Every day we’re seeing countless stories of the catastrophic impact of COVID-19 to Australian small businesses, especially cafes and restaurants. The suppliers to these businesses are also reeling. Australia’s first social enterprise bakery, The Bread & Butter Project, is just one of these suppliers.
The Bread & Butter Project
Normally the Bread & Butter Project operates as a wholesale bakery, using 100% of profit to support training and employment opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in Sydney. With many of the project’s usual customers closed, it’s no longer business as usual. In Sydney, 14 Woolworths Metro stores and 17 Harris Farm Markets are stocking some of the social enterprise’s best sellers.
The Bread & Butter Project Chairperson Cindy Carpenter said: “In the second half of March, our café and restaurant sales fell by more than half – as the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry hit hard…“We’ve also had to make some quick decisions to ensure our business remains operational in the meantime.
“As such, within two weeks we’ve shifted from being a largely wholesale enterprise to becoming much more consumer-facing via online retailers and supermarkets.
“We’re very thankful for the backing of Woolworths, who have an interest in refugee employment and responded to our need for more sales by instantly stocking us in 14 of their Metro stores.
“They’ve also worked extremely hard on our behalf to provide us with a good shelf presence, because we aren’t a well-known consumer brand as yet.”
Woolworths Metro General Manager, Justin Nolan said: “We understand how crucial our support is to help local businesses such as The Bread & Butter Project to keep up and running at this time.”
How it all began
In 2011, co-founders of Sydney’s much loved Bourke St Bakery, Paul Allam and Jessica Grynberg created the Bread & Butter Project after teaching a group of refugee women how to bake bread. At this orphanage on the Thai-Burmese border, they were also able to help the women establish a social business to support themselves and the orphanage.
After returning home they worked with their Bourke St Bakery partner David McGuiness to expand the vision and set up a social enterprise bakery in Sydney. Together, they would give their time, expertise and skills to establish a wholesale bakery where 100% of profits go towards training and employing refugees and asylum seekers.
How it works
The Bread & Butter Project’s program sees trainees receive hands-on training in the company’s Marrickville bakery and a TAFE Certificate II in Food Processing, as well as intensive tutoring in English and numeracy.
To date, all of the program’s graduates are sustainably employed as artisan bakers. Trainees have come from Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, Syria, Fiji, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The program has graduated more than 70 professional artisan bakers into employment in Australia’s hospitality industry.
Keeping the doors open at The Bread & Butter Project bakery means much-needed income for trainees has been maintained, confirms Ms Carpenter.
“Our trainees have often come to us from environments of political and social upheaval and when they arrive in Australia, many of them aren’t able to use their existing skills and experience in this country. …The Bread & Butter Project plays a role in providing an income and a purpose, as well as crucial English language tuition and support.
By keeping our doors open, we are keeping people employed who may be on Temporary Protection Visas or other visas, and who are not eligible for the government’s JobKeeper support program and would struggle to find alternative work in the current circumstances,” she said.
Presently, bread and pastry sales fund about 90% of The Bread & Butter Project’s training and operational costs, with donations funding the remaining 10%, while volunteers and pro bono assistance also help the company achieve its goals.