‘We do not hire people to bake brownies. But we bake brownies to hire people’, says Greyston Bakery; a perfect example of a Social Business.
Greyston Bakery is a profit making business with a social mission. Keeping their employees at the center of their business they have build a model of sustainability. Greyston Bakery employs those who are considered ‘hard to employ’ and employees are generally sourced from local communities irrespective of their work record, or work experience. With an open-hiring policy, Greyston Bakery provides a supportive workplace offering vocational training and a scope for advancement. It is ensured that employees are adequately and fairly compensated, and given health benefits.
Even with the employee focus, Greyston Bakery does not lose sight of its vision to make itself the national leading ‘Brownie Company’ by producing the best tasting, highest quality brownies at a great value to the consumer. Greyston Bakery has also started a foundation to support individuals from low-income groups and their families forge a path to self- sufficiency. Recognized as a pioneer in social enterprise, Greyston Bakery uses entrepreneurship to solve the problems of the inner city and reduce reliance on external funding sources. It works in the areas of affordable housing, health and family services, workforce development, and child and youth services.
In the year 1982, former aerospace engineer, Bernard Tetsugen Glassman led a Zen Buddhist meditation group and founded Greyston Bakery by borrowing $300,000 to set a shop. The initial aim was to produce good quality products made locally that would provide the group with a sustainable livelihood. Business grew over the years and soon inspired a socially responsible business that had a scope of providing opportunities to others. Greyston Bakery made quite a reputation supplying to high-end restaurants in New York. In 1988, the bakery expanded their product range with the inclusion of baked goods in ice cream.
Gourmet brownies, cookies, muffins, gluten free products and award winning banana bread are up for sale at the Greyston Bakery. All food items are made from natural ingredients and no preservatives are used. Shoppers can buy in bulk and also arrange goodies to be gifted as corporate gifts, with customized packing. Additionally, merchandise such as T shirts, cookbooks and bowls are sold.
The profits made by Greyston Bakery are shared with its employees and a part of it goes to the Greyston Foundation.
The impact of a social business can be seen in the double bottom line i.e. its financial sustainability and its social impact. Greyston Bakery has an output of over 20,000 pounds of ice cream mix-ins daily. It is the producer of brownies for Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s. Functional for more than 29 years, Greyston Bakery has proved its financial sustainability.
Greyston Bakery has also been a facilitator of many employee life transformations, like Vernate who joined in 1998. He had seen a tough life with the Vietnam War, social upheaval, political protest, and a potent drug culture background. At Greyston Bakery, Vernate transformed to discover his own potential. With a little encouragement of his superiors, within a year he promoted to the Supervisors position. Thus we can see that the employee focus of Greyston Bakery has actually touched lives and transformed many.