Written by Jill Ritchot, Intern for TWB
In November 2017, I finalized plans to volunteer with The Women’s Bakery in Rwanda. My excitement was palpable. As part of the MovingWorlds Institute fellowship program that had begun in June, I had spent months looking for the right project fit. Suddenly everything had fallen into place; an impactful opportunity to work with and for women, join an engaged and dynamic team, and offer my communications and marketing skills.
I exhaled a deep sigh of relief and felt the eagerness and nervousness begin to bubble up as I thought about what the next few months would bring. I was intrigued by the organization’s mission, had spoken to Heather and Meg, and wanted to learn more. As my departure date approached, I couldn’t wait to see, how is bread powerful?
I stepped off the plane in Kigali at the end of January to begin my three-month project, aiming to create a communications and marketing strategy for the new flagship café. I felt inspired to be jumping in at such an exciting time as the bakery and office moved to the new flagship location and café renovations began. In my first discussions with Meg and Fran on arrival, I quickly saw that it was a fast-paced and lively environment with a diverse, adaptable, and passionate team.
I started by meeting with team members to learn more about who they see as The Women’s Bakery’s customers and what they see as the future of the organization. I was immediately moved by what I heard, “the future is bright”; “it’s going to go big”; “our bread is for everyone”; “when I started, I was teaching the women, now they are teaching me”. I felt fueled to keep digging in and learning more about The Women’s Bakery and our customers.
Together, Fran, Rachel and I conducted market research at three bakery locations.
We began by talking to the people who know our customers best – the women who bake and sell The Women’s Bakery bread every day. I quickly learned how varied the customers were from location to location and the key differences between what Rwandans and expats look for when buying bread. We continued to build on the team’s and women’s knowledge by doing interviews, surveys, and focus groups with current and potential future customers to explore more. What we discovered is that while there is a lot of diversity in who buys The Women’s Bakery bread, there are also some clear uniting preferences: taste, nutrition, and freshness. That, and much more, is exactly what The Women’s Bakery offers.
I got the chance to see how the women bake the delicious, nutritious and fresh bread every day when I joined the team in the kitchen to learn how to make it. The women’s expertise and confidence in what they do and their patience as they taught us was inspiring. Although we don’t all speak the same language, the joy, laughter, and strength in the kitchen that day both humbled and invigorated me. It is not just bread rising in the bakery; it is community and empowerment.
As I come towards the end of my time with The Women’s Bakery and armed with our growing customer knowledge, I am working on a variety of marketing tools and strategies with Fran to get the message out. Loud. We are strong women baking bread. Our bread is packed with vitamins, nutrients, and protein. And in my time in Kigali, I have seen that a loaf of bread truly can inspire, nourish communities, and spark economies.
Now that’s bread power.