By Mark Ding, Summer Associate and University of Pennsylvania sophomore
Two weeks ago, the New Foundry Ventures intern team got a chance to visit Rubicon Bakery in Richmond, California. The bakery is one of the very first projects Rubicon Programs started, and it has become a very successful company that serves the hardest-to-employ residents and trains these locals for future success in related careers.
Kari Ness Riedel, director of New Foundry Ventures, was formerly the general manager at the bakery, and she became our tour guide, giving us a brief history of the bakery’s growth and mission. In a nutshell, the bakery’s goal is twofold: to provide entry-level jobs for the local community and to prepare employees for a long-term career in the food industry through its job training program. Well, maybe it is threefold; a third goal is to bake delicious pastries. We soon took off to see the bakery in action. Although it was a slow day, there were people mixing the batter, baking cookies, decorating with icing, packing, storing, and delivering carrot cookie sandwiches.
After the tour, we got to sit down and chat with the new president and owner, Andrew Stoloff to discuss many of hardships social businesses that target underdeveloped communities face. Originally, the bakery was a nonprofit program focused solely on job creation in a low-income neighborhood. However, as the bakery grew successful, it was transformed into a social enterprise to achieve a greater scale. Andrew told us about many of the challenges of running the bakery.
Besides your typical business operations challenges, social enterprises face some unique issues:
o How do you motivate employees that have never held a job before?
o What if your employees don’t understand their performance is linked to the performance of the company?
o How do you position your brand to communicate that it offers high quality products while achieving a social mission?
o How do you capitalize on the halo effect of running a social enterprise?
Strategy and Finance
o Where can you find affordable sources of financing that support your double bottom line goals?
o How do you manage relationships with corporate partners with socially-minded goals,
but only one bottom line?
We soon had to part ways, but not before tasting a few of the bakery’s treats. The bakery proved to be an amazing opportunity to see asocial enterprise in action and explore the options for future scalability. It is certainly not an easy task to establish a social enterprise, and it is no easier to maintain it even after the company is up and running. Nonetheless, Andrew Stoloff and Rubicon Programs did an amazing job of creating a successful company that serves the local community and provides inspiration for future social enterprises.