Hot Bread Kitchen: Recipe for Success
Earlier this fall, a group of a dozen women ventured to the social enterprise Hot Bread Kitchen and HBK Incubates in East Harlem. Founder Jessamyn Rodriguez led participants on a tour of Hot Bread Kitchen – a collective of women bakers-in-training, most of whom were previously unemployed or underemployed, and many of whom are immigrants. These women enroll in an intensive 6-month program, during which time they learn all aspects of bread preparation as well as relevant lessons in English, math and organizational skills.
100% of the Hot Bread Kitchen graduates who seek employment are able to find full-time, fair wage positions with access to benefits and opportunities for advancement – a remarkable achievement. Hot Bread Kitchen earns revenue through the sale of its extensive line of bread products to such high profile companies as Whole Foods and JetBlue.
A few years ago, Hot Bread Kitchen expanded to establish HBK Incubates, an incubator to support and foster the growth of local food related businesses. After our tour, we heard from two extraordinary Accion East clients who operate out of the incubator: Isabel of Little Green Gourmets and Jessica of Harlem Chocolate Factory. They candidly shared with us the stories of their uncharted paths to launching a business, the challenges they’ve encountered along the way, and the rewards of pursuing their dreams.
Jessica spoke of the challenges of taking her chocolate enterprise from a simple idea to full-fledged production. In college, she tried to get her business off the ground, whipping up small batches for friends, but was not able to get the support and capital she needed. A few years later, she saw a business competition flier at the public library, and submitted her business plan. Jessica won the competition and the $15,000 grand prize.
From there, Jessica confidently pursued more alternative options, even participating in Accion and Sam Adams’ Brewing the American Dream Pitch Room Competition last year. She has since worked with Sam Adams to improve her sales strategy and was asked to include her chocolates in the company’s holiday gift boxes. Now, Jessica is trying to keep up with increased demand from major corporations across the country looking to gift sweet treats. Thanks to support from BTAD, Accion, and HBK Incubates, Jessica is able to spread her love of chocolate and share Harlem’s rich history with a broader audience.
Isabel Gunther is quite the foodie, and cooking for her son gave her the opportunity to be more creative in the kitchen. Her love of cooking healthy meals sparked an idea to launch a specialized delivery service just for children. Little Green Gourmets caters to New York parents who want convenient and wholesome meals, mostly delivering to homes independent schools in Manhattan. Isabel recently graduated from the incubator into her own production space in East Harlem, and has begun working closely with Accion East to continue her expansion.
Accion is proud to have a role in helping these women and others to grow their businesses and to generate a ripple effect of economic opportunity for communities that are too often underserved. Key collaborations at every stage of these client’s journeys to build their businesses are the recipe to success.