2016 has been a year of growth for TWB. Our model has evolved and grown in the last year, and while it still resembles the original concept, it is far more robust and professional. We designed TWB to be a social enterprise – a baking educational service for hire in Rwanda. We manage nearly every aspect of the startup, launch, and operation of our bakeries in Rwanda. Because of the drive and intellect of our team, we have become experts in this field and our services are being sought after by large organizations, companies, and enterprising individuals.
Building on this momentum, 2017 will be a year of analysis. We are so close to solidifying our model. This may sound strange because we’ve been operable for two years, but like most startups, TWB’s model has gone through innumerable iterations. It’s like an experiment – you have an end goal (or multiple end goals), and you’re trying to find the correct, most efficient, most easily replicable means to achieve that goal. That’s where TWB is right now. We have most of our end goals in sight, and now is the time to test different means for how best to achieve those end goals.
A singular goal for 2017, from which our other goals stem, is to build lasting bakeries. As Julie Greene, TWB’s Co-Founder/Co-Director points out, “profitability means sustainability,” and I agree. We strive to code sustainability into every piece of our model, but we’re learning that sustainability tends to be a “product of,” not a “precursor for.” That is, critical thinking is a product of training and practice. And sustainable bakeries are (most often) a product of profitability.
So how do we do that? How do we ensure that each bakery we build or help to launch will be profitable without TWB staff there every day of operation for an indefinite period of time? Good question! That’s what we will spend most of 2017 answering. We’re close – we have robust projections and hypotheses for bakeries’ profitability, but 2017 will be the year to test these operational variations.
Why do sustainable bakeries matter? This question contains multiple answers and illuminates many of our other end goals. Sustainable bakeries provide a group of women with consistent and growing incomes. That’s job security. And it’s also opportunity. Women can rely on their work at the bakeries and choose where, when, and how to invest their earnings. Sustainable bakeries provide suppliers (farmers) and buyers (shop-keepers) consistent business. That’s micro-economic activity that can self-improve and correct. Sustainable bakeries also provide community members consistent access to nutritious bread. That’s Good business.
The ancillary benefits that radiate from sustainable bakeries are motivating (to say the least) and conclusive. They’re what make TWB’s model not only plausible, but powerful. Powerful because we are using business – bakeries – as a medium to achieve multiple grades of social good. It’s like a chain reaction: by building a bakery that is profitable, we help to create a system that lasts as long as the women work and works on behalf of a community’s well-being.
Thus, 2017 will be the year to analyze and perfect the profitability of our bakeries. We will do so by taking a deep dive into our model – testing various aspects, building on what works, and boldly tossing what doesn’t. Our long-term goal is still scale – 100 more women trained and 10 bakeries in Rwanda – but to achieve sustainable scale (and real impact), we will first focus on profit.