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Ovenly

A Brooklyn bakery provides quality jobs and models inclusive hiring practices 

Ovenly, the first recipient of a mezzanine loan through NMSC’s Good Jobs Fund, is a beloved Brooklyn-based bakery and small business with a “double bottom line,” building a profitable company with their wildly popular baked goods while providing quality, accessible jobs to New Yorkers who have faced hurdles to employment. 

The Good Jobs Fund is a tax-credit enhanced mezzanine loan fund managed by NMSC that supports small businesses creating quality jobs where they matter most: in America’s low-income communities. Ovenly, a fast growing company on a mission to provide quality jobs to people who historically have been denied economic opportunities, was an ideal match. 

“The Good Jobs Fund brings growth capital to businesses like Ovenly providing great jobs in low-income communities,” says Michael Gilligan, advisor to the Good Jobs Fund. “We define quality jobs as fair- and living-wage positions with equitable benefits and professional development opportunities that lead to financial stability and a career.”

Owners Erin Patinkin and  Agatha Kulaga both worked in social justice-related fields prior to opening Ovenly, and wanted to see the bakery grow into a company that would give back to the community. An opportunity arose when a daily customer asked the partners if they would consider hiring formerly incarcerated people who came through a reentry workforce agency he directed, called Get Out Stay Out (GOSO). 

“We said ‘Yeah! Great!’ recalled Patinkin. “It’s when we began learning about social entrepreneurship and the impact we could have as a business.”

Since that encounter, Ovenly has worked with workforce organizations like GOSO, the Ansob Center for Refugees and Seedco to hire over a third of its employees. Ovenly’s staff includes survivors of domestic abuse and gang involvement, as well as political and religious refugees from Sudan and Guatemala. 

Ovenly has an “open hiring” policy, meaning applicants applying for entry-level positions are not required to submit a resume or show previous work experience. 

“Lots of people don’t have a job background,” says Patinkin. “Maybe they spent their youth in jail. Or they were taking care of a child or parent.”

These two women have developed a very powerful brand that speaks to a lot of people, but they also have a strong community presence and are providing jobs that are transformative.
— Michael Gilligan

One such staff member, who had never held a living-wage job until starting at Ovenly three years ago, is now the company’s lead cake decorator. 

“She’s increased her income. She’s been able to go on maternity leave after having two children, and she can pay for child care. She’s building a career here,” says Patinkin. 

Ovenly also offers its employees maternity and paternity leave, free yoga, quarterly classes on such topics as financial planning and personal health and a $350 professional development credit for any course that will help to advance their careers. 

Ovenly will use Good Jobs Fund capital to add two more retail locations to their three existing storefronts. For businesses like Ovenly that are ready to expand, but still too small to raise capital from traditional banks and private equity funds, these types of expansions can prove tricky.

Utilizing a proven loan fund structure with low transaction costs, the Good Jobs Fund is able to offer smaller, more flexible investments than can typically be supported with New Markets Tax Credit financing to empower business owners like Patinkin and Kuluga to expand their businesses, create more quality jobs and continue to give back to the community.

“Not a lot of capital providers out there are familiar with the idea that these values are also good for business,” says Gilligan. “These two women have developed a very powerful brand that speaks to a lot of people, but they also have a strong community presence and are providing jobs that are transformative. Basically, they’re killing it.”

Special thanks to our partners at LISC, who originally published a longer version of this article for Small Business Saturday 2018

 

Photos © Jayne Wexler

The Good Jobs Fund provided a
$600,000
mezzanine loan to Ovenly


 

Ovenly

A Brooklyn bakery provides quality jobs and models inclusive hiring practices 

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Irene Mello, Vice President of Impact Investing
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