operations, marketing, financials and sales as they expand their businesses. Through Project Launch and HBK Incubates, Hot Bread Kitchen helps to open the pathways to professional development and business ownership to foreign-born and low-income women.
About You
Hot Bread Kitchen
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

Hot Bread Kitchen

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, NY, Kings County

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Share the story of the founder and what inspired the founder to start this project

In 1999, HBK’s Chief Executive Officer, Jessamyn W. Rodriguez, went to Santiago, Chile to study for a year. Linguistically and culturally isolated, Jessamyn was largely ostracized from mainstream culture—undergoing what many immigrants experience upon moving to a new country. Upon returning to her native Canada, Jessamyn was impressed by the integration and celebration of diverse cultures. Jessamyn found the epitome of this spirit of multiculturalism in a community oven located in a Toronto park. Women from all over the world baked breads from their home countries in a communal brick oven, sharing stories, cultures and recipes—they baked a community. This communal oven inspired Jessamyn to launch HBK, not only as a means to build community, but also as a way to leverage the latent culinary talent of these women to open up professional pathways.

Over the next 10 years, Jessamyn underwent the professional development necessary to launch HBK as a bakery job training program. She worked in immigration policy for the United Nations and obtained her Master Baking certificate. There would be no HBK without Jessamyn—her unique vision and tireless dedication have transformed the lives of dozens of foreign-born women by providing the training necessary for them to secure high-paying jobs in the culinary industry. Equally important, she has helped to bake a community of cultural acceptance that affects not only the women who work with Hot Bread Kitchen but everyone who eats our breads.

Social Impact
Please describe how your project has been successful and how that success is measured

Hot Bread Kitchen’s most significant achievement has been our exponential growth. Jessamyn Rodriguez began HBK with a small group of women baking out of her home. Four years later the organization has grown into a robust training program with a nationally recognized product. We measure our success by the: number of women trained, classroom hours offered, number of businesses incubated and amount of bread we produce and sell (as a proxy for reducing dependence on philanthropic dollars). Additionally, HBK measures our own organizational efficiency and economic sustainability by tracking key indicators such as cost of ingredients, labor and philanthropic donations as percentages of total sales.

Since launch we have trained 22 women from 11 different countries and incubated 15 small businesses. We currently sell our breads to 40 retailers including: Whole Foods, Fairway and Dinex Group. Since the first quarter of 2010, we have increased our bread sales by 700%.

As a result of our growth and in recognition of our achievements, the New York City Council and New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) selected HBK as the anchor tenant and operator of La Marqueta’s kitchen incubator. Since moving to La Marqueta only five months ago, have have tripled the training hours we offer through Project Launch and successfully initiated our small food business incubator. In recognition of our training programs and business model (designed for self-sustainability through bread sales), we have received awards such as the: Echoing Green Fellowship, Eileen Fisher Award for Women Entrepreneurs, Small Business of the Year from Mayor Bloomberg and Hitachi Foundation’s Yoshiyama Award for Young Entrepreneurs.

HBK has grown from a grassroots organization to a leader of workforce development and small business incubation, known for our intensive training programs and high-quality breads.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

101- 1,000

How will your project evolve over the next three years?

Over the next three years, Hot Bread Kitchen anticipates massive growth. In 2011, we will move to 24-hour production, allowing us to double the number of women we train and the amount of bread we produce. In 2013, we will train 40 women and incubate 24 businesses per year. By 2015, both programs will be running at full scale and will be almost entirely funded through bread sales. We will train 80 women and incubate 32 small businesses per year. Once our operations are sustainable and independent from philanthropic dollars, Hot Bread Kitchen plans to expand to four additional cities with diverse populations and a demonstrated demand for artisanal breads.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Hot Bread Kitchen is in the midst of rapid expansion of our production and our training programs as we work toward financial sustainability. Since the beginning of 2011, we have increased our bread sales, and reduced our dependence on philanthropic dollars by 30%. As a result, we are on track to be completely funded through the sale of breads by 2015.

Our ultimate goal is to have our breads distributed nationally, with sales funding our workforce development programs in five cities. As with any business, replication of the model will present a barrier as we move toward national distribution of our products. By investing substantial energy in the establishment of our flagship site in New York, however, we will ensure that best practices are in place prior to replication. Furthermore, before establishing satellite sites, we will hire a specialty food distributor to ensure growth of our sales as we work toward national distribution. By taking on a trajectory of rapid yet sustainable growth, we will guarantee the integrity of our product and our training programs as well as the ultimate self-sufficiency of our model.

Tell us about your partnerships

Hot Bread Kitchen has partnered with various corporations, foundations and individuals in order to help support our activities as we become sustainable.

One of our longest running partnerships has been with Echoing Green. Since launch in 2007, Echoing Green has been an integral supporter of the work of HBK. After providing seed funding when HBK was founded, Echoing Green has continued to open professional and philanthropic networks for our organization. We have also been honored by the support of influential foundations including: the New York Women’s Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Liz Claiborne Foundation and the Hitachi Foundation. As we are a social venture, we have also partnered with several businesses for technical advising and financial support, including: American Express, J.P. Morgan, Vivaldi Partners. In 2009, HBK partnered with the New York City Council and NYEDC to build out a new 4,500 square foot commercial kitchen incubator in La Marqueta, a historic building in East Harlem. Most recently, we established a partnership with the New York City Investment Fund (NYCIF) to scale-up our operations.

HBK has also developed close, long-term relationships with the retailers and restaurants that sell our products such as Whole Foods Market and Dinex Group. Purchasing our goods each week, they invest in our product line and the viability of our business model. Additionally, these partners serve as placement opportunities for our bakers. After completing their training with HBK, we have placed two of our baker trainees at Dinex Group’s world-renowned Restaurant Daniel.

These ongoing partnerships have allowed us to build a varied network of contacts that we will share with the businesses we incubate and, most importantly, will help us to reach our ultimate goal of fiscal self-sustainability by 2015.

Explain your selections

Hot Bread Kitchen’s business model is based on the goal of being completed funded through the sale of multi-ethnic breads inspired by our bakers by 2015. As we work towards this goal of sustainability, we are supported by a diverse mix of funding streams: 50% through the sale of breads, 12% from corporate donations, and 40% from private donations (foundations and individuals).

As we move toward sustainability, we have been supported by various foundations, individuals, government agencies and businesses. Foundations such as Echoing Green and Eileen Fisher provided invaluable seed funding, while others such as the Freygish Foundation and the New York Women’s Foundation have provided ongoing support over the years. The New York City Council has also been an important partner to HBK, selecting us as the operator and anchor tenant of the new kitchen incubator in Harlem.

Hot Bread Kitchen’s ultimate goal is to completely fund our training programs through the sale of breads. We currently sell breads in over 40 retailers along the Eastern Seaboard 12 farmers markets. Hot Bread Kitchen’s breads are unique because we produce a line of international breads made using traditional methods and local and organic ingredients. Our varied multi-ethnic product line capitalizes on the growing trends of organic, artisan and ethnic goods. Businesses and customers have acted as valuable partners since launch by purchasing our products and helping us to decrease our dependence on philanthropic dollars.

How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?

Over the next three years, we plan to become completely self-sustaining through the sale of breads. Since launch, we have relied on a mix of philanthropic support and bread sales. To ensure that we are on-track to become fiscally independent, we have aggressively moved into two sales channels: retail and Greenmarkets. In the first quarter of 2011 we have increased our sales 700% since the first quarter of 2010. We provide breads to 40 retailers including Whole Foods, Fairway and Dean & Deluca, and 12 of NYC’s Greenmarkets. The increased demand and distribution of our products has allowed us to offer new full time employment opportunities to the women who have trained with HBK.

Looking ahead we will increase our presence in both retail and Greenmarket channels. With 53 city-run farmers markets and many more being started by food entrepreneurs, markets are an important sales channel that we are only beginning to exploit. By 2012, we will begin working with a specialty food distributor who will ensure that we are getting the best exposure and shelf placement in the 4,672 grocery stores in the tri-state area. By continuing to scale up our sales through these two channels, we are on track to earn the $4M required to train 80 women per year and be completely self-sustaining by 2015. As we forge new relationships with the retailers, bakeries and restaurants we are supplying, we are fostering placement opportunities for our participants. We have already identified numerous external placement opportunities for leaders in the culinary field.

Which barriers to employment does your innovation address?
Please select up to three in order of relevancy to your project.


Lack of skills/training


Restrictive cultural norms



Please describe how your innovation specifically tackles the barriers listed above.

Primary-HBK offers paid skills training in commercial baking and English fluency to women who cannot afford to invest in their professional development. By training women in marketable production and communication skills, we reduce barriers to fair-wage work in the culinary industry.

Secondary-The culinary industry is male dominated, however, globally women are the world's bakers. HBK provides the training necessary to help women land high-paying positions in the culinary industry and change the face (read gender) of the culinary industry.

Tertiary-HBK’s training programs provide professional development to foster gainful employment and business ownership among historically underemployed populations-low-income and immigrant women.

Are you trying to scale your organization or initiative?
If yes, please check up to three potential pathways in order of relevancy to you.



Influenced other organizations and institutions through the spread of best practices


Enhanced existing impact through addition of complementary services

Please describe which of your growth activities are current or planned for the immediate future.

Primary-Currently we have one site located in NYC where we can train up to 80 women per year. In 2015, after both programs are fully to scale and sustainable we will replicate our model in four cities.
Secondary- As we grow our bakery business we will show by example that socially conscious entrepreneurship is not only sustainable, but profitable. For other non-profits, we will show the importance of a diverse funding stream and the feasibility of sustainability.
Tertiary-As HBK grows, so do our training programs. In order to better serve women in Project Launch we have expanded our classes and launched our small business incubator. Moving forward we will continue to expand our class offerings and launch a collaborative retail outlet for incubator members to sell their products.

Do you collaborate with any of the following: (Check all that apply)

Government, NGOs/Nonprofits, For profit companies.

If yes, how have these collaborations helped your innovation to succeed?

To recruit women with the greatest need for our services we work we have worked with over 20 community based organizations including: the Arab American Association, Sakhi for South Asian Women, Turning Point for Children and Families. These partners help us to identify women with passion and skill in the culinary arts, as well as an entrepreneurial drive.

To best serve women who wish to launch their own businesses, we have partnered with organizations that support micro-enterprises: Project Enterprise, Accion and NYC Business Solutions. These groups provide small business support including micro-loans and business scale-up. We have also collaborated with the NYC Council to launch a culinary incubator in the City-owned La Marqueta building in East Harlem.