Baking Breadwinners

Hot Bread Kitchen is changing lives through innovative culinary training that offers economic security to low-income women & their families.

Photo of Jessamyn Rodriguez
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  • I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
  • I am over 18 years of age
  • My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
  • I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
  • My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States


  • Woman

Where are you making a difference?

New York City, NY 10029

Focus Areas (required)

  • Business & Social Enterprise
  • Development & Prosperity

Date Started

August 28, 2008

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Growth (have moved past the very first activities; working towards the next level of expansion)


  • over $5m

Website or social media URL(s) (optional)

Twitter URL


Facebook URL

LinkedIn URL

1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.

The flash of inspiration for Hot Bread Kitchen came from a slip of the tongue. In 2000, Jessamyn Rodriguez shared with a friend that she had just interviewed with Women’s World Banking; he misheard “Women’s World Baking.” It conjured up a vision of an international women’s baking collective that stuck. Fast forward to 2008: After a career in social justice and public policy work, Jessamyn learned how to bake and launched Hot Bread from her home kitchen with two immigrant women from Mexico and a tortilla recipe. Today Hot Bread is truly the United Nations of Bread. We run a commercial bakery and are recognized nationally as best in class in addressing women’s economic vulnerability while matching talent with good jobs in the industry.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

We are addressing the wage gap for women, a destabilizing force as many families rely on a single women’s income and cannot survive if she does not earn a fair wage. In NYC, nearly 25% of the city’s 4 million women & girls are economically vulnerable—they are likely to live in poverty, have lower earnings and suffer long spells of unemployment. Close to 40% of households headed by single mother with children under the age of 18 live in poverty.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Our workforce development model addresses these challenges in important ways: we pay women for training, we do not require minimum educational requirements, we provide soft and hard skills training, and we facilitate job placement for 100% of graduates. We work with employment partners to match talent to opportunity, and maintain an 84% one-year retention rate.

To address the needs of the low-income and immigrant women we serve in a deeper way, in 2017 we initiated a 3-year growth strategy to scale our impact. To accomplish this, we are adapting our innovative training program to a vocational apprenticeship model. We train women through 4 weeks of intensive fundamentals, and then place them in 3 months of paid apprenticeships where employment partners support training time and cost. As we shift to training women outside our bakery through apprenticeships, we will be able to quadruple the number of women we graduate to full jobs with benefits annually—from 25 to 100 by 2019. Leveraging the learnings from piloting the new model in 2017, we are currently transitioning to the apprenticeship model in 2018 with the anticipation to graduate 70 women by year-end and 100 women in 2019.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.

At the time Amy enrolled into Bakers in Training, she was a resident in a substance abuse rehabilitation program. In addition to the pain of addiction, Amy had suffered homelessness and survived domestic violence. Given her lack of high school diploma/GED, and history of incarceration, Amy could not find work.
Amy struggled while in training, finding the work hard and the pace challenging. Surely, her history of trauma contributed to her struggles. However, with the professional training & support we provided and her determination, Amy graduated and secured a full-time job as a counterperson at Ess-a-Bagel. Four months into the job, she was awarded employee of the month. Twelve months in and she is still working, and loving every minute of it. Amy recently celebrated two years of sobriety. She is temporarily living in a shelter, saving money and working towards housing of her own.

5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?

We work with more than 25 community nonprofit partners to recruit low-income, immigrant and US born women facing a variety of difficult life circumstances, including housing instability, domestic violence and recent incarceration. We integrate financial education into our curriculum. For many women in the program, their apprenticeship is their first job and first paycheck, so improving financial understanding and health is critical and core to our work.

5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:

  • ability
  • immigration status
  • work status
  • language
  • race/ethnicity
  • religion
  • gender
  • socio-economic class

6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Many peer organizations offer quality workforce development programs for disadvantaged individuals. Hot Bread Kitchen’s approach to job training is boldly innovative and different because we exclusively serve low income and immigrant women with profound barriers to employment by providing paid apprenticeships with no eligibility/educational requirements. The direct experience of producing quality products, with the real-world pressures of working in a fast-paced environment, prepares our graduates for management-track jobs making them in high demand with some of the fastest growing employers.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Since 2008, we have trained 283 women from 43 countries and graduated 116 to new culinary careers with access to benefits and opportunity for advancement. We seek to support women like Zuleika, a single mother from Dominican Republic, who for many years jumped from job to job because of childcare challenges and the low pay she earned. She enrolled into the program with the goal to secure a good job to provide for her two boys. Zuleika graduated from our program, was hired by Restaurant Associates at Google’s cafeteria as a prep cook in charge of the salad bar, and has become a valuable employee. Zuleika is experiencing more financial stability. She is no longer receiving public assistance and is paying off her debts. She also credits Hot Bread for helping her be more responsible and excel at work. She is proud to be a good example for her sons.

8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?

Our strategies to scale include:
Expand recruitment efforts across NYC (previously Upper Manhattan focused) to enroll women with significant employment barriers who will succeed in culinary careers.
Enhance trainee assessment and retention services, including a case management approach to solve obstacles for women facing difficult life circumstances before they impact employment.
Deepen partnerships with employers (broaden beyond baking) to support quadrupled graduation placements by 2019.
Improve financial literacy and health by integrating financial education into our curriculum.

8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?

  • Organizational Growth
  • Large Scale Partnerships

9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our growth strategy is being supported by a 3-year $5 million campaign (2017-2019) to support and sustain the organization as we scale. In addition to scaling our impact in NYC and positioning us for future replication, the campaign will allow us to build reserves and working capital. To date, we have raised $2.5 million from diverse donors. Also, our employment partners are, for the first time, providing support financially by investing at least 51% of apprentices’ wages with some at 100%.

10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

The team is comprised 8 staff members: 6 full time: Senior Leadership (CEO and Executive Director) and Program Staff (Training Director, Adult Basic Education Teacher, Retention Manager MSW, Employer Manager and Program Coordinator) and 2 part time Community Outreach Coordinators in Brooklyn and Queens. We will also engage an external consultant to evaluate our impact over the past 10 years to help inform/define how we measure individual and community level impact over the next 10 years.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)

  • No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • BNY Mellon page or contact
  • Email
  • Word of mouth

Attachments (1)

Growth Strategy_Deck (PowerPoint Version)_Abbreviated.pptx

Hot Bread Kitchen's Organizational Growth Plan


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