Bread & Butter Project is raising hope
Like countless other small businesses across the country, Australia’s first social enterprise bakery, The Bread & Butter Project, has felt the impact of COVID-19. Normally operating as a wholesale bakery that uses 100 percent of its profits to support training and job opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers in Sydney, the enterprise saw a need to expand beyond supplying cafes and workplaces, many of which are currently closed.
The bakery has undertaken a complete pivot in its business model. It now supplies to Woolworths Metro stores directly. This will ensure it can keep its doors open and continue providing high-quality sourdough breads and pastries over the coming months.
“In the second half of March, our cafe and restaurant sales fell by more than half,” says The Bread & Butter Project Chairperson Cindy Carpenter. “The impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry hit hard. We will continue to supply all our valued partners as soon as the current social distancing restrictions are lifted. But we’ve also had to make some quick decisions to ensure our business remains operational in the meantime.”
From wholesale to retail
Within two short weeks, the business 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,” Carpenter says. “They 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 hard on our behalf to provide us with a good shelf presence. Because we aren’t a well-known consumer brand as yet.”
The Bread & Butter Project is also supplying goods to Harris Farm Markets across Sydney.
To support the transition to retail, the company has implemented a number of new initiatives. This includes the making of smaller loaves more suitable for retail sales. There’s also a move to retail-friendly packaging, and retail shelf displays have been made.
“In addition, we’re increasing our in-store merchandising to ensure a strong shelf presence,” Carpenter says. “We’ve added ‘shelf talkers’ that tell our social enterprise story. This helps to build better brand awareness because we can’t afford to advertise.”
Helping those in knead
Another vital outcome of keeping The Bread & Butter Project bakery open is its role in maintaining a much-needed income for its trainees.
“Our trainees have often come to us from environments of political and social upheaval,” Carpenter says. “When they arrive in Australia, many of them aren’t able to use their existing skills and experience in this country.”
This is where 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’re keeping people employed,” Carpenter says. “People who may be on temporary protection or other visas. Or who aren’t eligible for JobKeeper support and would struggle to find alternative work in the current circumstances.”
Baking a difference
At present, bread and pastry sales fund about 90 percent of The Bread & Butter Project’s training and operational costs. Donations fund the remaining 10 percent. Volunteers and pro bono assistance also help the company achieve its goals.
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. The program also offers intensive tutoring in English and numeracy. It has graduated more than 70 professional artisan bakers into employment in Australia’s hospitality industry.
For more information about The Bread & Butter Project, or to find out how to provide support, visit thebreadandbutterproject.com