2016 was a tremendous year for Cleveland and for Bloom Bakery. Our city celebrated the Cavs’ big victory and a near-win for the Indians in the World Series, as well as the honor of hosting the Republican National Convention and record statewide economic growth. Meanwhile, after a hugely successful launch last spring, Bloom immediately began fulfilling its mission by providing jobs and training for more than 15 Towards Employment graduates. Towards Employment had an impactful year in its own right, providing over 3,200 people career pathway services; and placing 560 people (320 of which had criminal records) in jobs with the opportunity to start afresh.
As Bloom Bakery’s general manager, I had the privilege of overseeing this year of enormous growth from start to finish. Living in downtown Cleveland and helping take Bloom Bakery from an idea, to a white box construction space, to a fully functional reality is one of my proudest accomplishments, and a true testament to the power of our amazing team and mission.
That team includes two of our most important leaders, Ellen (retail director) and Karla (head baker) , who began their Bloom Bakery careers as shift supervisors after graduating from Towards Employment. Now Ellen leads retail and Karla leads the bakery in its entirety. Not only have these women been involved in developing and running Bloom Bakery with me from the ground up, but they are also emblematic of how Bloom Bakery’s mission is changing employees’ lives by giving them the opportunity to nurture their careers.
The social enterprise sector is expanding rapidly, and Bloom Bakery is making real headway. Over the past year, I attended conferences around the world (such as the Catalyst Kitchens Conference in Seattle and the Social Enterprise World Forum in Hong Kong) where I was able to see various social enterprises in action. Bloom Bakery joins the ranks of companies like FareStart, Motherhouse and Mozilla, actively showcasing the ripe potential for creating a social economy centered on doing good while making a profit. In Cleveland alone we are seeing an influx of businesses making a case for social enterprise, from our own Bloom Bakery to peers like Edwins and LMM.
But if you think 2016 was a significant year for social enterprise, 2017 is shaping up to be even bigger. In order for social enterprises to reach their full potential in 2017, they must scale. Because they are mostly small businesses, it is crucial for social enterprises to recognize their growing power and begin to scale in order to make a real impact.
For Bloom, scaling means creating more jobs and more training opportunities. We will concentrate on growth and expanding our product offering, especially in regards to corporate catering and wholesale.
We have a challenging year ahead filled with new adventures for Bloom Bakery, and for our country as a whole. No matter what happens, helping the less fortunate by creating opportunities for those in need should continue to be our collective national priority. For Bloom Bakery, that means steadily growing and creating successful ventures that increase employment. For Cleveland, that means capitalizing on the momentum of 2016 and generating even more economic growth. For the country, that means coming together and recognizing that we are stronger when we are not divided.
Here’s to 2017.